Traffic camera ban could mean layoffs

The Quad-City Times

BYLINE: Kurt Allemeier

DATELINE: Davenport IA



The jobs of a police officer and two civilian employees in the Davenport Police Department are in jeopardy if the Iowa Legislature bans traffic cameras, city officials say.

The legislation still is alive in the Iowa House, but whether it gets a floor debate as lawmakers try to wrap up the 2012 session is uncertain.

Davenport collected $1.34 million in revenue from traffic cameras during fiscal year 2011. That revenue goes into the city’s general fund, but it is tabbed for public safety use, such as police overtime and operating the traffic camera program in the police department’s traffic division.

While some legislators say traffic camera systems are purely moneymakers, Davenport officials say they are a public safety tool that controls driver behavior and frees up officers to perform duties other than monitoring traffic.

“Davenport uses traffic cameras to improve public safety,” Police Chief Frank Donchez said. “Police chiefs, traffic engineers and emergency room physicians all agree traffic cameras have reduced accidents and reduced injuries.

“Some state legislators appear to not understand how these tools work,” he added.

“These tools are operated by police personnel. If the state takes away these tools, we are not in a position to keep the personnel who are now operating the program.”

Davenport Mayor Bill Gluba said Friday that he has received three traffic camera citations, and paid them, adding that banning traffic cameras would be a “blow to public safety.”

“The legislators have been vengeful in the sense they got tickets and want to get rid of an important law enforcement tool,”he said.

The loss of revenue would have an impact on a city budget “that is already stretched and strained,”the mayor added.

The city faces $4.5 million in increased costs to the state public safety pension fund over the next three fiscal years, budget manager Brandon Wright said.

“If they take away more than a million dollars in fine revenue, the city council will have to amend the budget, where public safety costs are 63 percent of the total,” he said.



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