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System is tardy: Kent school traffic cameras delayed
School traffic cameras will get a late start in Kent.
Kent city officials had hoped to have the first cameras operating when Kent schools opened on Aug. 29.
"They’re not up yet….we’re waiting to hear from the contractor on an actual start date," said city spokeswoman Michelle Wilmot in an email. "While we had hoped they would be installed and operational by the start of the school year, we’re likely looking at mid-October."
Arizona-based American Traffic Solutions (ATS), Inc., contracted with the city to provide the camera services that include the equipment as well as mailing out tickets. ATS contracts with Des Moines, Seattle, Federal Way, Issaquah and more than 300 other communities in 21 states to provide traffic camera services.
"We’re told the design and installation process at the video camera locations has taken longer than the contractor originally proposed," Wilmot said.
Charles Territo, ATS spokesman, said during a phone interview Tuesday that the company ran into "equipment availability issues."
"Kent remains a priority," Territo said. "We hope to have them installed by mid-October. These are very sophisticated pieces of equipment. We operate on an on-demand inventory system. Unfortunately, sometimes there are delays. It's not an excuse, just a reason."
The City Council unanimously approved plans in May to install cameras on streets in front of Sunrise Elementary, 22300 132nd Ave. S.E., on the East Hill, and at Neely-O'Brien Elementary, 6300 S. 236th St., in the Valley.
"I am disappointed because I had hoped we could have started when school started," said Councilman Bill Boyce during a phone interview Tuesday.
Boyce, a former Kent School Board member, brought the proposal for school traffic cameras to the city to improve safety for children and not as a way for the city to increase revenue.
"It's all about public safety and making sure kids are safe," Boyce said.
The program initially is projected to bring in an estimated $421,000 in the first year to the city, according to city documents, although that figure is expected to be adjusted with the installation delay.
An update about the school traffic cameras installation is planned at the council's Public Safety Committee meeting on Tuesday, Boyce said.
Tickets will cost $124 for drivers going 1 to 9 mph over the 20 mph speed limit and $248 for drivers 10 mph or more over the limit.
Wilmot said the city will provide plenty of advance notice when the date is determined when the cameras become operational.
The program will cost the city about $150,000 per year, including $97,000 to ATS for the four cameras; $20,000 for pay to police officers to review the video; $26,000 for Municipal Court staff; and $7,000 for city legal staff.
Revenue, which will easily cover the costs, is projected to be $571,000 the first year based on the number of speeders who exceeded 20 mph during the traffic studies at Sunrise and Neely-O'Brien.
The two schools were chosen for the cameras because speeding traffic studies showed the most violations at the two schools, according to city officials. The program is aimed at reducing speeds in school zones and improving safety for children.
Cameras will take a video and still images of a speeding vehicle from behind. Speed is measured by sensors in the road. After review by a police officer, ATS staff will send a ticket to the vehicle's registered owner. The cameras only take images of the vehicle and license plate, not the driver or passengers.
Police officers who review video will receive overtime pay so that officers are not taken off the street and current service levels are maintained.