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Brooksville looks at Sensys as new red-light camera vendor

BROOKSVILLE — City Council members on Monday will consider a contract with a new vendor for red-light cameras, one that spells out how the city and the company will share revenues that have been drastically cut by a new state law.

Under the proposed deal with Miami-based Sensys America, the company will get a maximum of $4,500 each month from every camera it installs, said City Manager Jennene Norman-Vacha.

The company and the city will split the revenue raised from citations issued through each camera up to $9,000 per month. Any month the company's share of the revenue is below $4,500, the shortage must be made up in later months when revenues top $9,000.

If the revenue is above $9,000 in a month, the vendor's share is still capped at $4,500.

The money raised by the cameras could be much lower than what Brooksville has seen this year for several reasons.

First, a state law that went into affect July 1 increased violations from $125 to $158, but the state will now take a cut of $83. The remaining $75 is left to be split between the city and the camera vendor.

Previously, Brooksville received $85 from each ticket. During the period from November through April, the city issued 5,477 red-light camera citations. After paying the camera vendor its share of the fees, the city's take was $465,545.

Also, the new law discontinues the practice of citing drivers for right-on-red violations, allowing "rolling" turns, provided they are done in a "cautious and prudent manner."

According to Brooksville police Chief George Turner, 60.8 percent, or 3,334 of the 5,477 red-light camera citations issued between November and April, were to people turning right on red without stopping.

Even with new fee structure, Turner said previously that a 50/50 split with the vendor would still raise an estimated $350,000 for the city, after the costs of running the program are taken out. The chief was out of town this week and unavailable for comment.

Turner and other proponents of the cameras say the program is not meant to be a money-maker, and that the aim is to make the city's streets safer.

He said the cameras have reduced accidents by 35 percent at the intersections where they are installed.

Opponents, including Vice Mayor Richard Lewis, disagree.

Calling the proposed contract with Sensys America "ludicrous," Lewis said it would obligate the city to pay $270,000 each year to operate the five cameras in place.

"If you do the math, it means that every camera location would have to issue 60 citations a month to make it work," Lewis said. "I don't see it happening."

Last week, Lewis and fellow council member Joe Bernardini were on the losing end of the 3-2 vote to reinstate the 2-year-old program. It had been discontinued June 30 after the previous vendor, American Traffic Solutions, pulled out because of the new state law.

Mayor Lara Bradburn and Bernardini said they had not read the contract and could not comment.

Council members Frankie Burnett and Joe Johnston could not be reached Thursday.

According to Norman-Vacha, the city reviewed three other camera vendor proposals before deciding on Sensys America. American Traffic Solutions did not submit a proposal.

Sensys, she said, "offered the kind of technology we felt we needed (for) the red-light program."

In addition to providing video intersection monitoring, the new system also records vehicle speeds during right turns on red lights. That should help with the new "rolling" turns provision in the state law. The city's ordinance calls for a 5 mph speed limit for rolling right turns.

Although the council has given the green light to the cameras, there is still plenty of public opposition to bringing them back.

Pierre Des Jardins, owner of the Hill House bed and breakfast in downtown Brooksville, said the cameras send a negative message to visitors about the city and hurt local businesses.

"We're going to end up like Waldo (north of Gainesville), with AAA putting a huge sign up telling people not to come here," said Des Jardins, who is organizing other local business owners to appear at Monday's council meeting.

Logan Neill can be reached at lneill@sptimes.com or 848-1435.

Brooksville looks at Sensys as new red-light camera vendor 07/29/10 [Last modified: Thursday, July 29, 2010 9:02pm]
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