In a 5-2 decision, Lacombe council voted to instruct city administration to send a proposed automated traffic enforcement (ATE) project out for proposal (RFP).
The ATE, which would be installed at high collision intersections including HWY 2a and 50 Ave., HWY 2A and Woodland Drive and 50 Ave. and 63rd St, would seek to reduce collisions through automated red light and speeding infractions for drivers.
At an earlier meeting of council, Lacombe Police Service (LPS) Chief Lorne Blumhagen said this is not intended to be a revenue generator for LPS and instead designed to reduce dangerous collisions in Lacombe.
According to city administration net revenues that are generated would be used to provide operation stability for LPS through the establishment of a reserve fund. Council voted that this fund should be set to $3 million, which was LPS’s request and $2 million above administration’s recommendation.
After $3 million is reached, revenues would be split between City of Lacombe General Capital Reserve, and the Lacombe Police Service Capital Reserve. These reserves would be used for improving traffic safety and traffic efficiency.
Counc. Cora Hoekstra, who along with Counc. Thalia Hibbs voted against the motions, said she understands the safety of these lights but said that these cameras are ultimately a tax on citizens and the city needs to be honest about the revenue generated from infractions.
“If we have a budget with revenue generation built into it, are we being genuinely honest with our citizens regarding what our police force costs?,” Hoekstra asked.
Hoekstra said the danger of budgeting from this revenue becomes difficult if the the infraction funding is taken away — either through a reduction in tickets issued or legislative changes.
She added the infraction are a lifestyle tax that ultimately will only stop speeding at three intersections in the city.
Hoekstra said citizens need to be educated on the dangers of speeding in a variety of ways including public awareness campaigns.
“I think that is certainly part of it. We know ultimately that doesn’t always work but it has to be a whole bunch of different strategies and this one is a big brother strategy that I am not fond of,” she said.
Hoekstra said LPS does a good job serving system and didn’t want to conflate her opposition to these motions with that — but she does feel officers need to engage with residents.
“I really believe that we are paying for the police force and they should have contact with citizens and they should have oversight coming from them — not from a camera on the corner,” she said.
Administration will return to council at a future date with the result of the request for proposal.