Don’t tell anyone how you found out, but none of North Riverside’s red-light cameras are operational right now.
The company that owns the cameras, Redflex Traffic Systems, is in the process of obtaining Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) approval to take down their four cameras, since the village has opted not to renew its contract with the firm.
Within the next two weeks, however, two new cameras will appear at the intersection of Cermak Road and Harlem Avenue. North Riverside has a new vendor handling its red-light camera program: Chicago-based SafeSpeed LLC.
SafeSpeed has all of its approvals from the Illinois Department of Transportation to erect red-light cameras on southbound Harlem Avenue approaching Cermak and on eastbound Cermak Road approaching Harlem.
According to its contract with SafeSpeed, the village will pay the firm $500 per month per camera for maintenance and the company will get $40 from each $100 ticket paid, according to Chris Lai, chief operating officer of SafeSpeed. If a ticket goes into collections and a late fee is tacked on, SafeSpeed will get $48.
Police will approve the violations, but SafeSpeed will otherwise administer the red-light camera program.
North Riverside made the jump to SafeSpeed because the village derived virtually no income from its relationship with Redflex. That company operated two cameras at the intersection of First Avenue and 26th Street, one at 17th Avenue and Cermak Road and one at 26th Street and Harlem Avenue.
The camera at 17th Avenue and Cermak Road went live in 2009. The other three were erected in 2010.
According to its contract with Redflex, North Riverside paid the company $4,000 per month per camera for maintenance and also a small surcharge for each ticket issued. As a result, Redflex has walked away with hundreds of thousands of dollars in “maintenance” fees. North Riverside pocketed about $16,800 in the first year of the program and has not made a dime since.
North Riverside and Redflex are now in “negotiations” to decide what happens to the roughly $408,000 in red-light tickets still unpaid. As of March, according to North Riverside Finance Director Sue Scarpiniti, Redflex says it was still owed $313,000.
But North Riverside contends that Redflex did little to collect the outstanding fines, while the village made active efforts at collection, including enlisting the services of the state’s debt-recovery program.
“The village’s contention is that we’re doing all the work for the collection of tickets,” said Scarpiniti, “and that we should retain 100 percent of the revenue.”
The village has collected about $50,000 through the state’s debt-recovery program and is holding it in a reserve account until there’s a resolution on whether Redflex should receive any of that money.
Red-light cameras are pitched to communities as “cost-neutral,” meaning that the municipality won’t ever lose money on a red-light camera. Cost neutrality is guaranteed by state statute, said Scarpiniti.
In the meantime, there are no more cameras at the former Redflex locations. Village Administrator Guy Belmonte said that the camera at 26th Street and Harlem Avenue won’t be replaced in the future.
As for the cameras at First Avenue and 26th Street and at Cermak Road and 17th Avenue, it could be months before new cameras appear, if ever.
SafeSpeed’s Lai told the Landmark that the company has performed its own traffic studies at those intersections to see if those are locations they’d like to place cameras. The company soon will provide the village with its findings, and the village can decide whether to move forward with replacing those cameras.
If they do decide the cameras are necessary, SafeSpeed will still have to go through a permitted process with IDOT, which Lai said could take between six and eight months. More realistically, said Lai, new cameras likely wouldn’t be in place at the old Redflex locations until next spring at the earliest.
“The safe assumption would be next year,” Lai said.