KENNETH CITY — This town was the first in Pinellas to install red-light cameras. Now it's following the crowd in getting rid of them.
Council members recently voted unanimously to allow its contract with American Traffic Solutions to lapse. The vote means the seven cameras — some on 54th Avenue N and 66th Street, two of the busiest roadways in the county — will go dark Sept. 22.
"It's a wonderful thing," Kenneth City business owner Phil Dean said of the decision. "I'm very pleased that they're gone."
Dean, owner of Phil Dean's Auto Detailing and Car Wash, 6170 54th Ave. N, has been in Kenneth City for 14 years. Dean said he and other businesses along 54th had a noticeable drop in business after the cameras went in.
Kenneth City already had the "cloud over us" of being known as a speed trap, he said. The cameras added to that whammy. Not only did customers complain, Dean said, "it was getting to the point I didn't want to be here."
But it was more than business complaints that factored into the decision, Town Manager Matt Campbell said.
The town was literally in the red when it came to income from the cameras. In the past six months of the 2013-14 fiscal year, the town saw monthly losses that ranged from about $2,662 to $7,447, according to Kenneth City records. And, in the first three months of the current fiscal year, losses ranged from $3,994 to $11,789 for a total of about $24,508.
The red ink was caused by several factors, Campbell said, most of which stemmed from the fact that Kenneth City was the first in 2009 to decide to install red-light cameras. It did not protect the town against monthly losses. So, when revenues dropped as drivers learned to be cautious or avoid the area, there was not enough ticket revenue to cover the amount that went to the state each month and the monthly fee to ATS for providing the seven cameras.
Campbell conceded that there was another downside to having seven cameras in a town of 1 square mile: bad public relations, particularly for a town that's struggling to improve its image.
"It's somewhat of a black eye on the image of the town," Campbell said.
In deciding to rid itself of the cameras, Kenneth City joins other Tampa Bay municipalities, such as St. Petersburg and Brooksville. St. Petersburg killed its red-light program last year. Brooksville voted to end its this month.
Contact Anne Lindberg at [email protected] or (727) 893-8450. Follow @alindbergtimes.