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Tonawanda City Council won’t meet today on red-light camera contract

Two members of the City of Tonawanda’s Common Council have withdrawn their request for a special meeting this evening to consider rescinding the city’s agreement with a company that installs red-light cameras.

Fourth Ward Alderwoman Jenna N. Koch and Second Ward Alderwoman Jackie A. Smilinich said since making the request they have received a copy of a letter to Mayor Rick Davis from Assemblyman Robin L. Schimminger, D-Kenmore, indicating the need for additional resolutions by the Council in order for state lawmakers in Albany to consider approving the city’s plans to install red-light cameras at three intersections.

“This will allow us the opportunity we seek to speak to this issue and voice our objections when the referenced needed resolutions are presented for a further vote by the Common Council,” Koch and Smilinich said in a statement issued Sunday.

On Friday, Koch and Smilinich requested the special meeting due to their concerns over the past business practices of Arizona-based Redflex Traffic Systems, which recently lost its contract in Chicago following reports that top city transportation officials were given lavish gifts and trips.

In his letter dated Jan. 13, Schimminger said he needs additional information from the city such as the proposed duration of the city’s red-light camera program and the maximum number of authorized intersections at which the devices would be installed.

“The city will need to submit the necessary information to address these matters before we can proceed with drafting the requested legislation,” he wrote.

Schimminger noted that the handful of red-light camera projects that have been authorized in the state were all done as demonstration projects and all of these demonstrations are slated to sunset on Dec. 1.

Once the legislation is filed, Schimminger said it will be important to have background information to share with relevant committee chairs and Assembly program staff.

“Any information that you or the Council may have that would support the need for such an undertaking in the City would be helpful, as the subject of red-light cameras has been somewhat controversial in the Legislature,” Schimminger wrote.

He said red-light camera demonstration projects have been authorized in just seven of the state’s more densely populated municipalities – Nassau and Suffolk counties on Long Island, New York City, Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Yonkers.

“And not all of these localities have enacted the necessary local laws to implement such demonstrations,” he wrote.

Buffalo in 2009, and again in 2011, considered contracting with Redflex but ultimately abandoned the idea. Rochester is the nearest municipality to use the company’s services.

Schimminger also noted that two red-light camera measures – for the cities of Mount Vernon and New Rochelle – were introduced for consideration last year but neither was acted on by the Assembly or State Senate transportation committees.

Former Mayor Ron Pilozzi negotiated an exclusive agreement with Redflex and the former Council approved it on Dec. 17. In January, three new Council members – including Koch and Smilinich – took seats on the five-member Council and began taking a harder look at the proposal.

“We wish the community to know of our concerns and objections to this contract and we look forward to the additional public debate on this issue,” Koch and Smilinich said.