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Waterloo gives traffic cams the green light

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WATERLOO — The city will begin using cameras to fine those who speed and run red lights.

Waterloo City Council members voted 6-1 Monday to approve an ordinance allowing automated traffic enforcement cameras to issue citations when they capture vehicles violating traffic laws.

Council members also voted to approve a three-year contract with Gatso USA, of Beverly, Mass., to install and operate the cameras, expected to be in place at intersections in two to three months.

Waterloo joins a number of cities in Iowa and across the country that have already installed the controversial cameras proponents say improve traffic safety and opponents decry as unconstitutional revenue generators.

“If you don’t want to pay the fine, don’t do the crime,” said Councilman Ron Welper, voting with the majority. “It’s that simple.”

Councilman Tom Powers added, “Safety is a main concern for me, not revenues.”

Councilman Bruce Jacobs cast the only vote against the cameras after learning about other cities having trouble collecting the fines and hearing from someone who said it would discourage people from shopping in the city.

“It’s a facade; it’s a ruse,” Jacobs said. “It’s something that’s just anti-consumer that we really don’t have a way to collect.”

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Police Chief Dan Trelka wants to install six to 13 red light cameras at intersections with high crash rates and use a mobile speed trailer and handheld devices to catch speeders. He estimated the cameras would generate $300,000 to $700,000 annually.

The tickets would go to the registered owner of a vehicle and would be mailed after a police officer reviewed video of the violation. The owner can assign the citation to the person who was driving the vehicle or can appeal the citation to the city and, if desired, to the courts.

While resident Don Share noted the citations can’t affect driving records or credits scores, Trelka and a Gatso USA representive said there are ways to encourage payment.

“Not paying one of these tickets is a testament to your character or lack thereof,” said Trelka, noting the unpaid citations will be a matter of public record for potential employers and can influence whether an officer writes a ticket during a traffic stop of someone with unpaid fines.

Dorian Grubaugh, regional sales manager for Gatso USA, said collection agencies can go through the state of Iowa to hold tax refunds and other state payments to persons owning unpaid fines.

Grubaugh said information will be provided before the cameras are activated, and the company is recommending a 30-day period where violators just get mailed warnings.

Gatso USA’s contract makes the company responsible for providing and installing the cameras at its cost in return for $36 on each paid citation.

The fine schedule for violations will be $75 for running a red light, $100 for second offense and $125 for each subsequent violation. Speeding citations will be $50 for six to 10 mph over the posted limit; $75 for 11 to 15 mph over; $100 for 16 to 20 mph over; and $200 for those going more than 20 mph over the posted limit.

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Waterloo City Reporter

Waterloo city reporter for the Courier

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