Fairview City Council wants more answers on police chief's pilot photo radar program

The Fairview City Council has decided it needs more time to consider a contract that would allow Fairview police to use photo radar to ticket people speeding in school zones during school hours.

If approved, Fairview would be the only city in the state authorized to operate the pilot program.

The school zone selected for the pilot project is Northeast Halsey Street between Northeast 201st and 205th avenues.

A resolution authorizing the city to enter into a contract with Redflex Traffic Systems Inc. was pulled from the agenda Wednesday night, July 3, during the regular council meeting.

Discussion on the contract has been deferred until Fairview’s next council meeting Aug. 20, said Samantha Nelson, city administrator for Fairview.

Nelson said on two separate occasions the council initially gave its support for the project, proposed by Fairview Police Chief Ken Johnson two years ago, but have since been “re-evaluating it.”

“They are determining if they want that kind of technology in the city and are asking for more information,” Nelson said.

Also, Chief Johnson was unable to attend Wednesday’s meeting, as he was out of town.

In June 2012, Chief Johnson proposed legislation to the Oregon Legislature that would allow police departments, including Fairview Police, to operate photo radar in school zones during school hours.

During the 2013 legislative session, Rep. Chris Gorsek, D-Troutdale, introduced a bill that would allow police to use photo radar with video capabilities in school zones when school is in session only.

The bill also required flashing yellow lights and signs that displayed speeds of passing cars. It also required video capabilities and review by a police officer before a speeding ticket could be issued.

House Bill 3438 was amended by the Senate to restrict the program to Fairview only as a pilot project.

The governor signed the bill into law.

In September, Chief Johnson presented the council with the Fairview Police Department’s plan to fully implement the program.

According to city documents, the Fairview City Council supported the plan and the chief’s request to proceed with contract negotiations with Redflex.

The school zone selected on Halsey feeds Reynolds Middle School, Reynolds Learning Academy and Salish Ponds Elementary, as well as the Reynolds School District headquarters and transportation department.

In October 2013, a study conducted by Redflex found that from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Halsey school zone 1,506 cars traveled 28 mph or more.

The posted speed limit for school zones in Oregon is 20 mph.

Two studies conducted by the Multnomah County Traffic Engineer confirmed that upwards of 900 cars drove faster than 28 mph during a regular school day.

If approved, the pilot project would be implemented in four phases, which includes a speed study in the school zone and a study to analyze the impact of a flashing yellow sign and another sign alerting motorists to how fast they are traveling.

Then a video radar would be installed and drivers who speed would be given a written warning. After 30 days, police would begin issuing citations.

The program would be paid for by Redflex Traffic Systems.

Fairview Mayor Mike Weatherby said some councilors, including him, have changed their minds regarding photo radar.

He said he agrees with the intention for safety in the Halsey school zone, but is not sure photo radar is the answer.

“I am philosophically not a proponent of photo radar,” Weatherby told The Outlook in a phone interview. “I think it has uses, but only under certain conditions.”

Without being “big brother,” he said he would prefer to find out what effect the installation of lights and signs has on speeding without photo radar.

He also disagrees that photo radar and signage should be on Halsey Street. He thinks it would be more appropriate on Northeast 201st Avenue where the front of the schools face the road and border a residential neighborhood.

Weatherby said there’s never been an accident on that section of Halsey Street, but there have been accidents on the roads that run perpendicular to it, including 201st Avenue and Fairview Parkway.

The mayor said this is not meant to be a money-producing thing.

He said if you can persuade people to slow down without issuing tickets, and use lights and signs instead, he likes that idea better.

“It’s not so much about catching people,” he said, “It is to prevent.”

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