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Police chief says Port Richey's budget for red-light cameras is confidential

PORT RICHEY — The question seemed simple enough: How much will the city pay per camera each month to the company that provides red light cameras?

Council members asked Police Chief Dave Brown.

That's confidential, he answered during Monday night's meeting, pointing out that the contract with American Traffic Solutions, an Arizona company, forbids discussing it.

"We entered into this contract," council member Terry Rowe said, "yet we can't talk about it?"

City officials, according to budget estimates, expect to issue about 9,600 camera citations next year, totaling $1.5 million in fines. A large chunk must be paid to the state and ATS. Knowing the exact amount would help city leaders with their budget.

"I don't believe there is anything such as confidential when it comes to city finances," council member Bill Colombo said Tuesday. "That's the first time I've heard anything like that."

"I don't personally think it's appropriate," Mayor Richard Rober said Tuesday. "It's a matter of transparency. … If my little city's cutting a check to somebody and someone wants to know why, I have to be able to explain it."

While the chief viewed the number as confidential, the information was easily found in the city's budget estimates. Records show $796,800 will go to the state and $228,000 will go to ATS over the next year. Divide the company estimate by 12 months and then again by four, which is the number of cameras the city figures to have installed. That equals $4,750 per camera a month — the answer to the council's question.

Company spokeswoman Kate Coulson on Tuesday confirmed the cost, which she said covers equipment, maintenance and processing. She said it is public record.

The city estimates it will reap $492,000 after the state and the company get their cut.

Two cameras at U.S. 19 and Ridge Road monitor traffic running north and south. The city hopes to install two more at U.S. 19 and Grand Boulevard after the state Department of Transportation reviews permits by November.

The city sent nearly 1,300 notices of violation in July, more than double their figures from June, police Lt. Don Young said. About half the alleged violators paid their $158 fines, $75 of which stays with the city.

The notices of violation — sent by certified mail, with color photos of the infraction — become full-blown traffic tickets after 30 days of nonpayment. Those tickets bring added county court costs and fees that send them up to $262. If left unpaid, violators can have their licenses suspended.

Contact Drew Harwell at dharwell@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6244.

Police chief says Port Richey's budget for red-light cameras is confidential 08/31/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 31, 2010 9:57pm]
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