Traffic camera meeting planned in Lynnwood

LYNNWOOD — A community meeting about traffic-enforcement cameras in Lynnwood on Wednesday is scheduled to start with a 42-minute presentation from city and police officials.

City Council members in recent weeks have been planning the meeting to gather public opinion about the future of enforcement cameras in the city.

They’ve been mulling the thorny topic for months during a temporary extension of the city’s contract with Arizona-based American Traffic Solutions, Inc. The latest extension expires in November.

The cameras are controversial, but the city years ago came to rely on the revenue from violations.

Lynnwood uses the cameras to ticket and fine people who allegedly run red lights or speed in school zones. The program brings in millions a year, including more than $555,000 in the first three months of 2012.

Council members have said they often hear from avid opponents of the program, but also believe many people misunderstand the cameras and how they work. They also point out that about 80 percent of the tickets go to people who live outside Lynnwood city limits.

They’ve debated finding a new vendor to help run the traffic-enforcement camera program.

The public meeting is set for 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Lynnwood Convention Center, 3711 196th St. SW.

“There will be a presentation on the camera system and an opportunity for public comments,” according to a press release issued by Council President Loren Simmonds.

A nearly inch-thick packet of materials was released this week for council members to prepare for the meeting. The packet included a heavy assortment of carefully selected facts and figures, in addition to old memos and council minutes.

Inside was a new memo from city finance and police leaders, reminding council members that money from camera tickets currently covers about 5 percent of the city’s general fund expenses.

A Herald investigation in 2011 showed that at one time, the city was paying up to 16 percent of its bills with enforcement-camera revenue.

Lynnwood officials say that if they get rid of the cameras, they would need to find ways to make up for the lost revenue.

The new city memo also says that getting a different traffic-enforcement camera vendor could mean expensive changes to current equipment, as well as time and resources spent negotiating the details of setting up a new system and working out the kinks.

The council packet doesn’t include any new information about crash statistics.

Rikki King: 425-339-3449; rking@heraldnet.com

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