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Will red light cameras remain in Jonesborough?

A contract for traffic cameras at three intersections in Tennessee’s oldest town is set to expire at the end of the year and leaders will soon have to decide whether they want to continue with the safety program.
Jonesborough officials entered into a five-year agreement with Redflex Traffic Systems in July 2008 to install traffic cameras at the busiest intersections in town in order to catch and ticket drivers who are speeding or running red lights.
As one of the first in the area to install the cameras, the town took some significant criticism from groups who argued the cameras were an example of too much government control. Others welcomed the cameras as a way to potentially reduce crashes at intersections with significant traffic flow.
Throughout the last several years, town police have said the cameras are doing their jobs, citing a decline in speeders and a reduction in the number of serious crashes at those locations.
At the Jan. 14 meeting of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen, leaders approved a proposal from Redflex regarding the remaining year of the original contract.
Because of changes in state law that now prohibit the town from charging violators cited by the cameras a litigation tax, the town has seen a significant decrease in funds coming in from the traffic cameras.
While Mayor Kelly Wolfe said the installation of the cameras in Jonesborough was always about safety and never about making money, he emphasized the need for the program to be self-funding.
“Right now, the split after the revision in state law is not covering our costs of administering the program,” Wolfe said in a phone interview late last week. “If we are going to continue to operate the cameras, it is incumbent upon us to at least make sure our costs are covered. One of our officers is spending a lot of time dealing with these and we have a municipal judge who handles issues with them. It would be nice if we could at least stay even.”
In the original agreement, Redflex’s portion of profit from tickets issued in Jonesborough came through a tiered system that decreased as more tickets were issued. The town, however, has suffered significant funding loss without the ability to tax violators.
Since the change in law, tickets issued through the cameras come with a price tag of $50 for the vehicle owner. They were previously costing drivers approximately $80.
“Redflex has offered to split the $50 evenly through the duration of this year,” Wolfe said. “They’ve offered to split it for one to two years after that, too.”
Whether Jonesborough will enter into another contract with the company, however, remains to be seen.
The future of Redflex cameras in Jonesborough will be decided by the BMA later this year, Wolfe said.