Red-light cameras nixed as source of revenue by Crestwood city officials

By BURKE WASSON

While Crestwood officials have studied additional ways to boost revenue, they will not use red-light cameras at intersections nor a city catalog to do so.

Crestwood aldermen last week denied the implementation of a city catalog that would ask residents to donate money to the purchase of specific items that the city would like to acquire.

Aldermen also tabled the drafting of an ordinance that would lead to installing cameras at traffic intersections. The legality of such cameras currently is being discussed in the Missouri Legislature, and a state Senate bill has proposed shifting all revenue collected from such red-light cameras to education.

The Board of Aldermen did approve at its March 27 meeting the drafting of three ordinances proposed by the city’s revenue-alternatives action team.

Aldermen unanimously directed the city to form ordinances toward fining drivers for tinted windows not in compliance with Missouri law, entering into a seller’s agreement with govdeals.com to sell surplus items and forming a city store to sell clothing and other apparel emblazoned with the Crestwood logo.

Under state statutes, tinted windows that allow less than 35 percent of light through the glass are illegal. While city police can ticket drivers for illegally tinted windows, Crestwood’s proposed ordinance would allow such violations to be tried in municipal court rather than in county court.

Assistant City Administrator Justina Tate said other Missouri cities have fines for tinted-window violations between $50 and $100 and that Town and Country generates between $40,000 and $60,000 annually from its tinted-window fines.

Though they supported the tinted-window fine, board President Jerry Miguel of Ward 3 and Ward 1 Alderman Richard Bland said they believe police first should write warnings to first-time violators and that the city should try to further educate the public on tinted windows. Bland proposed that the city allow free tint testing at the Government Center and include the state statute in the city newsletter.

The city’s pending sales agreement with govdeals.com will allow surplus items to be auctioned on that Web site. As part of that agreement, govdeals.com would charge 7.5-percent commission on items that the city would sell.

Under another proposed ordinance, clothing and apparel designed with the city logo will be sold at both the Community Center and Government Center. Tate said the city would sell items like T-shirts, sweatshirts, pens, baseball caps, mugs and various items leading up to the city’s 60th anniversary celebration on June 23. If the sale of such city-logo items are not successfully generating revenue by that time, Tate said the city then would recommend dropping the city store altogether.

But aldermen eliminated another opportunity to generate revenue when they agreed by consent last week to not proceed with plans for a city catalog.

The catalog, which Tate described as a “wish list” of purchases, was designed by the revenue-alternatives action team as a way for the city to acquire needed items and for residents to donate toward those items.

But the majority of aldermen said March 27 that they would worry about the perception that Crestwood would send to its residents by asking them to contribute money to needed expenditures.

“It doesn’t cost us anything to put this together and sort of throw it out there and see what happens,” Ward 2 Alderman Chris Pickel said. “Having said that, it could cost us something just in the court of public opinion and perception.

“If people were to get ahold of this and see that Crestwood is trying to solicit contributions for essentially items they should be able to cover, from chain saws to some of the firefighting equipment, we could really take a hit on that publicly.”

Ward 3 Alderman Gregg Roby also is concerned that asking residents for donations would take away pride from the city.

“When you’re putting a list out there like these are items we need, it just gives me the impression, it makes me feel destitute and a little small,” Roby said. “And I think about the fact it’s almost like groveling … These are items that we as a city should have enough pride and be able to purchase ourselves.”

City Administrator Frank Myers said he believes the city-catalog concept is a good idea and that if it were to ever be implemented, the city would have to carefully prioritize specific items to which residents could contribute money.

“I think there’s a lot of merit to the concept …,” Myers said. “I do think that if a program like this was to move forward, there would have to be a lot of care in what items are put into the catalog.”

But Roby said he believes the city would be better served by accepting donations from any residents who wish to contribute instead of publicizing the desire to accept monetary contributions.

“Maybe it’s just the fact that we call it a gift catalog,” he said. “I get a lot of gift catalogs in the mail and I’m not particularly interested in sending anybody money so that they can purchase things for themselves. I think it could be done on the sly from the standpoint of not necessarily publicized.”

“I agree with Alderman Roby,” Ward 4 Alderman Pat Duwe said. “And the word ‘cheap’ kind of comes to mind.”

Aldermen also agreed to table the development of an ordinance that would allow the city to install red-light cameras at intersections.

Mayor Roy Robinson said even if the state Legislature were to eventually retain red-light cameras, he still would be op-posed because he views them as more of a revenue enhancer than a safety concern.

“All these cities are doing it for a money aspect more than they are for the actual doing and the safety aspect,” he said. “It’s a money maker, and everybody’s wanting to jump on the bandwagon to make this money … I think Big Brother’s already here. And we just don’t have to jump on the bandwagon just because others do it. So I would oppose personally. I want the board to know this. If we do an ordinance on this, I probably would oppose it.”