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Mayors seeing red over county cameras
County plan angers Southland officials

Thursday, June 10, 2010

by Becky Schlikerman

An outcry from officials Wednesday has sent Cook County commissioners scrambling to smooth over their move to install red light cameras throughout the county without the local municipalities' knowledge.

The red light saga began last week when county commissioners approved a contract with two firms to install, maintain and operate the cameras that catch traffic violators at 20 intersections on county-maintained roads - with a majority located within a municipality's boundaries.

"They've crossed over jurisdictional boundaries," said Palos Hills Mayor Gerald Bennett, whose town is in line to get one of the cameras. "This is an uninvited intrusion."

If the county wants to ticket drivers in Palos Hills, the Cook County s heriff's police should do some of the dirty work, Bennett said.

"If there's an accident, maybe we'll ask them to take care of it," he said.

The Cook County B oard's approval of the contract last week supported a 2007 ordinance to establish a program for red light cameras on county roads.

That ordinance included a list of 30 potential intersections throughout the county - eight in the Southland - to receive the cameras for a pilot program, but the county never discussed the plan with the municipalities.

"I haven't heard anything from the county about putting cameras in my town," Matteson Mayor Andre Ashmore said. Matteson already has red light cameras.

In Tinley Park, where there are also red light cameras at some busy intersections, the sentiment was echoed.

"We should have had some discussion with the county to see if it was justified and if Tinley Park needed that camera," Police Chief Michael O'Connell said.

That list, to boot, was rife with errors, misidentifying the location of several intersections. The most glaring of which put Lake-Cook and McHenry roads in Hickory Hills when it is actually about 40 miles north in Buffalo Grove.

"Cook County regrets any inaccurate listing of villages and will move to correct same," said Chris Geovanis, spokeswoman for county board President Todd Stroger, in an e-mail .

Meanwhile, Geovanis said the county isn't stepping on the municipalities' toes.

"We are not required by State (sic ) law to seek formal municipal buy-in at intersections under Cook County jurisdictional control," she said in the e-mail.

Despite that sentiment, the backlash Wednesday prompted county officials to spring into action.

Commissioner Larry Suffredin (D-Evanston) co-sponsored an amendment to the 2007 ordinance to allow municipalities that are not interested in being a part of the program to opt out.

That amendment is set to go before the county board Tuesday.

Commissioner Elizabeth Doody Gorman (R-Orland Park) sent a letter to the state's attorney's officeseeking an opinion on whether the county has the right to install cameras within a town's borders.

SOUTHLAND INTERSECTIONS ON THE COOK COUNTY RED LIGHT CAMERAS LIST

- 87th Street and Roberts Road, Hickory Hills and Justice

-Vollmer Road and Central Road, Matteson

-103rd Street and Roberts Road, Palos Hills

-Greenwood Road and 154th Street, South Holland and Dolton

-167th Street and Kedzie Avenue, Hazel Crest and Markham

-Sauk Trail and Orchard Drive, Park Forest

-143rd Street and Ridgeland Avenue, Bremen Township

-171st Street and 80th Avenue, Tinley Park



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