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Red light camera company backs out of contract

PORT RICHEY — In just a few short months, the red light camera at U.S. 19 and Ridge Road has been a success for the city, raking in thousands of dollars from traffic tickets and making drivers think twice about gunning it through one of Pasco's busiest intersections.

So officials were surprised to find out this week that the Arizona-based company that installed the camera is backing out of its five-year contract with the city.

City Manager Richard Reade said, "both sides said it was probably best to end the agreement," but wouldn't elaborate.

But according to a brief statement from American Traffic Solutions, the problem was getting permission to install additional cameras.

The ATS statement released Thursday said the company "was unable to obtain permits to install additional red light cameras on FDOT (Florida Department of Transportation) and other rights of way, which prevented further expansion of the program."

It's against the law to place the cameras on state-owned property along the road, said state Department of Transportation spokeswoman Kris Carson.

But it's okay to put them on private property, with the owner's permission. ATS got permission several months ago from Denny's to place its camera at U.S. 19 and Ridge Road, angled to catch southbound drivers.

City officials discussed placing additional cameras on city property at two other intersections — Grand Boulevard and U.S. 19, and Leo Kidd Avenue and Ridge Road — but had yet to do so.

It's unknown whether ATS ended its contract because it ran into problems at those two intersections.

But city officials want to keep the camera they have at U.S. 19 and Ridge Road.

That camera will remain in place until the city contracts with another company, said ATS spokesman Josh Weiss.

When Port Richey police began issuing tickets May 2 using the red light camera, the city became the first in Pasco and the third in the state — behind Apopka and Gulf Breeze — to use the ATS system.

Since then, police have issued hundreds of citations at $125 each, raising about $15,130 as of July.

The camera takes two pictures of the vehicle and its license plate — one right before the vehicle is at the white line and another as it crosses the white line and enters the intersection.

An officer watching streaming video on a computer decides whether the driver has run the red light. If so, the officer sends a ticket. Drivers can go online and see the footage themselves.

Reade said he plans to review other cities' red light camera systems before signing a contract with another company.

To be sure the city moves swiftly, Reade plans to discuss the red light camera soon with city officials.

"You'll see a proposal, probably to piggyback on another city's contract, at the next meeting," Reade said.

Camille C. Spencer can be reached at cspencer@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6229.

Red light camera company backs out of contract 08/28/08 [Last modified: Thursday, September 4, 2008 4:39pm]
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