Speed cameras?: City council discusses traffic enforcement around Apache Junction schools

City of Apache Junction officials are investigating the use of speed cameras and other traffic enforcement around local charter and public schools.

“I’m not a red-light-camera supporter. For the safety of our kids, I’ve seen a lot of issues. When I worked for the school district, I’ve seen, myself, a lot of near-misses and it just scared the heck out of me. It’s really for the safety of the kids,” Councilwoman Christa Rizzi, who brought the item up for discussion, said in an interview after the Oct. 16 work session of the Apache Junction City Council. “My goal was just to see if the council just wanted to have a presentation to learn more and they can ask their questions and then go from there. And if it’s not the right thing for the city, we might be able to address the issues in another way. So it’s a start.”

All seven members of the council appeared to be in agreement that city staff should look into what could be done to slow drivers.

Mayor Jeff Serdy said he is against the use of speed cameras but is willing to have city staff investigate ways to slow speeders around schools.

“I will be completely against this. I think that people have the right to face their accuser,” he said.

“I think it’s great to have our actual cops out there. It shows them in a good light. With what’s going in the world today, I think it’s better that we’ll have police officers close in case there’s an emergency. To have them out there,” he said.

“I’m, of course, not against looking at it, but I am going to have a hard time voting yes on it,” Mayor Serdy said.
Mrs. Rizzi told the full council about her concerns about safety around the schools.

“Some concerns had come up over the last year or so from parents and community members regarding issues of speeding, people not following the laws – the speed sones – in our school zones,” she said to the council.

After speaking to Apache Junction Police Chief Thomas E. Kelly, she and other city staff members had a meeting with a speed-camera company to learn how much it may cost and how it would work, she told the council.

“We’re just in the exploration of how this works, how does it work in Mesa, how does it work in Chandler, these other cities,” Apache Junction City Manager Bryant Powell told the council.

“The company that came in this case was American Traffic Solutions, but there’s others,” he said. “This can be a big discussion in the community about is there concern for our youth on something like this – yes or no? – and if there is, how do you approach it or look at it and this is one method. There are others.”

American Traffic Solutions provides red-light, speed and school bus stop-arm safety cameras, according to https://www.atsol.com.

Councilwoman Rizzi is also a member of the Apache Junction Unified School District Governing Board and hopes school officials will be invited to hear presentations on speed cameras.

“Being the city’s streets, it’s the city’s decision. Obviously there’d be some partnering there,” she said in the interview following the work session.

She would like to discuss it at a future school board meeting.

“Probably won’t do a big presentation there, but certainly have a conversation about it, at least bring it in,” she said. “And I would like for them to be able to be present when we (city officials do the presentation so I would be asking them – the superintendent, maybe the school board president – to come and at least watch the presentation so that they have the information and see if they’re in support of it as well.”

Also at the meeting were Vice Mayor Chip Wilson and council members Jeff Struble, Gail Evans, Dave Waldron and Robin Barker.

“I think it would be a great thing to look into for the city. I know, driving through the Valley… it seems a lot (of cameras) around a lot of schools. Or at least if not the cameras they have the flashing speed limit signs so you know how fast you’re going according to their measurement,” Councilman Struble said.

“Do we give out a lot of tickets for speeding in school zones?” Councilwoman Evans asked.

Police Chief Kelly, sitting in the audience, nodded yes.

She said many Valley cities have 35 mph in front of schools but the city of Apache Junction has a lower limit, to 25 mph.

“It’s confusing. It kind of appears to be a speed trap more than anything,” Councilwoman Evans said. “Besides checking into the camera part, are they doing 45, 55 speeding or not slowing down at all?” she asked.

“We have them going 50 mph through them, we have them going 10 miles over the limit,” Police Chief Kelly said. “Traffic officers spend a significant amount of time at the high school just on the U-turns.”

Vice Mayor Wilson said he recently dropped off a family member at a Mesa high school where there are cameras.

“Driving my 35, which was what the speed limit is, and I got passed like I was sitting still and saw the flashing light come on and I know he was going well over 50 by me,” he said.

Councilwoman Evans asked if it would be a shared cost between the city and the schools.

“There’s different models. Mesa does it a certain way where they purchase all of the equipment and kind of contract out the company to do the technology behind it,” City Manager Powell said.

Because it’s a camera, some people think it’s an invasion of privacy, Councilman Waldron said.

“Consistency to me is more important,” he said. “Image Prep is 35 on 16th. If you go to Avalon, it’s 15. And there’s no crosswalk at Image Prep so there’s no consistency between charter schools and public schools,” Councilman Waldron said. “I guess it doesn’t hurt to see the presentation. I’d like to see the numbers.”

Councilwoman Barker said she is interested in the council exploring a variety of companies.

“I would like to see what several different companies have in mind and I also feel that it would be very important for the city to share any cost with the school district. I think that’s an important part of it,” she said.

AJUSD has one high school, one junior high school and three elementary schools. They are: Peralta Trail Elementary School, 10965 E. Peralta Road in Gold Canyon; Four Peaks Elementary School, 1785 N. Idaho Road in Apache Junction; Desert Vista Elementary School, 3701 E. Broadway Ave. in Apache Junction; Cactus Canyon Junior High School, 801 W. Southern Ave. in Apache Junction; and Apache Junction High School 2525 S. Ironwood Drive in Apache Junction.

Area charter schools include: Apache Trail High School, 945 Apache Trail in Apache Junction; Avalon Elementary School, 1045 S. San Marcos Drive; Imagine Prep high school and middle school, 1843 W. 16th Ave.; and Sonoran Desert School, 6724 S. Kings Ranch Road in Gold Canyon.

Editor Richard Dyer can be reached at rdyer@newszap.com

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