The Lafayette City-Parish Council is set to vote this month on whether to extend for another year a contract with the private company that oversees the city’s traffic camera enforcement program.
The administration says the extension would allow more time to consider expanding the program and stepping up collection efforts for the thousands of drivers who refuse to pay the tickets.
The council on Tuesday introduced the proposal to extend the contract with Redflex Traffic Systems, the company that oversees the camera program. A final vote is set for May 17.
The traffic cameras have been snapping pictures of speeders in Lafayette since 2007, and despite criticism from some residents, the council has kept the program in place in years past.
Lafayette Mayor-President Joel Robideaux said he’s seeking to extend the current contract for a year because he has not had enough time to review it since taking office in January.
“This allows us time to get public input and consider changes going forward,” Robideaux said. “Let’s hit the pause button and give it another year.”
Robideaux said possible changes include adding traffic cameras at school zones and adding more traffic camera vans, which are deployed to different areas of the city based on complaints of speeding.
Robideaux also said he hopes to develop a more effective collection strategy for drivers who don’t pay fines.
Since the program began in 2007, nearly $12.5 million in fines has gone uncollected — about 40 percent of the dollar values of all traffic camera violations issued, according to figures from city-parish government.
Collections are tricky, because traffic camera violations are civil rather than criminal, meaning violators can’t face jail time, criminal fines or a revoked license for not paying.
City-parish government tried a get-tough strategy a few years ago — threatening lawsuits against anyone owing at least $125 over three years — but the effort lost steam after some council members questioned the details of who should be pursued in court.
“Why is it on the honor system where some people pay and some people don’t?” asked Councilman William Theriot, who has consistently opposed the program.
Theriot said he plans to fight the renewal of the contract when it comes up for a vote later this month, but in the past, few council members have joined him in the opposition.
Any move to end the program might gain even less traction this year.
The roughly $1 million in annual revenue from traffic camera violations goes to the Police Department, and replacing that money in the budget would be tough with the weak oil-and-gas sector dragging down sales tax revenue.
Theriot said that he would at least like for Lafayette residents to be allowed a vote on continuing the traffic camera program.
“The people of Lafayette are smart, and they need to have a say on this,” he said.
The city-parish legal department has stated in the past that local and state law would not allow a vote on the issue unless at least 15 percent of registered voters signed a petition to put it on the ballot.