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Oldsmar's red-light camera plans on hold due to accuracy question

OLDSMAR — Ten months after unanimously authorizing red-light cameras, city leaders have put the brakes on a plan to install them.

The shift occurred Tuesday night, after Mayor Jim Ronecker questioned the accuracy of the technology.

By a 4-1 vote, city leaders decided to postpone voting on a contract with Arizona-based American Traffic Solutions for the cameras. Council member Jerry Beverland, who staunchly supports the cameras, opposed the delay.

Ronecker said he is extremely concerned that people who don't deserve tickets could receive them. He cited a recent media report about someone in the Tampa Bay area who received a violation notice from ATS, but didn't run a red light.

"When you watch it on the video, there was no rhyme or reason why he got a ticket," said Ronecker, who also voiced concern about controversies in other jurisdictions. "I want assurances that's not going to happen here."

Brian R. Fluegeman, ATS senior business development manager, told the council he couldn't promise 100 percent accuracy. But he said mistakes are uncommon with his company, which has contracts in more than 20 states.

ATS thoroughly vets potential violations, he said, and asks local law enforcement to review each case before violation notices are issued.

Beverland said he sympathizes with those who mistakenly get tickets, but not enough to nix the plan for cameras, which he thinks will reduce red-light runners.

"For every one that's wrong, there are thousands that are right," Beverland said. "I don't want their money. I want them to not run the red light and endanger someone in the city of Oldsmar."

His passion for traffic safety is fueled by the loss of his 16-year-old granddaughter, who was killed in 2006 after a car hit her while she was skateboarding.

If the city instituted the program, it wouldn't put out any cash, City Manager Bruce Haddock said. Monthly lease fees of about $19,000 would be paid out of ticket proceeds. Violations would bring a $158 fine. The state would collect $83 of that and Oldsmar would receive the rest.

Ronecker said he also wants more information about the red-light cameras and more feedback from the public.

Four Oldsmar intersections were selected for cameras, based on research by ATS: northbound Forest Lakes Boulevard at Tampa Road, eastbound Tampa Road at St. Petersburg Drive E, eastbound Curlew Road at Gull Aire Boulevard, and westbound Tampa Road at State Road 580.

Fluegeman told the City Council that his company generally selects sites that average at least 10 red-light violations per day. But on Thursday, he told a St. Petersburg Times reporter he couldn't provide more information about how those sites were selected or if crash data were considered in the analysis.

"Most of that information is internal and it's really not for public consumption," Fluegeman said. "We're not in a position to talk to the press from where I'm sitting."

He referred questions to a company spokeswoman who did not return calls for comment by press time.

Haddock said there were a few reasons it took 10 months to put a contract in front of the City Council.

Some of that time was spent on contract negotiations. The city also kept tabs on legal challenges in southeast Florida and proposed legislation banning red-light cameras, he said. The state House of Representatives passed legislation in May, but the Senate did not take up the measure.

City leaders want to discuss the issue more thoroughly at a work session, which they plan to schedule at the next council meeting on Oct. 18.

Lorri Helfand can be reached at lorri@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4155.

Oldsmar's red-light camera plans on hold due to accuracy question 10/06/11 [Last modified: Thursday, October 6, 2011 9:27pm]
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