It appears Puyallup won’t do away with its red-light cameras, a month after a majority of City Council members had talked of doing so.
Most members of the seven-member council indicated during and after a study session Tuesday night that they’re now leaning toward continued support of the photo-enforcement program.
Its future has been in question since some of them balked at a five-year extension of the city’s contract with its camera vendor. At a March meeting, the council approved a 30-day extension and asked for a study session to talk more in depth.
That timeout was enough to sway some swing council members.
“I wanted to study (the program) to find out wherein lies the myth and fact and fiction,” said Steve Vermillion, one of those who had doubts.
His own research, combined with information from the Puyallup Police Department, won him over, he said Tuesday.
Councilman John Hopkins, who also previously expressed concerns, said he, too, is now leaning the other way.
“Visiting the police station and watching the videos (from the cameras) is very compelling. It makes you think a little bit differently, because you see exactly what people are doing,” he told The News Tribune on Wednesday.
Hopkins added that he feels Puyallup police are handling the tickets fairly and “aren’t out to get” drivers.
He said he has some conditions, including that he’d want revenue from the cameras put into intersection safety projects citywide.
Council members didn’t take action Tuesday night. The camera contract is expected to come back before them soon.
The vote likely won’t be unanimous. Deputy Mayor John Knutsen said Tuesday that red-light photo enforcement is unpopular and that the public should have at least one elected leader speaking for them. He’ll be that advocate, he said.
Likewise, Councilman Tom Swanson said after the meeting that he’s “not a fan” of red-light cameras and would like to see other traffic-safety options explored.
Puyallup has cameras at six intersections. Other South Sound cities using photo enforcement include Tacoma, Lakewood, Fife, Auburn, Federal Way and Lacey.
Supporters generally say red-light cameras change driver behavior and make intersections safer, while opponents criticize them as ineffective at anything but raising cash for municipalities.
Puyallup has used the cameras since 2008. Last year, they brought in nearly $485,000 in net revenue after the city subtracted the $560,000 it paid to vendor American Traffic Solutions and for staff costs, according to city data.
Puyallup police officials told the council Tuesday that the cameras make city streets safer. Every intersection with cameras has seen a drop in red-light violations over the course of the program, meaning people are driving more cautiously, they said.
Sara Schilling: 253-552-7058