Rio Rancho’s red-light cameras and unmanned speed-detection vans will be shut off to start the new year – at least temporarily.
The city’s Safe Traffic Operations Program, which includes cameras at two intersections on Unser Boulevard and four vans, is expected to end this month following the Rio Rancho Governing Body’s 4-2 vote Wednesday not to extend the city’s contract with Redflex Traffic Systems for four more years.
Councilors Cheryl Everett and Marlene Feuer voted in favor of the contract.
After the vote, councilors Jim Owen and Dawnn Robinson recommended that the governing body and police department discuss the possibility of working out a new agreement with Redflex during a January work session. Mayor Gregg Hull agreed.
The governing body in 2010 approved a four-year agreement and two one-year options with Redflex to provide equipment for red-light and speeding monitoring. The contract ends Dec. 31.
City spokeswoman Annemarie García said the cameras and vans will be shut off on Jan. 1. No date to remove the equipment has been determined, she said.
The proposed new contract would have continued the city’s relationship with Redflex for “in excess of $500,000” and expanded the number of speed-detection vans to six.
The STOP effort hasn’t been without its share of controversy. While advocates argue the devices are important for traffic safety, critics often argue they infringe on individual rights, such as being unable to confront their “accuser” in court.
In June, the Rio Rancho Police Department reported that thousands of red-light citations issued for violations caught on camera at Southern and Northern boulevards have been ignored. Its report showed 35,050 violators had not paid their citations between 2011 and 2015. Fines owed to the city totaled $3.7 million.
Councilor Dave Bency said a new contract should include more speed-detection vans and eliminate the red-light camera program.
Owen said all discussion regarding a potential new contract should wait until the January work session.
“By rejecting this contract, we’re not basically rejecting the concept in terms of what we’re doing in the way of enforcement,” Owen said. “This is more of an issue of should we have more vans, should we get rid of the red light (cameras), and that’s a discussion I really believe that we need to as a council be in a work session.”
Everett questioned the timing of the contract’s vote, saying the time frame the councilors had was “extremely limited.”
“I’m not enjoying being in this position of all or nothing and nowhere to go – I’d like to know how we got to this point,” Everett said. “I don’t want to see this happen. It makes all of us look bad, I think.”
In other matters, the city charter review committee submitted no recommendation for a proposed charter amendment to the governing body, choosing not to draft a question on pay increases for future city officials.
The governing body unanimously approved the committee’s recommendation and disbanded the group.
Last month, the committee proposed that the governing body allow voters to decide whether to place salaries and benefits for future elected mayors and city councilors – established by ordinance last summer – in the city charter. If placed in the charter, the governing body could not adjust salary and benefits without voter approval of a charter amendment.
“The charter review met subsequent to that and had basically come back with an answer of, ‘That was our recommendation, we don’t have any further recommendations,'” City Clerk Steve Ruger said.