The Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted unanimously in favor of contracting with Chattanooga-based Blue Line Solutions (BLS) for use of a handheld speed photo enforcement camera.
That approval was contingent on City Attorney John Pevy approving the contract.
The handheld speed enforcement camera will be used by an officer on patrol and will issue $50 municipal speeding citations.
The town would keep half of that fine, with the other half going to BLS.
Two years ago, the Tennessee General Assembly banned all “unmanned” speed enforcement except for a few special circumstances.
As a result, Mount Carmel’s two stationary speed enforcement cameras on Highway 11-W were shut down in March when the town’s contract with Redflex expired.
But, based on complaints of local residents, speeding on residential streets is a bigger safety hazard than on the highway.
Prior to Tuesday’s BMA meeting, the board held a public hearing on the possibility of using traffic calming devices, such as speed tables or speed bumps, in residential neighborhoods.
Mayor Chris Jones noted that the town installed a temporary speed bump on Walnut Street, but took it down after two hours because it was too tall and some vehicles were rubbing it with their undercarriage.
Speed tables, which are safer for vehicles, can cost as much as $6,000 to install. The temporary bumps, like the one tested on Walnut Street, cost only $800.
Following a brief discussion Tuesday, the BMA agreed to refer the issue of traffic calming devices back to committee for a recommendation.
However, BLS owner Mark Hutchinson did sell the board on his alternative solution to speeding in residential neighborhoods.
Hutchinson, who previously worked for the Governor’s Highway Safety Office, noted that unlike the town’s previous 11-W speed cameras, his handheld cameras can be used anywhere within the city, whether it be 11-W, Carters Valley Road or any street in between.
The advantage of the handheld cameras is that officers don’t have to conduct a traffic stop for every violation, possibly letting several other speeders go by in the process.
The device is basically a radar gun with a camera attached, and both are wired to an electronic tablet which stores all the violations and data recorded by the camera.
“This laser is just like the laser that the Tennessee Highway Patrol has used for 20-30 years, (as well as the) Johnson City Police Department, Kingsport Police Department,” Hutchinson told the BMA. “What we’ve done is add a camera to the side of it, so now it interacts with software on the tablet. When the officer looks through the scope, there’s a dot in there that we call the ‘redical,’ and when the officer puts the redical on a car and pulls the trigger, it calculates the speed of the car, and that will immediately show up on the display.”
Hutchinson added, “If the vehicle is speeding, the laser will lock the speed, and it will also take an image that will show up on the tablet. That is, if the speed is above the threshold (higher than the posted speed limit) that the chief or the council has decided on.”
Mount Carmel will issue a public notice announcing when the handheld speed camera enforcement will begin.
The following video is the entire Mount Carmel BMA meeting (8-22-17). The handheld speed camera discussion begins 53 minutes into the recording: