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Brooksville red-light cameras may be on the way out

Red-light traffic cameras have been a touchy subject among residents and other parties as localities determine their usefulness.
Published Mar. 4, 2014

BROOKSVILLE — The sun may finally be setting on Brooksville's red-light cameras — the object of citizen protests, business backlash and legal challenges.

On Monday night, the Brooksville City Council declined to extend the contract with camera vendor Sensys America.

That means that if the agreement does continue beyond its termination date, it will happen because of the vote of newly elected council members. Already, at least two of the candidates for council have said they oppose the cameras.

The council came to its decision after hearing several options from assistant city attorney Clifford Taylor; the first of these options, to take no action, was one the council approved by a 3-2 vote.

Some are the result of complaints about the camera system. For example, one choice was to upgrade to an infrared camera, which would have done away with the flashing strobe lights that have drawn many objections.

Taylor cautioned that such alterations of the contract could expose the city to liabilities.

Taylor also said that, though the contract technically expires Oct. 3, its language calls for keeping the cameras active until December 2015, three years after Sensys completed the 16-camera installation.

That also means that the contract would remain in place until that time. By then, the makeup of the council will have changed, with new people occupying three seats up for grabs in November.

Angered at what he called a "no-option agreement," council member Joe Bernardini urged fellow council members to back his motion to terminate the existing contract at the earliest possible date. Only Vice Mayor Frankie Burnett agreed to do so.

Council member Joe Johnston, a camera supporter, said he wasn't happy with the ambiguity of the state law governing red-light camera intersections. Although he thought the city has an obligation to adhere to its contract with Sensys, he didn't see the need for the city to stick with it beyond the current agreement's expiration. Mayor Kevin Hohn and council member Lara Bradburn, both of whom had previously voted for the cameras, voted for Johnston's proposal to take no action.

Prior to the discussion, council members heard from several critics of the cameras, including candidates Betty Erhard and Vivian "Vi" Coogler. Both said, if elected, they would vote against the program.

Of the $158 drivers pay for each red-light camera ticket, $83 is sent to the state; the rest goes to the city. To date, the camera program has brought in more than $952,000 in revenue, nearly all of which has been committed to paving streets and repairing curbs and sidewalks. Bradburn said that, in addition to making streets safer for drivers, the camera program has aided taxpayers by funding services the city has not been able to afford otherwise.

"That's something that I don't think anyone can argue with," she said.

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

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