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Monroe prepares to issue traffic-camera tickets

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By Rikki King
Herald Writer
MONROE -- The city of Monroe plans to start using traffic enforcement cameras to ticket people within a month or two.
Three cameras are up, but only one has been turned on. So far, it's only been used to issue warning notices.
The city is waiting to figure out how to hold court for contested traffic-camera tickets, Monroe police spokeswoman Debbie Willis said. Those tickets are treated like parking infractions under state law.
The way it works now, parking infractions in Monroe are handled by the Traffic Violations Bureau, an extension of the Snohomish County District Court. If people in Monroe contest a ticket, they go to the district court's Evergreen Division on 179th Avenue SE.
That court doesn't have the staff to handle traffic-camera hearings, Willis said.
City and police leaders are working with the courts and the Snohomish County Executive's office to find a solution.
They may end up hiring a county judge to work part-time at City Hall, Willis said. The judge's pay would be added to Monroe's monthly courts bill.
The city is planning for traffic-camera tickets to cost $124 per violation.
Monroe will pay $5,000 per camera per month to the contractor, Redflex Traffic Systems of Arizona.
If the city doesn't bring in enough ticket revenue for the cameras to pay for themselves, the company has agreed to adjust the city's payment, Willis said.
The city plans for the cameras to be cost-neutral, she said. There are no plans to use cameras as a revenue source, other than paying for the contract.
"It's really for the education and the safety of our city," Willis said.
Lynnwood, the only city in the county now using traffic enforcement cameras, also emphasizes safety. Officials say the $4.7 million in camera ticket fines since January 2010 is a byproduct. The city says ticket revenue now comprises roughly 11 percent of Lynnwood's budget.
Some in Monroe are collecting signatures opposing use of the cameras.
Monroe worked with Redflex to pick three problem spots on city streets, Willis said. The sole red-light camera is at the intersection of North Kelsey Street and U.S. 2. The school-zone cameras are in front of Fryelands Elementary and on West Main Street in front of Frank Wagner Elementary.
Camera-captured violations will be reviewed by Redflex and sent to Monroe police, Willis said. Patrol officers will take turns reviewing the violations before tickets go out.
The city won't be changing the cycle of traffic lights at the affected intersections, she said. That has been one of the most frequent complaints against cities from people who oppose traffic cameras.
Monroe doesn't know how many contested ticket hearings to expect once the cameras go live, Willis said.
It's likely the part-time judge will work a few days a month. It will be slower in the summer, when the school-zone cameras are turned off.
Rikki King: 425-339-3449;

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