By a 5-2 vote, Pickerington City Council approved the first reading last week of an ordinance to permit Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Redflex Traffic Systems Inc. to donate and maintain "photo red light enforcement" equipment at three intersections along state Route 256.

By a 5-2 vote, Pickerington City Council approved the first reading last week of an ordinance to permit Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Redflex Traffic Systems Inc. to donate and maintain "photo red light enforcement" equipment at three intersections along state Route 256.

Barring a change in course, council is expected to enact the ordinance next month. Equipment to help catch red-light violators and levy fines would be installed where Route 256 intersects state Route 204 and Tussing Road, Refugee Road and Diley and Grandview roads.

"My own personal experience is these will change (driving) behavior and they will slow people down," said Jeff Fix, council's president pro tempore, who noted red-light cameras nabbed him twice within a three-day period in Columbus.

Pickerington would become the first central Ohio suburb to use the cameras, which already are operated by Redflex in 11 Ohio cities, including at 18 intersections in Columbus.

In exchange for providing, installing and maintaining the equipment to the city at no cost, as well as processing alleged violations, Redflex would receive $50 from each fine paid as a result of the photo enforcement. The city would retain the balance of the fines, which currently are $120.

"I don't look at this as a revenue generator," said Tricia Sanders, council vice president pro tempore. "I think we can look at it as a safety issue."

State law requires that yellow light times at intersections with red-light cameras must be extended by one second. A traffic flow study conducted by the city's engineering consultant, W.E. Stilson Consulting Group, indicated those changes would add at least six seconds to the average time it would take a vehicle to get through the intersections of routes 256 and 204/Tussing, and at Route 256 and Refugee Road, making traffic flow "unacceptable" by national standards.

The intersections at Route 256 and Diley/Grandview roads likely would see an added 2.6-second vehicle delay, the study showed, and there would be a 10-percent overall increase in vehicle delay at signalized intersections for the corridor.

"We don't have enough data to show we even have a (safety) problem," said Councilman Brian Wisniewski, who opposes the cameras. "We already have failing intersections in the city and this is going to make things worse."

While Redflex representative Mark Etzbach credited red-light cameras with helping to reduce the number of crashes by 30 percent in Chicago and 37 percent and 26 percent in Dayton and Toledo, respectively, Wisniewski said other cities have seen an increase in rear-end collisions caused by motorists stopping abruptly at photo-enforced intersections.

Three residents who addressed the subject during a public hearing Tuesday night prior to council's regular meeting all opposed the cameras.

"I really don't believe this would even be considered if we weren't in financial troubles," said Lee Gray, former Pickerington mayor and a current member of the Pickerington Board of Education. "I just seems like Big Brother to me."

Because of revenue concerns, officials cut more than $750,000 in spending from the city's 2009 budget.

Resident Mark Lecuru also said the proposal is money-driven.

"They do nothing but provide gratuitous revenue for the city that installs them," he said, adding that if public safety were the priority, "it wouldn't take an outside firm waving the carrot of free cameras to install them."

Council is expected to hear a second reading on the camera proposal on Feb. 3.