Pickerington City Council changed course last week and decided not to allow Redflex Traffic Systems Inc. to install red-light cameras at three city intersections along state Route 256.

Pickerington City Council changed course last week and decided not to allow Redflex Traffic Systems Inc. to install red-light cameras at three city intersections along state Route 256.

The 1-6 vote came after nearly a year of discussion regarding the cameras, which would have been installed where Route 256 intersects state Route 204/Tussing Road, Refugee Road and Diley/Grandview roads. Had the ordinance passed, Pickerington would have become the first central Ohio suburb to use red-light cameras for traffic enforcement.

The about-face came after Pickerington Police Chief Mike Taylor, who originally proposed the cameras as a safety enhancement and a way to stretch his department's resources, asked city council to pull the proposal from consideration at its March 17 meeting.

"The division between the public and the division on council (over the cameras) is not what I wanted," Taylor said. " I would humbly like this ordinance to take whatever measures necessary to drop from the agenda."

As recently as Jan. 20, the cameras appeared to be coming to Pickerington, after council passed a first reading of legislation to permit them by a 5-2 vote. The item was tabled two weeks later, however, as city officials awaited a final contract from Redflex and considered delaying any action until they could gauge the effectiveness of a $250,000 traffic-signal management system targeted for full installation on Route 256 this summer.

Council members Cristie Hammond and Brian Wisniewski, longtime opponents of the cameras, were pleased to see the measure fail.

Prior supporters of the cameras who voted against them on March 17 included Jeff Fix, Tricia Sanders, Mike Sabatino and Keith Smith. They said they still believe the devices could enhance public safety, but sided with Taylor's request.

Councilman Brian Sauer cast the lone supporting vote.

"I look at it from a safety perspective," he said. "To me, when you're reducing red-light running, it's almost a no-brainer. I have a hard time changing course on this, given I have supported this and pride myself on being consistent."

Prior to the vote, council heard from Doug Brown, organizer of Citizens Against Red Light Enforcement, a fledgling group of Pickerington residents opposed to the cameras.

While Brown said council members likely were motivated to enhance public safety, he said many cities employ the cameras as a revenue-generating tool.

As proposed, Redflex would have collected $50 from each red-light violation and the city would have received $70 per violation.

Brown also argued that numerous studies suggest red-light cameras often increase the number of rear-end collisions and said his group would immediately organize an effort to strike the red-light ordinance by referendum if it were passed.

nellis@thisweeknews.com