Traffic enforcement technology could go live by this fall

Emerson City Council approves agreement with speed camera contractor

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The Emerson City Council, absent two members, voted unanimously to approve an agreement with a Tennessee-based company to install speed enforcement cameras within the municipality at Monday evening’s meeting.

The City’s agreement with Blue Line Solutions, LLC, would bring the traffic monitoring technology to the Emerson Elementary and South Central Middle school zones along Old Alabama Road. According to Emerson City Manager Kevin McBurnett, the cameras would be operational by the beginning of the 2019-2020 school year in August.

Four-way talks amongst the City, the contractor, the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) and Bartow County Schools have been ongoing for quite some time, McBurnett added.

“They’re still a long way to go, there’s still permits to be obtained and all of that,” he said. “But this gets the ball rolling and executes an agreement.”

Under the agreement, McBurnett said the City of Emerson would experience no upfront costs. Rather, Blue Line Solutions, LLC, would simply collect the smaller percentage of a 70/30 split from the ensuing traffic ticket revenue.

At this point, McBurnett said the City has no estimates for how much money the speed enforcement cameras would generate for the local government. He also said he “wholeheartedly disagrees” with those who insist the policy isn’t about public safety, but adding dollars to the City’s coffers.

“If they would like to come down and look at the books, they’ll see that police revenue from fines and forfeitures, they make up less than 30% of their budget,” he said. “That is not what we’re out here to do. The average speeding ticket that’s written is 21 miles per hour or more over, so if that’s a speed trap, I’m not sure what you say to that other than ‘quit driving over 21 miles per hour or more.’”

The cameras, he added, are aimed at protecting children. 

“We have two very valuable schools to us right there, being the elementary school and the middle school, and the area is located on a slight incline,” McBurnett said. “It is not uncommon to find people over there running in the 50s and 60s in front of that school.”

At the moment, McBurnett said the City is still awaiting the go-ahead from GDOT to move forward with the project.

“Actually, their permit would be to the Bartow County School System,” he said. “If they obtain the GDOT permit, then we’ll move from there to have the company install the cameras.”

There will be a grace period before the City starts issuing citations. 

“They will set up signing out there, telling the citizens that they are in place,” McBurnett said. “It would run for 30 days, doing speed enforcement, and in those first 30 days we would send out warnings in the mail to them. And then it would go live from there.” 

The city council — sans Councilmen Ed Brush and Gerald Earwood — also unanimously approved a new services contract with a Douglasville-based forensics evidence collection agency.

“The police department currently uses the services of the hospital for blood draws on suspects and different terms when they may need blood draws performed,” McBurnett said. “This would be through a private company, TenEight Forensic Services, they’ll do it, it’s a set price, it’s labeled in the contract. The chief of police has reviewed it and brought it to us for approval, and the City management would support this.”

Also receiving unanimous approval was an agreement to take advantage or the Georgia Municipal Association’s property damage revenue recovery services.

“Essentially, what that is is they review accident reports and any accident reports that show damage to City property, they work to obtain funding for that from the accused and bring it back to the City,” McBurnett said. “There’s no cost to you, it’s actually taken out of their services whenever they negotiate it with the insurance companies.”

Emerson Mayor Al Pallone concluded the public meeting by declaring next week “Safe Boating Week” throughout the City. Last year, he said that Flotilla 22 of the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary conducted over 320 hours of safety patrols at Lake Allatoona, additionally teaching more than 80 hours of boating education classes and providing more than 950 vessel safety checks.

"The City of Emerson does hereby support the goals of the Safe Boating campaign and proclaim May 18-24, 2019, as National Safe Boating Week," he said, "and the start of the year-round effort to promote safe boating."