BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW-TV) — Buffalo Common Council President Darius Pridgen said the number of complaints to councilmembers about the school zone camera demonstration project continues to grow.
Among the complaints, said Pridgen, are people upset with getting duplicate tickets, an inability to reach anyone when calling to question charges or schedule a hearing, the $50 cost per ticket, beacons not working, and concerns that the cameras are on when schools are off.
"To me at the end of the day, this program needs a major overhaul," added Pridgen.
The common council president, along with Councilmembers Rasheed Wyatt and Joel Feroleto, believe it is time to cancel the contract with the vendor who supplies and operates the school zone cameras (Sensys Gatso).
"My fear is some people may end up with judgments or losing a car, anything because the rollout of this has been so bad," explained Pridgen.
During a virtual public hearing with the Common Council's Community Development Committee, several people voiced concerns about the program. "We don't have money. Especially at this time. We don't have $50 like that. This is a money grab," said one woman.
Mike Blake is circulating a petition on Change.org calling for an end to the program. He told the committee;"Put an end to this camera program right away. Return the money taken from the citizens and get to work on real changes to get the city back on its feet financially."
Officials for the City of Buffalo argue that data showed there was a need to slow down traffic in school zones. As a result of the camera's presence, the City said compliance in school zones has increased from 34% to 94%.
Parking Commissioner Kevin Helfer admits there were problems but insists the vendor is working to correct those as they come up.
Helfer said 19,000 notices are going out to people who got a school zone ticket informing them that the charges are being waived or refunded because the vendor-issued tickets did not go out within the 14 business days that is required.
In addition, Helfer said all late fees are being waived for December 2020 with a possibility they may be waived for January 2021 as well.
For people having a hard time contacting anyone about their tickets, Commissioner Helfer recommends calling 311 and leaving a voicemail because his office is currently facing some COVID-related staff issues.
7 Eyewitness News also found an email address that may help you get answers: firstname.lastname@example.org.
After the virtual committee meeting where it was explained by the city's law department that department heads are the only ones able to cancel the school zone camera contract, Councilmembers Pridgen, Wyatt, Feroleto submitted the following resolution calling for a pause to the program:
Resolved that The City of Buffalo Common Council1) Respectfully requests the commissioner of parking and the mayor of The City of Buffalo to consider a pause on execution of the contract in Item 19-490, between The City and Sensys Gatso, as it concerns the operation of cameras and automated ticketing of moving violations through Buffalo school zones.