Tuesday evening’s Euharlee City Council work session was dominated by discussion of license plate readers and traffic enforcement cameras.
“The police department has made two presentations related to the tag readers, and they provided the data that was accumulated during the trial period,” Euharlee City Manager James Stephens said. “They still believe it would be an effective tool for the department — the cost for one is just north of $17,000.”
While Euharlee Chief of Police Lee New sought to purchase two of the devices at a Jan. 15 council meeting, at Tuesday’s work session he said he was satisfied acquiring just one of the units for the city’s police force.
“It’s going to be mounted on one of our patrol cars,” he said. “The unit picks up cars from either direction. The one we’re looking at is a three-camera system, it takes two lanes at one time.”
Councilman Tracy Queen said he supported the idea.
“One, it’s a safety issue for our officers,” he said. “They no longer have to type while following somebody at the same time to get information, so that’s a big advantage for them.”
Queen also said he believes the potential purchase would benefit public safety in other ways, particularly when it comes to responding to the summertime spike in thefts.
“Plus, they can use it as a continuous scan as they drive along,” he said. “So if they’re driving through neighborhoods and somebody passes them, should something happen in that neighborhood, police documented who’s coming in and out of them.”
Councilman David Duncan, however, said he was worried that the purchase would result in police department personnel just “sitting around” waiting for speeders to pass through.
New said the officer driving the tag reader-equipped car would continue patrolling throughout the jurisdiction. “You don’t have to stay stationary for it to work,” he said.
Mayor Steve Worthington said he had some reservations about the proposal.
“I’m not really sure that I’m sold on it,” he said. “There are unlicensed drivers, but a tag reader ain’t going to tell you that.”
Furthermore, Worthington said he had questions about the proposed purchase’s utility beyond raising revenue.
“We do not have a major state thoroughfare that comes anywhere besides Highway 113, which is not in the City, so our police should not be on Highway 113 using the tag readers,” he said. “I know Euharlee's roads are getting more traffic, everyday you get on it … but at the same time, would we be hitting the same bunch of people most of the time?”
Also present at the work session was Mark Hutchinson, owner and president of Tennessee-based Blue Line Solutions, LLC.
He told council members he would be more than happy to install a traffic enforcement camera within the City’s designated school zone for free, just as long as Euharlee provided his company with 40 percent of its citation revenue.
During a trial run earlier this month, Hutchinson said roughly 25 percent of the traffic moving through the stretch of Euharlee Road near Woodland Middle School traveled well beyond the posted speed limit. He said his cameras even clocked one motorist going 93 miles per hour.
However, it would be a while before Hutchinson could install the equipment; indeed, he said the earliest the cameras could go up is at the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year.
The council took no decisive actions on either proposal at Tuesday's meeting.
Stephens concluded the session by giving council members an update on a potential mower purchase.
“The first quote we had exceeded our $2,500 purchasing limit,” he said. “That quote is from Ladd’s here, locally, and it came in at $4,000 for a six-foot box. The second quote we got from Mathis is $2,150, so actually, it can be accommodated in the budget.”