Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Clearwater to shift red-light camera appeals to a hearing officer

Clearwater has netted nearly $400,000 since red-light cameras started clicking in August 2012 at Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard and Belcher Road and at Chestnut Street and Fort Harrison Avenue, the council learned in October 2013.

Times (2008)

Clearwater has netted nearly $400,000 since red-light cameras started clicking in August 2012 at Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard and Belcher Road and at Chestnut Street and Fort Harrison Avenue, the council learned in October 2013.

CLEARWATER — Just days after the Municipal Code Enforcement Board heard the first appeals of red-light camera violations — and tacked on fines to eight people who tried to get their tickets tossed — the city announced that it would hire a lawyer to handle future appeals.

The yellow lights at two intersections with the cameras have also been tweaked. Drivers will have less than a second more yellow light time before being slapped with a $158 fine.

State law allows cities that hear appeals to add up to $250 to the fines. Clearwater ordered most of the violators to pay $55 for administrative fees.

Some of those who lost last week stormed out of the council chambers. Others cried.

An ordinance transferring the appeals to a hearing officer should be ready for City Council review in November, said assistant city attorney Rob Surette.

A bid has been sent out for lawyers licensed to practice in Florida, Surette said.

The announcement came during a red-light camera update at a City Council work session Monday. The city has netted nearly $400,000 since the cameras started clicking for keeps in August 2012 at Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard and Belcher Road and at Chestnut Street and Fort Harrison Avenue.

Less than 1 percent of drivers at the intersections ran red lights, said Clearwater police Maj. Daniel Slaughter. Also, crashes because of red-light violations decreased markedly for eastbound traffic at the Chestnut/Fort Harrison intersection: from 18 percent to 5 percent in the past year.

Red-light crashes increased slightly over the same period at Gulf-to-Bay/Belcher, which has cameras positioned for east- and westbound traffic, Slaughter said.

Vice Mayor Paul Gibson said the goal was to reduce serious "T-bone" crashes. The tradeoff would be more rear-end collisions. The city should study if the law has reduced severe crashes, he said.

"That would be a real good thing for us to do," Gibson said.

Slaughter said that such an analysis was possible, but would take time. The council decided to get another update in a year — barring significant changes.

Yellow lights now allow a smidgen more time to get through the intersections — four-tenths of a second, to be exact, said traffic operations manager Paul Bertels.

The city had received complaints about suspiciously brief yellow lights, but they had never been shortened, Bertels said. The city held off on lengthening the yellow lights until the state signed off on the decision.

A state law now requires cities to offer an option for red-light camera appeals and lengthens the time to contest a citation from 30 to 60 days. Clearwater turned to its code enforcement board, made up of volunteers, as the appeals venue for drivers slapped with tickets.

But the board was reluctant to take on the responsibility. And one member isn't sad to see the line of angry ticket-waving residents go.

"It's not really a code thing. It's a law," said Mike Riordon. "People were calling us a kangaroo court. They thought they were going to see a judge."

But with the board likely to hear at least one more month of appeals, Riordon said, at least it's light work.

"To me, it's a slam dunk. It's a whole lot easier than when somebody comes in and it's a dispute over a fence or a property line," he said. "That's often pretty complicated. Red-light camera running — to me — is easy."

Charlie Frago can be reached at or (727) 445-4159. Follow him @CharlieFrago on Twitter.

Clearwater to shift red-light camera appeals to a hearing officer 10/01/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 1, 2013 6:44pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Minors also a training ground for umpires with big-league dreams

    The Heater

    Umpire Tom Fornarola, 23, left, and Taylor Payne, 24, facing, talk before the start of the Gulf Coast League game between the New York Yankees and the Detroit Tigers at the Tigertown complex in Lakeland, Fla. on Wednesday, July 5, 2017.
  2. In Florida, nation's only lightning center closes after DARPA cuts funding


    University of Florida professor Martin Uman usually spends much of this summer at an old Army base about an hour northeast of Gainesville, shooting rockets at thunderclouds, then measuring the bright flashes of lightning that followed.

    Rocket-and-wire triggered lightning at the University of Florida's International Center for Lightning Research and Testing, which recently lost federal funding. A rocket trailing a grounded wire is launched toward an active thunderstorm at the ICLRT. One launch is from a tower, one from ground. When the wire is about as high as the Empire State Building, lightning is induced to strike the top of the wire, much as it strikes tall objects like the ESB. Interestingly, the cloud charge source is about 3 miles high, so a 300 yard-long wire can cause a 3 mile or more long lightning.  After that, there are several normal tortuous strokes ( downward leaders from the cloud charge/upward return strokes) which can be seen as the wind blows the individual strokes to the right. The time between strokes is about 50 thousands of a second. Between some strokes, continuing current can be seen. Continuing current is what generally starts forest fires. [Photo by Dr. Dustin Hill]
  3. Editorial: Reasonable clarity on gambling in Florida


    Gambling expansion strategies — and misfires — are nearly an annual ritual in Florida. There were the eight counties that voted to allow slot machines but were blocked by the Florida Supreme Court. There was the governor's $3 billion deal with the Seminole Tribe in 2015 that was never approved by the …

    Gov. Rick Scott agreed to a much simpler deal with the Seminole Tribe that embraces the status quo instead of expansion. And that’s a good thing.
  4. Amid U.S. real estate buying binge by foreign investors, Florida remains first choice

    Real Estate

    Foreign investment in U.S. residential real estate recently skyrocketed to a new high with nearly half of all foreign sales happening in Florida, California and Texas.

    A National Association of Realtors annual survey found record volume and activity by foreign buyers of U.S. real estate. Florida had the highest foreign investment activity, followed by California and Texas. [National Association of Realtors]
  5. Editorial: Hillsborough smartly embraces diversion program for youths


    Children who commit minor crimes can pay for their mistakes for a lifetime — losing a chance to attend college, join the military or obtain credit and a good job. That is unjust to the individuals and a burdensome cost to society, and Hillsborough County is taking the right new approach by giving some juveniles a …

    Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren has announced an agreement between law enforcement agencies and the courts that will allow first-time offenders who commit nonviolent crimes as juveniles to be issued civil citations rather than face an arrest and prosecution.