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Brooksville's traffic camera battle not over yet

BROOKSVILLE -- The city's 2-year-old red-light camera program is dead after Monday night's City Council vote. But don't start digging the grave just yet.

Despite the 3-2 vote to get rid of the cameras, council members on both sides of the issue said Tuesday that the program might find adequate support if proponents can provide data that conclusively proves that the cameras have made city streets safer.

Joe Johnston, one of two council members who voted for the cameras, said he felt the board never received an objective overview when it came to deciding the cameras' fate.

"I'm not sure the council ever got a complete enough picture," he said. "I thought it was a good idea, but obviously others didn't. I think we need to look seriously at the facts and see if the program actually worked."

At Monday's council meeting, police Chief George Turner provided statistics that he contends show a 35 percent reduction of accidents at the city's four red-light camera intersections.

But council member Joe Bernardini said the presentation showed only a "snapshot" of the issue.

"It wasn't a scientifically controlled test, and I think that's the only way you could ever prove it to my satisfaction," Bernardini said. "I've always felt that I could be persuaded if the right data was presented."

Though he personally disliked the cameras, Bernardini said he would support the move by Johnston and fellow council member Frankie Burnett, who cast the deciding vote to kill the program, for a panel to explore the issue at a later date.

The City Council only was supposed to consider a contract with a new camera vendor, Sensys America. But local business owner Pierre Des Jardins, a vocal opponent of the cameras, managed to persuade council members to revisit the whole camera issue.

In addition to Des Jardins, several other business owners derided the cameras as having a negative effect on the city's image.

When the vote came, Burnett, who previously had supported the cameras, cast the critical vote. After talking with residents and business owners, he said he could no longer find merit in the program other than as a revenue-raiser.

"I can no longer support them," he told the council.

Turner said Tuesday he has no plans to pursue the program that he projected would bring an estimated $350,000 annually into the city's coffers

"My job is to bring (the council) ideas," Turner said. "If they want to re-examine it again, I'd be glad to do it."

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

Brooksville's traffic camera battle not over yet 08/03/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 3, 2010 7:05pm]
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