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Warning signs for Brooksville red-light cameras called 'practically invisible'

BROOKSVILLE — Mary Smith is one Hernando County driver who isn't happy with Brooksville's newly reinstated red-light camera program.

In the first four weeks after the six cameras were installed along the U.S. 41 corridor, the city sent out more than 700 of the $158 tickets — a total of at least $110,600 in fines.

Smith, whose car was one of the first ticketed, said she has no problems with the cameras themselves, but believes that a lot of drivers are unaware of them.

"The warning signs are so small you can't read them," said Smith, who owns Mykonos II Family Restaurant with her husband, Dimitrios Filippakos.

"I've been driving that road for 21½ years and when there's a new warning sign, I notice it. This one was practically invisible."

Brooksville Mayor Joe Johnston III said that Smith is not alone. He agrees that inadequate signs do little to warn motorists that approaching intersections are watched by camera, and at Monday's City Council meeting he managed to sway fellow council members Lara Bradburn and Kevin Hohn into instructing city staff to look into the possibility of initiating a 30-day warning period before additional cameras are installed.

"I'm in favor of the cameras, but I want to make it as fair as possible for everyone," Johnston said.

However, doing so might be problematic for the city due to its contractual obligation with Sensys, the camera vendor that plans to have an additional 14 cameras installed at city intersections over the next few months.

In a letter this week to police Chief George Turner, Sensys principal Brian Haskell said that although the company would be willing to initiate a warning period with no citations, the city reimburses Sensys for associated expenses. The company now splits $75 of every ticket issued with the city.

Johnston said he thought that the cost of the reimbursement would be key to whether the council would support the idea.

"If it's going to cost a lot of money, I don't see it happening," Johnston said.

Meanwhile, Johnston said adding flashing lights or bright flags to the camera warning signs might help catch drivers' eyes. He also wants to explore the idea of adding additional time to yellow lights.

Council member Hohn remains skeptical that a 30-day warning period would do much good.

"I've seen countless stories in the newspapers, we sent out notices to residents in their utility bills, and that wasn't enough?" Hohn asked. "Running a red light is against the law. It's that simple."

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

Warning signs for Brooksville red-light cameras called 'practically invisible' 06/20/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 20, 2012 8:16pm]
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