Commissioners to reverse vote on speed cameras - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Commissioners to reverse vote on speed cameras

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) - The Hamilton County Commission is under fire after giving the sheriff's office the OK to mail speeding tickets instead of pulling drivers over. Commissioners passed the resolution Wednesday, but the backlash is causing some to reconsider their vote.   

It passed 5-4, giving the sheriff's office the green light to purchase two high-tech radar devices to catch speeders. But, the public is pushing back, and now at least three commissioners tell Channel 3 they're changing their vote.

The Hamilton County Sheriff's Office started testing the LIDAR speed reduction program in 2012, which was the first in the state. Deputies point the laser technology at cars and it clocks the speed and records video. You may not realize you were busted until there's a $50 ticket in your mailbox.

"If I'm going to get a ticket, I want to talk to the policeman," Hamilton County resident Deloris Hilke said.

Deloris Hilke shares the opinion of several hundred Channel 3 Facebook friends and residents swamping their commissioners with angry phone calls.

"The public is not excited and not thrilled about this at all and I've heard from a lot of folks," Hamilton County District 4 Commissioner Marty Haynes said.

One of the many questions is what if someone else is driving your car? Sheriff Jim Hammond says you can go to court.

"The officer simply has to play the tape, is that your car? Is that you sitting behind the wheel? Is that your tag?" Sheriff Hammond said.

He holds confident it increases safety among drivers and officers, and that the revenue it generates is an added bonus. It will help fund discounted driver's ed courses, like the city of Chattanooga has.

"I've seen a huge improvement," Haman's Driving School instructor Bruce Johnson said.

But, some commissioners say upon closer review, the numbers don't add up enough to outweigh the negatives. At least three who initially voted in favor of it, plan to change their votes.

"We're going to listen to the constituents, voters and residents and I'll be changing my vote next week," Haynes said, "this is the biggest controversy I've had in my 18 months on the county commission without questions it's not even close."

Part of the confusion was the commission did not have the usual week of consideration for this resolution. Bad weather last week, meant a combined meeting this week.

"We discussed and then voted at the same time and we learned a lesson, don't do that, give the public time for input," Haynes said.

"I don't go for it. I hope they overturn it," Hilke said.

The resolution does not require a second vote, but commissioners have requested it be on the agenda again next week. Commissioners Haynes, Bankston and Henry told Channel 3 they will switch their votes to oppose it. The other two who voted for it, Beck and Fields, haven't responded yet, but will be out-numbered anyway.

Upon hearing that, Sheriff Hammond said it's simply his job to present programs he think will benefit public safety and it's the commissioners' jobs to vote.

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