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Brooksville City Council considers uses for red-light cameras money

BROOKSVILLE — No one knows just how much of a financial windfall Brooksville's reinstated red-light cameras will bring. But there is no shortage of ideas on how to spend the money.

Brooksville City Council members all championed their personal wish lists Monday night, tossing out ideas such as using the extra revenue to improve roads and other infrastructure, stepping up marketing and advertising efforts, and even paying for teen driver education programs.

However, Vice Mayor Joe Johnston cautioned his fellow council members against "putting the cart before the horse" when it came to committing the money to specific uses.

"It's a new program and a new contract, and we're not sure how all this is going to pan out," Johnston said.

Two weeks ago, council members voted 3-2 to contract with the South Florida company Sensys America Inc. to install 20 red-light cameras in Brooksville, starting in March. The city and company have not yet made a final decision on which intersections will get the cameras.

It is estimated the city could earn as much as $600,000 annually from the program.

Under the new program, motorists who are caught running a red light will be mailed a $158 citation. Of that amount, $75 would be split between the city and Sensys. The remaining money would go to the state.

The revenue projections, which were furnished by Sensys, call for the company to earn $90,000 a month — or $540,000 in a six-month period, with the city keeping any additional funds.

Freshman council member Kevin Hohn, who voted in favor of the cameras, said he felt the program's ultimate goal wasn't to earn revenue but to make city streets safer.

However, Hohn also suggested that 90 percent of the money earned from the cameras should go toward capital improvements. The remaining 10 percent would go toward stepping up the city's advertising and marketing efforts.

Not everyone on the council shared Hohn's views.

Council member Joe Bernardini, a staunch opponent of the cameras, insisted that at least two-thirds of the proceeds go toward teen driver education programs, either through the school system or the Hernando County Sheriff's Office.

"After all," Bernardini said, "the true reason for having the cameras is for citizen safety, and not about money."

Council members Lara Bradburn and Kevin Hohn said that while they agreed with Bernardini's proposal, committing a set amount of money to any program could prove detrimental if the projections fall short.

"If the program works, we won't be making any money," Hohn said.

Council members agreed that for now, any camera revenue should be set aside until a consensus is reached on how to spend it. The council plans to address the matter during its budget workshops next year.

The city originally installed red-light cameras at five intersections in 2008, but removed them in 2010 when it could not reach an agreement on a contract extension with the vendor — in part because of changes in state law regarding revenue sharing.

During the three years the cameras were in operation, the city received about $450,000 in annual revenue.

Logan Neill can be reached at (352) 848-1435 or lneill@sptimes.com.

Brooksville City Council considers uses for red-light cameras money 10/18/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 18, 2011 8:21pm]
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