KENNETH CITY — This town has long been known for strict enforcement of speed limits but now it's going to the next level — red light cameras, the first in Pinellas, are expected to be turned on Thursday.
The cameras will capture still images and video of violations at three intersections: 54th Avenue N at 58th Street, 54th Avenue N at 62nd Street, and 58th Street at 46th Avenue N.
At least one more red light camera will be added to the bunch at 66th Street and 46th Avenue N when construction at that intersection is complete. And another could also be installed at 62nd Street and 46th Avenue N pending the results of a traffic study.
Drivers won't have to worry too much about getting a ticket during the first 30 days the cameras are up. Town officials said warning notices will be sent to the owners of vehicles who run the lights and no fine will be assessed during that time. But come Halloween, the real nightmare will begin when police officers start issuing tickets for $158, which can increase to $264 or even higher if not paid promptly enough. No points will be assessed against a driver's license.
"The warning period will give residents an opportunity to become familiar with the system," said Kenneth City police Cpl. Thomas Goldberg.
"We encourage drivers to slow down and definitely stop on red before the actual citations begin."
Kenneth City police are pitching the cameras as part of an overall safety program.
"This is a public safety program, and our goal is to deter drivers from running red lights," Goldberg said. "We want to make intersections safer for vehicles and pedestrians."
Police Chief Doug Pasley is even offering advice to drivers about the best way to safely approach an intersection.
"Drivers should always slow down and prepare to make a complete stop when a light turns yellow," Pasley said. "Always yield to pedestrians as they have the right of way and always come to a full and complete stop before turning right on red. Make sure the roadway is clear before proceeding and work with us to improve traffic light safety in our community."
Town officials also see the potential for plumping the town's coffers.
During a July budget workshop, Mayor Teresa Zemaitis criticized Pasley for telling officers to be more lenient when it comes to ticketing drivers.
But Allen Schopp, the council member who oversees the Police Department, said the loss of revenue would be made up by the tickets generated from the cameras.
It's unclear how much money the cameras will generate when the town will receive $67.50 from every ticket, according to figures from the Pinellas County Clerk of Court. The town has to pay American Traffic Solutions a flat monthly fee of $3,750 per camera for small and $4,750 per camera for larger intersections, Schopp said, as long as the town exceeds that amount in fines. If the town does not, it will not have to pay ATS that month.
Schopp stressed, however, that the town is not installing the cameras to increase fines, but to improve safety. And, if all works well, he said, the number of fines will go down because people will obey the law.
"This to stop people from running lights, not revenue," Schopp said. "If we didn't make any money and it prevented red light running, I would be happy."
Reach Anne Lindberg at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8450.