Northwest News

Lacey council votes to remove red light camera from busy intersection

The red light camera at Pacific Avenue and Sleater-Kinney Road in Lacey is set to be removed this fall after the City Council voted to discontinue the contract with the vendor, saying the camera no longer was meeting its intent.

The council voted 5-2 to end the contract at last Thursday’s work session, said City Manager Scott Spence, who provided a recap of the meeting this week.

The camera initially did its job — generating traffic tickets and reducing the number of accidents at that intersection — but now the number of accidents is approaching pre-camera levels, leading the council to vote it down, Spence said.

Accident data were not immediately available for the story, but can be found on the city’s website.

Council members Jason Hearn and Virgil Clarkson voted against removing the red light camera, Spence said.

Clarkson said he voted against the motion because the camera still is needed for safety at that intersection, pointing out that the city continues to grow.

The city also is home to an aging population, he said. The intersection is not far from senior retirement communities, including Panorama.

“The need is still there,” Clarkson said.

The council authorized the camera in 2007, and it took effect in 2008 to prevent drivers from running red lights at that intersection — the kind of driving that can lead to serious accidents, Spence said.

Clarkson added that installing the red-light camera was never about generating revenue for the city, although the council wanted to make sure the camera at least paid for itself, he said.

For 2015, the council budgeted $225,000 in revenue from the camera. After expenses tied to the camera’s operation, past revenue to the city was around $175,000, Spence said.

Also last Thursday:

The council voted 4 to 3 to uphold the city’s plastic bag ban, denying an effort by Lacey City Councilman Lenny Greenstein to get the issue before voters this fall.

Greenstein was bolstered by recent Thurston County survey data that showed 57 percent of those in Lacey who responded to it want the ban repealed.

“I still feel it’s best to let the people decide,” he said, adding that it would cost the city around $2,500 to put the bag ban on the fall ballot.

The deadline to add an issue to the November ballot is Aug. 4, according to the Thurston County Auditor’s office.

Greenstein also feels there are options to recycle plastic bags. The Fred Meyer store in Lacey, for example, has a bin for used plastic bags that are later converted into a decking material called Trex.

Plastic bags also are banned in Olympia, Tumwater and unincorporated Thurston County. The next county survey, for which a consultant will be hired, is set for around July 2016, the two-year mark of the bag ban ordinance.

City Manager Spence said the council could potentially take action on the ban following the results of the next survey.