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Brooksville council to consider options for future of red-light cameras

The Brooksville City Council will talk about red-light camera options on March 3.
Published Mar. 1, 2014

BROOKSVILLE — For months, questions have been mounting about the city's red-light cameras. And many of those queries have come from the governing body that voted to implement the traffic enforcement program.

On Monday, Brooksville City Council members will begin to explore options for the program, which is up for renewal in October. They will be presented with five scenarios, which include allowing the current contract to expire, keeping the system in place using upgraded technology, and modifying the rules for some enforcement aspects.

Throughout their existence in the city, the cameras have drawn fire from a number of parties, including residents and business owners who say the devices deter visitors.

Meanwhile, a group of residents is seeking to put the question of whether to keep the cameras on this year's election ballot.

The cameras have even faced scrutiny from two Hernando County judges, who have thrown out some cases because they say the state law governing them is constitutionally unclear.

In a memo to council members, assistant city attorney Cliff Taylor cautions that prematurely terminating the agreement with the camera vendor, Sensys America, could create problems and result in the city having to pay damages to the company. That is why council members will be given several options, each of which could have a positive or negative impact on the city's budget.

Perhaps the simplest and least costly of the options would be to allow the city's contract with Sensys to expire on its Oct. 3 termination date. In doing so, each of the cameras would remain active until the third anniversary of its operational date.

Should council members decide they want to keep the program going, two options exist.

One would allow for a free upgrade to an infrared system that would eliminate periodic strobe flashes that some drivers say are distracting. While Sensys would pay for the upgrades, doing so would extend the city's contract by three years. Another option would shift the cost of any camera upgrades to the city at a rate of $7,900 per system, but allow the time clock on the cameras to run out normally.

Also up for discussion will be the possibility of raising the allowable speed for a rolling right-hand turn.

Although the state law governing red-light cameras does not determine a speed, a city ordinance allows for a speed of 5 mph.

City attorneys warn that changing the limit could be seen as breach of contract by Sensys because the allowable speed for right-hand turns was established when the contract went into effect.

Joe Bernardini, one of three City Council members who will depart the council after November's election, said he hopes the council can agree whether to keep the cameras well before the city's contract expires in October.

"I don't think this is something we should be sticking to the new people," said Bernardini, who has never supported the red-light camera program. "Now it's become a legal matter with a lot of questions. I hope we can find the answers real soon."

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

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