Meridian School District puts bus stop-sign cameras on hold

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDDecember 20, 2013 

Buses back on roads

Buses are inspected at the Bellingham School District bus barn Friday afternoon, August 22, 2008.

PHILIP A. DWYER — THE BELLINGHAM HERALD

LAUREL - Meridian School District has put its plan for installing cameras on bus' stop signs on hold as it seeks a reliable vendor for the service, which would catch drivers as they illegally pass buses with their stop signs out.

The district had a pilot run of the stop-paddle cameras last spring with vendor Redflex Student Guardian and found that in six weeks, 65 people passed school buses with their lights flashing and stop signs out, signaling that children were getting on and off the bus.

But after hearing about issues with Redflex Traffic Systems - which was being investigated for bribery in Chicago connected to its red-light camera program there - the school board decided to pass on the vendor, Superintendent Tom Churchill said. The board also passed on American Traffic Solutions.

The city of Bellingham paid $100,000 to ATS to end its red light camera program before it even began in 2012, after the proposed program met dramatic resistance from city residents.

"What we want to do is just have a way to deter drivers from passing buses," Churchill said. "We don't want it to be a political issue."

The district is now looking at a Canadian company, Gatekeeper Systems, to provide the stop-paddle cameras, but so far the company hasn't been very responsive, Churchill said.

He said the district is still interested in the idea, but he didn't think there would be any movement toward getting the cameras until next summer. He would like to see if other school districts in the state adopt the cameras to see how they work out in those communities.

Drivers ticketed for passing a bus with its stop sign out face a fine of $394. The district would have to share that money with the vendor they choose and with law enforcement agencies. The money the district gets would have to be used for school zone safety projects, such as installing flashing beacons alerting drivers about school zones.

Reach Zoe Fraley at 360-756-2803 or zoe.fraley@bellinghamherald.com. Read her School Days blog at blogs.bellinghamherald.com/schools or follow her on Twitter at @bhamschools.

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