Traffic enforcement issues earn attention in Washougal

2011 preliminary budget includes hiring officer to focus on speeding and other infractions

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A variety of cars and trucks can be seen and heard speeding along "G" Street in Washougal. The City Council is considering whether to fill a vacancy in the police department by hiring a patrol officer to focus on traffic enforcement. That potential hiring, and additional 2011 budget issues, will be up for discussion during a workshop Monday, at 5:30 p.m., in City Hall.

Nora Cobb has lived most of her life in a house on “G” Street. Now 60, she can remember hearing her father yell at drivers of speeding vehicles as he sat on the porch many years ago.

Cobb’s father has passed away, but she and her mother remain in the neighborhood that can sometimes be the scene of a “deafening roar,” according to Cobb.

One of her neighbors Terye Laidlaw agrees that speeders can be quite loud with “squealing” tires.

“After school and evenings are the worst,” Laidlaw said. “Sundays are the quietest.”

In an attempt to reduce speeders on “G” Street, and “C,” “E,” 32nd, and 39th, as well as streets that include school zones, the Washougal 2011 draft preliminary budget includes approximately $90,000 in salary and benefits to hire a new officer who would be primarily assigned to traffic enforcement.

“That officer’s duties are simple – enforce the traffic laws within the city,” said Washougal Mayor Sean Guard. “These same duties are also undertaken by other patrol officers but in the case of the traffic officer, their main responsibilities will not be answering calls but working traffic enforcement. They will answer emergency calls as needed, but their main focus is expected to be traffic.”

According to Washougal Police Chief Ron Mitchell, traffic enforcement could include addressing speeding in school zones and residential areas, as well as crosswalk, seat belt and cell phone law enforcement.

The City Council is expected to discuss the 2011 budget at its next workshop Monday, at 5:30 p.m., in the council chambers at City Hall, 1701 “C” St.

Measure to prohibit traffic cameras fails

The majority of City Council members voted last night against the prohibition of using red-light and speed cameras.

The vote was 5 to 2 against the resolution proposed by Councilman Michael Delavar.

He said it is better for a police officer to use his judgment to determine whether it is appropriate to ticket a motorist.

“As soon as we take out the human element of an officer’s judgment call, we will have many citizens who are ticketed without the advantage of seeing their accuser,” Delavar said. “Most people who are questionably ticketed with red light cameras cannot remember the circumstances of the traffic violation when they receive the ticket in the mail, making it difficult for them to justify paying the fine.”

He added that enforcement cameras ticket vehicles that make turns on red lights and if vehicles do not come to a complete stop.

Jon Russell, who supported the resolution to ban traffic cameras, said council members who voted against the ban should be able to admit they are open to the use of red light cameras.

Councilman Paul Greenlee said the city does not have an ordinance allowing the use of automated traffic safety cameras.

“We have no plans to create one, so traffic safety cameras are illegal in Washougal,” he said.

“This is a resolution looking for a problem to solve, and it can’t find one,” Greenlee added.

Councilwoman Jennifer McDaniel said the resolution was “very subjective.”

“There is no reason to address this issue until it comes to Washougal,” she said.

Councilman Dave Shoemaker said he did not want to take a “tool out of the toolbox,” that police could use to enforce the law in the future.

During the public comment portion of the council meeting, Martha Martin described Delavar’s resolution to be about “a non-issue” and “a waste of time.”