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No warnings for red-light camera plan

BROOKSVILLE — There will be no warnings to first-time offenders when Brooksville's new red-light camera program takes effect next year.

The City Council decided Monday night not to amend its red-light camera ordinance, meaning the city can go forward with its deal with Sensys America Inc., which will reinstall 20 cameras at major Brooksville intersections starting in March.

Once the cameras are operational, any motorist caught running a red light will be mailed a $158 citation. Of that amount, $75 will be split between the city and Sensys. Under a new Florida law, the remaining money will go to the state.

As before, the only way a fine can be appealed is for the motorist to appear before the city's magistrate.

Last month, council member Kevin Hohn had suggested that the city consider sending out warning letters to first-time violators. But on Monday, he said he had withdrawn his support for the idea, saying that safety was his main concern.

"I've seen too many close calls from red-light runners," Hohn said.

Assistant city attorney Robert Batista told council members that amending the ordinance to allow for warnings would go against its contract with Sensys, and that the city would incur additional expenses.

Council member Joe Bernardini, a longtime opponent of the cameras, said that the city's decision not to issue warnings showed that some council members are more interested in money than safety.

"It comes back to the money," Bernardini said. "You're ticketing the car owners, not the people who actually ran the red light."

After two years of operation, the city removed cameras from five intersections in 2010 amid questions about the validity of the safety data that was provided. However, the council voted to reinstate the program in October, with Sensys as its vendor.

The city's contract with Sensys calls for the company to earn a maximum of $90,000 a month — or $540,000 in a six-month period — from its 20 cameras, with the city keeping all revenue above that amount that doesn't go to the state.

Revenue from the program will be set aside in a fund until city officials reach a consensus on how to spend it. The council plans to address that matter during its budget workshops next year.

In other action, council member Joe Johnston III was selected by fellow council members to succeed Frankie Burnett as mayor. Council member Lara Bradburn was appointed vice mayor.

A three-term council member, Johnston has served in the honorary role of mayor four times previously.

Logan Neill can be reached at (352) 848-1435 or lneill@sptimes.com.

No warnings for red-light camera plan 12/06/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 6, 2011 8:19pm]
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