Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

St. Petersburg Council approves contract for red-light cameras

ST. PETERSBURG — The City Council backed Mayor Bill Foster in approving an $8.8 million contract with a company that will start what is sure to become one of the most high-profile programs in recent city history.

It voted 5-3 to award the contract to American Traffic Solutions, a Scottsdale, Ariz., company, to install cameras at up to 20 intersections to record motorists who don't stop at red lights. Violators will be fined $158. If they don't pay, the fines can climb up to $500 and their licenses could be suspended.

With the vote, motorists in the city will start getting tickets as soon as mid July.

Council president Jim Kennedy and Jeff Danner, Bill Dudley, Karl Nurse and Herb Polson voted to hire ATS. Leslie Curran, Steve Kornell and Wengay Newton objected to the way ATS was hired and voted against the contract.

Unlike most vendors hired by the city, ATS was hired through a process called "piggybacking." It's a method that allows the city to hire ATS through an existing contract the vendor signed with Miami in 2010.

The maneuver, which is permitted under state law, expedites the process by letting city officials skip the more typical vetting process of reviewing competing bids, which can take months.

ATS is one of the largest companies in the growing industry of red-light cameras. It has installed its cameras in 70 communities across Florida, including Kenneth City, Hillsborough County and Tampa. Its reputation, along with the vetting that was done by Miami officials, was enough due diligence for Foster and his staff.

"This contract is fully studied, it was competitively bid (in Miami)," Foster said. "This Miami contract is exactly what we were looking for."

The money raised by the tickets will pay for the cost of the system, so the city won't pay anything. It can also opt out after the first year, or if state lawmakers pass a law banning the use of red-light cameras.

But Joanne Diorio, vice president of sales for ACS, a competitor, told the council it should show more caution and bid out the job so other firms like her company could compete.

"You'd receive a better contract for the city," Diorio said. "This is a large contract. It's highly unusual for the city to circumvent the normal bidding process."

While piggybacking isn't typical, it's not unusual, said Louis Moore, the city's director of purchasing. One in eight contracts is awarded this way, representing about 30 percent of the money the city awards in contracts.

Curran noted that in many cases, piggyback contracts are associated with commodities that are more familiar, such as cars. Kornell said he didn't believe the city should rely on another city to vet contracts.

"As confident as I feel about our city, I don't know if I'd put that stamp of approval on Miami," Kornell said. "I don't know anyone in Miami."

But City Attorney John Wolfe said the city may not get as good a deal if it bids it out.

"The whole idea of piggybacking is to save the taxpayers money," said Wolfe, who estimated it would take his legal staff more than nine months to prepare and conduct a bid process. "Don't be surprised if you put this out for bid and you don't get anything near this contract."

Dudley was satisfied that the contract was fully vetted and a good deal for the city.

"It's time to move on," he said. "We're beating this dead horse."

The discussion lasted an hour and led to an outcome that disappointed Newton, the only council member to oppose the cameras. He said piggybacking circumvented the council and sapped its power to serve as a check on the mayor's powers.

"We don't need a council," he told Wolfe after the vote. "Just a mayor and a staff, and that's it."

Michael Van Sickler can be reached at mvansickler@sptimes.com.

St. Petersburg Council approves contract for red-light cameras 04/21/11 [Last modified: Monday, June 27, 2011 4:12pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. 'Dream big' drives Lightning's Conacher brothers

    Lightning Strikes

    BRANDON — Two words: Dream big.

    Cory Conacher includes them every time he signs an autograph for a young hockey fan.

    Tampa Bay Lightning forward Cory Conacher (89) on the ice during Lightning training camp in Brandon Friday morning (09/15/17).
  2. Irma roughs up endangered snail kites, birds that help us gauge the Everglades' health

    Wildlife

    Hurricane Irma was as rough on some wildlife as it was on the humans. Audubon of Florida reported Thursday that the storm destroyed all 44 nests around Lake Okeechobee built by the endangered Everglades snail kite, a bird considered crucial to the River of Grass ecosystem.

    Hurricane Irma destroyed 44 snail kite nests, capping off a poor mating season for the endangered species, which is seen as an important barometer of the health of the Florida Everglades. Their off-center beaks allow them to probe inside the spiral shells of the native apple snails. But the snails' population has dropped as the Everglades has changed. [MAC STONE | Audubon of Florida]
  3. New center opens in Tampa to help those with missing, damaged limbs

    Veterans

    TAMPA — Justin Lansford, his service dog Gabe by his side, smiled broadly Thursday as he imagined the future of a sprawling, resource center for people who need artificial limbs and those interested in helping them.

    Justin Lansford, 27, lost his left leg above the knee in Afghanistan. He was one of dozens of people attending the opening of the Veterans International Institute of Orthotics & Prosthetics in Tampa on Thursday. [HOWARD ALTMAN   |   Staff]
  4. Still worried about family, Tampa Bay Puerto Ricans ramp up relief effort

    Hurricanes

    TAMPA — Brenda Irizarry is worried.

    Brenda Irizarry of Tampa, while agonizing over the status of family in storm-ravaged Puerto Rico, is helping lead an effort to collect and send supplies to the island. [ALESSANDRA DA PRA  |   Times
]
  5. Was it a crime? 10 patients at nursing home died after Irma

    News

    HOLLYWOOD, Fla. (AP) — A 10th elderly patient has died after being kept inside a nursing home that turned into a sweatbox when Hurricane Irma knocked out its air conditioning for three days, even though just across the street was a fully functioning and cooled hospital.

    The Rehabilitation Center of Hollywood Hills, 1200 N. 35th Ave. [EMILHY MICHOT | Miami Herald]