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If Florida Legislature gives nod, Oldsmar will be ready for red light cameras

OLDSMAR — As the courts and state legislators duke it out over red light cameras, the push to mount the devices at some of the city's most dangerous intersections is gaining steam.

Oldsmar City Council members Tuesday night asked the city attorney to draw up a contract with the Scottsdale, Ariz., company that runs red light camera programs in Kenneth City, South Pasadena and 51 other Florida municipalities.

They also asked him to draft an ordinance that would make running red lights a violation of Oldsmar's city code.

The 5-0 vote came after American Traffic Solutions presented results from an eight-day study of traffic patterns on some of the city's roadways. That study found that 106 motorists went left, turned right or just gunned it when lights were red at eight intersections.

More than half of those violations occurred at one intersection, southbound Forest Lakes Boulevard and Tampa Road. Footage captured 56 cars barreling through red lights at that location, one of five intersections American Traffic Solutions thinks could benefit from surveillance devices.

Proponents and opponents have long debated the effectiveness of red light cameras. They've offered studies that show a reduction in crashes and ones that show no change. A study in Virginia found an increase in crashes. That back-and-forth has reached Tallahassee, where dueling bills could either expand the use of the cameras or ban them.

Rep. Ron Reagan, R-Bradenton, said cameras give law enforcement an additional tool to save lives and is sponsoring the Mark Wandall Traffic Safety Act, named after a 30-year-old Bradenton man who was killed by a red light runner.

The sponsor of a competing bill, Rep. Robert Schenck, R-Spring Hill, said he does not believe it is right for cash-strapped governments to use cameras as a means to increase revenue under the guise of public safety.

Meanwhile, a Miami-Dade judge ruled that Aventura overstepped state law when it used cameras to fine red light runners.

"At this point," Oldsmar city manager Bruce Haddock said, "the contract would probably say 'is dependent upon authorization from the state of Florida.' "

Haddock said the contract would probably be brought to the council in late April or early May. The legislative session ends April 30.

"If the Legislature changes (its) mind, and goes with Schenck's bill, no harm lost," Mayor Jim Ronecker said.

"Other than time invested," Haddock said, "we don't have a program if the legislature doesn't authorize it."

Tuesday's meeting was the first since the March 9 citywide election.

Voters handed Ronecker three more years, returned former council member Janice Miller to the dais after a one-year absence and added a new face, businesswoman Linda Norris. The newly elected board elevated Doug Bevis from council member to vice mayor.

For one city official, Tuesday's council meeting was her last.

Lisa Lene, who has administered oaths, taken minutes at City Council meetings and supervised city elections for nearly 13 years, is leaving. Lene's husband has been offered a position in Missouri and her last day as city clerk will be April 2. Assistant city clerk Kathy Horvath will replace Lene on an interim basis until the position is filled.

Rodney Thrash can be reached at rthrash@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4167.

If Florida Legislature gives nod, Oldsmar will be ready for red light cameras 03/17/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 17, 2010 8:01pm]
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