Despite the fact that North Riverside hasn’t collected much at all in the way of revenue since red-light cameras were introduced to the village in 2009, the village board on Nov. 19 gave its blessing for a company to seek the addition of two more.
Trustees voted 5 to 1 at their board meeting last week to allow SafeSpeed LLC to conduct a feasibility study and apply to the state of Illinois to place two red-light cameras at the intersection of Harlem Avenue and Cermak Road.
The cameras would target motorists heading eastbound on Cermak Road and southbound on Harlem Avenue. Trustee H. Bob Demopoulos was the lone vote against the measure.
“I’m not a big fan of red-light cameras,” said Demopoulos.
North Riverside has four red-light cameras at three intersections in the village. The first to be installed was the camera on northbound 17th Avenue at Cermak Road, which went live in April 2009.
Two more cameras went live in January 2010 on the north and southbound approaches of First Avenue at 26th Street. The most recent camera was installed on southbound Harlem Avenue at 26th Street in the summer of 2010.
Police Chief Anthony Garvey has maintained since they first appeared in 2009 that the red-light cameras were there to deter motorists from running red lights, decrease accidents and help police investigate incidents.
Garvey said Monday that he has just completed an accident survey of the intersections where cameras exist in the village. Garvey said he expects to release the report to the public in December.
In addition to the safety component, red-light cameras have also been pitched by the companies that install and maintain them as a way to produce revenue for municipalities.
Local governments don’t pay any money to have the cameras installed. Instead, they pay monthly camera maintenance fees to the companies and either give the companies a cut of the ticket revenue or allow the companies to collect a surcharge on every ticket issued by the municipality.
In North Riverside, the cameras have never been a revenue source. Apart from about $16,000 the village received in revenue after the first camera was installed in 2009, the village has received no revenue, according to Finance Director Sue Scarpiniti.
The company responsible for the red-light cameras in North Riverside, Redflex Traffic Systems Inc., however has profited nicely. The company charges $4,000 per month for each of its cameras – that’s $198,000 annually for its cameras in North Riverside – and charges a $4.85 surcharge for each ticket the village issues.
Because the village has had such a hard time collecting on its red-light violation citations, all of the income that does get collected goes to Redflex. In fact, said Scarpiniti, there’s a balance due to Redflex of about $35,000, as of September, in unpaid fees.
Village Administrator Guy Belmonte said that the village’s initial contract with Redflex on its 2009 camera expires in 2014. It’s unclear whether the contract will be renewed.
“We’ll look at that toward the end of 2013,” said Belmonte. “That will be up to the mayor and the board at that time.”
Earlier in 2012, during budget discussions, Scarpiniti revealed that the village had more than $200,000 in unpaid red-light violation citations. The village board’s response to the problem was to join the Illinois comptroller’s debt recovery program, which will allow the village to garnish state income tax refunds, in effect forcing scofflaws to pay their red-light violation debts.
If the state allows SafeSpeed LLC to install cameras at Harlem and Cermak, the company will charge $500 per month to maintain the cameras and collect 40 percent of all ticket revenue collected by the village from red-light violations at that intersection.
The cameras at Harlem and Cermak, however, could end up being the revenue generator the others have failed to be, and not just because the village will be paying less to the red-light camera provider.
Berwyn has a single red-light camera on northbound Harlem Avenue at Cermak Road. It, too, was installed by SafeSpeed LLC in July 2011.
In the first six months of its operation, according to the Berwyn Life, Berwyn had issued $227,000 in tickets from red-light violations stemming from that one camera.