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Commissioners support red-light resolution with 5-2 vote

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Motorists wait at stoplights and travel through the Fire Tower Rd. and Arlington Blvd. intersection on Monday. GPD chief Mark Holtzman is proposing red light cameras at this intersection and several others around town.

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Ginger Livingston

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Pitt County commissioners in a 5-2 vote supported a resolution asking the General Assembly to make changes that will allow the city of Greenville to implement a red-light camera program.

Greenville Police Chief Mark Holtzman presented information about problems he said stem from drivers running red lights across the city and how cameras at red lights can aid in enforcement. "I was a little surprised by the number of traffic accidents this community has, 500 a month,” Holtzman told commissioners.

The city needs the General Assembly to approve changes in how revenues from fines are distributed so the city can fund the program, he said. Currently, the revenues from such fines go entirely to the school system.

Commissioner Tom Coulson spoke against the program. "I've seen and read too much to convince me this is the proper way to address this problem," Coulson said.

Commissioner David Hammon joined Coulson in opposing the resolution. Commissioners Jimmy Garris, Charles Farley, Melvin McLawhorn, Beth Ward and Mark Owens Jr. supported it. Commissioner Mary Perkins-Williams was absent. Commissioner Glen Webb, a detective with the Greenville Police Department, abstained.

"It's my employer, and even though there is no direct financial benefit (to Webb) I want to avoid the appearance of impropriety which is the standard we should go by," Webb said.

Holtzman initially wants to put red-light cameras at five locations: Arlington Boulevard’s intersections with Fire Tower Road, Greenville Boulevard and Memorial Drive and Charles Boulevard’s intersections with Fire Tower Road and 14th Street.

Enforcement is difficult at intersections because the amount of traffic entering intersections hinders officers from pursuing red-light runners, Holtzman said.

Holtzman wants to follow a model used in Fayetteville. That city issued 7,657 tickets for red light violations within the first six months of its program, which launched last year. There was a 46 percent reduction in red light violations at the five intersections equipped with cameras, he said.

It's too early to know if it reduced the number of collisions, he said. It will cost the city an estimated $52,200 a month to operate the program.

Holtzman asked the commissioners to approve a resolution supporting a proposal that would allow the city and the Pitt County Board of Education to share revenues from the fines so the city could fund the camera program. The fine also would increase from its current $50 to $100 a ticket.

Frustration is a major reason drivers run red lights, Coulson said. He was stopped by more than 10 red lights while traveling from his home on Eleanor Street, off Fire Tower Road, to the county office building which is on West Fifth Street.

"If it was truly about safety you'd do more about synchronizing the lights," Coulson said. The commissioner said he's read some cities manipulate their systems to produce a high number of violations. Cameras also are positioned so drivers always look guilty of running red lights when in some instances it would be questionable, he said.

Holtzman said if violations drop at an intersection, the camera will be relocated to another intersection or discontinued. Signs will be posted identifying intersections with cameras, he said.

Other business during Monday's meeting included:

• Unanimous approval of a Pitt County EMS plan to pursue a Vidant Health Foundation Grant to establish a pilot community paramedic program in northern Pitt County to help deliver primary care to under served communities;

• Recognition of Farmville Central High Schools boys’ basketball team for winning the 2016 2-A State Championship;

• Unanimous approval of a citizen's request to release him from interest and penalties that accumulated because the tax department sent his tax bill to the wrong address;

• Twenty-seven employees received service awards;

• Maxine White, executive director of the Pitt County Coalition for Healthier Eating, reported her organization has received $1.15 million in loans and grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that will establish an aggregating, processing and distribution center in the former J.R. Bunting building in Bethel that will employ 70 people. The center will purchase and process products from farmers and then distribute the food.

Renovations and start-up costs are $1.6 million, White said. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently awarded $1.15 million in loans and grants, she said. The remaining $450,000 will come from other grants and loans, she said. Renovations are scheduled to begin in July and operations will begin later this year.

 

Contact Ginger Livingston at glivingston@reflector.com or 252-329-9570. Follow her @GingerLGDR.

 

HOW THEY VOTED

Resolution supporting city of Greenville’s Red Light Camera program

For: Jimmy Garris, Charles Farley, Melvin McLawhorn, Beth Ward, Mark Owens Jr.

Against: Tom Coulson, David Hammond

Abstain: Glen Webb

Absent: Mary Perkins-Williams

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