BROOKSVILLE — When the Brooksville City Council decided to reinstate red light cameras earlier this month, it came with the caveat that revenue from the program should be earmarked for specific items that would benefit the entire city.
The council will consider a budget amendment Monday that calls for allocating all money generated from the cameras for redevelopment and capital improvement programs, as well as marketing and advertising.
Based on projections by City Manager Jennene Norman-Vacha, the city could net as much as $1.1 million a year after expenses from the 20 cameras that will be installed next year by the city's new vendor, Sensys America.
In the past, the council has used revenue derived from its red light camera program for capital projects such as roads, sidewalks, parks and drainage. But the new proposal calls for the establishment of a separate fund that would allow greater latitude and flexibility for financing specific projects adopted by the council.
Freshman council member Kevin Hohn, who cast the deciding vote to bring the cameras back, feels that such a measure might help ease some of the negative feelings that some business owners and residents have regarding the cameras.
"We want to allay the fears that the cameras are going to scare people away from Brooksville," Hohn said.
Indeed, Brooksville's history with red light cameras is checkered with controversy. Originally installed in 2008, the cameras proved to be a lucrative revenue source, earning the city about $450,000 annually in the three years they were in operation.
Statistics showed that 97 percent of the citations were issued to out-of-towners, and the majority of the citations were to people who made right turns at red lights without coming to a stop.
Under the new program, motorists who are caught not stopping for a red light will be mailed a $158 citation. Of that amount, $75 would go to the city, with a portion of the city's revenue going to Sensys, the camera contractor. The remainder would go to the state.
While some residents have applauded the cameras as an effective safety tool, others, like Brooksville businessman and longtime camera opponent Dan Patrick, see them as a money grab that hurts the city's image.
Patrick believes no amount of marketing and promotion will overcome the negative impact the cameras will have on the city.
"I just don't think it's worth it to the city," Patrick said. "They make some money from it, but that's about it. Once someone gets a ticket, they're never going to want to come back. It's as simple as that."
Logan Neill can be reached at (352) 848-1435 or firstname.lastname@example.org.