Removal of red light photo enforcement system a couple months off

City officials don't yet know when Red Flex will remove its cameras and equipment

The City of Auburn is giving up for now on its eight-year-old red-light photo enforcement system.

That much the City decided Nov. 17 when, by a 4-3 vote, councilmembers, having decided weeks earlier not to continue with the present vendor, decided against awarding a contract to a new vendor, Maine-based GATSO, Inc.

The contract with Redflex expires at the end of the year. The City had paid the company $180,000 every year to keep things going.

One question now — when will the vendor, Redflex Traffic Systems of Arizona, take away the cameras and pull out the underground sensors and wiring at all the photo-enforced intersections?

All anybody can say at this point is, within the next month or two.

“It’s the question I have,” Councilman Wayne Osborne said of the interval when removal starts and finishes. “That’s a question that will be settled by the administration.”

“They had been waiting for the news of who would be awarded the contract, and hoping it would be them,” Mayor Nancy Backus said Monday of Redflex. “They’d hoped to replace the equipment that’s there now with their own new equipment. Now they know.”

Police Chief Bob Lee said as far as the affect on his department is concerned, the traffic patrol officer who has been coming in several hours a day to review video and photos of potential infractions will no longer be doing that.

“The officer will be on the street, patrolling,” Lee said.

The City launched the program on June 30, 2006 at two intersections: Auburn Way South and 4th Street Southeast; and Auburn Way South and M Street Southeast. It added Harvey Road and 8th Street in December of that year. Today the program equips school zone safety cameras for Mt. Baker Middle School and in the school safety zones of Chinook, Dick Scobee, Lea Hill and Arthur Jacobsen elementary schools.

It was the marked drop every year since the cameras went live in the number of infractions issued — ironically one sign of its success — that the system was no longer paying for itself, and the “unfriendly message” it sent to out-of-town visitors that soured City leaders on Redflex and turned them against the photo enforcement program.