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Photo radar motion defeated by slim 4-3 vote

Posted on November 20, 2013 by Taber Times

The use of funds generated through photo radar will remain firmly under the administration of the police service following a split 4-3 vote by town council.

The defeated motion recommended revenues generated through photo radar become part of the general municipal budget rather than remaining under the budget of the police service, and that those revenues be put towards specific capital projects that could be recognized publicly.

“My rationale, plain and simple, is the police budget is 24 per cent of the town budget. By taking that $200,000 to $300,000 out of the police budget, we increase the police budget anywhere from five to 10 per cent,” said Coun. Joe Strojwas, at the Nov. 12 meeting. “Being that there already are some issues with the expense of policing, it’s going to look bad that we jumped up from 24 per cent to 30 per cent, or whatever it comes in at. It may be semantics, but it gives an opinion to the public that policing costs have went up. Photo radar is a policing issue, it’s always been a policing revenue source, and I believe it should be just left right there with the police department, and we should stay out of how the police set up photo radar. I’m totally against it.”

Coun.(s) Randy Sparks, Rick Popadynetz and Laura Ross-Giroux voted in favour of the motion, but were opposed by Coun.(s) Jack Brewin, Joe Strojwas, Andrew Prokop and Mayor Henk De Vlieger.

In a key reversal, Mayor De Vlieger voted against the recommendation by the police commission, a recommendation passed and approved by the administrative body, while De Vlieger was still chairman of that organization.

“I’ve been thinking about this a little bit more, and I think it’s a law enforcement item, and for the sake of not clouding things up, I think it should stay with law enforcement,” said De Vlieger. “The perception that it should go somewhere else is just fooling yourself. Photo radar is there to slow people down, in the central areas where people should slow down, and I think it should stay with law enforcement. That’s how I feel at the moment. To keep things clean and clear, I personally think (it should stay) with the police.”

In the past, consideration had been given as to how to best allocate revenues and expenses associated with photo radar.

The radar system is operated by the Taber Police Service, and the police use it to dissuade speeders by placing units in playground and school zones, on highways, and in areas where the service receives complaints.

At the police commission’s Oct. 16 meeting, the issue was discussed and a motion passed recommending council use fine revenues related to photo radar, along with associated photo radar expenses, be moved to general municipal revenues and expenses rather than be recognized in the police budget, with the additional recommendation these revenues be used for special projects within the Town of Taber.

According to administration, commission members thought changing the allocation of the revenues and expenses associated with photo radar would help clarify the Taber Police Service is not using photo radar as a source of revenue. Using net photo radar revenues for public projects, with the source of revenue publicly recognized, the community could see obvious benefits of photo radar revenues rather than seeing photo radar as simply a police service revenue source.

“We have to remember that this has come from the police commission, which has recommended that this is the way these fine revenues should be handled,” said Coun. Randy Sparks. “I also think we don’t to get too hung up on the second part of this, as a plaque or anything like that. The police commission has recommended that these go into general revenue, and the police commission has reasoning for this. The premise of this does come from the police commission — not from council — as the way they would like to see fine revenues handled in the future. Whether this money goes to a specific project with a plaque, that will be up to council of the day to decide what’s going to happen with that.”

The issue sparked a significant debate in council chambers on Oct. 28, where a resultant vote to retain the status quo was defeated by a count of 5-2. Coun.(s) Joe Strojwas and Jack Brewin were the only councillors to back the motion at that time.

Speaking in favour of the recommended motion on Nov. 12, Coun. Popadynetz indicated the measure would have been a positive step forward.

“I think it will be a good thing for the town. It’s not a big difference to have it stay in general revenue, and have it come back to the council for the budget. I think this is a good move, and I support it fully.”

While expressing concern about the recognition aspect of the motion, Coun. Ross-Giroux admitted she was at least partially supportive of the idea in principle.

“That’s where I have a problem. To me, it’s almost tacky to put up little plaques saying this is from photo radar money. That’s opening a can of worms. Are we going to have bench downtown with another little plaque saying these are from parking ticket revenues? I don’t have any objection to the revenue and the expenses coming into the town’s general revenues and expenditures, it’s just the recognition I have a problem with.”

Out of an annual police budget of just over $2 million, annual photo radar revenues represent an estimated $200,000 to $300,000.

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