New law has Vero Beach red light camera contract in question

VERO BEACH – The passage of a new Florida law regarding traffic cameras that catch red light violators has the City of Vero Beach and its camera provider reworking their contract.

Governor Charlie Crist earlier this month passed the Mark Wandall Traffic Safety Program, which spells out for local governments how to implement such traffic enforcement.

 

The law goes into effect July 1. The city’s current contractor to provide the camera enforcement said it plans to have a new contract ready for approval before that date.

For Vero Beach City Attorney Charlie Vitunac, the state law “changes the ground rules,” forcing the city and American Traffic Solutions to negotiate a new contract.

“They said they would get back to us,” Vitunac said of American Traffic Solutions.

The biggest change the city faces is the law’s requirement for governments to pay a flat fee to their contracted company. Vero Beach had expected to pay ATS on a per-violation-issued fee.

“Before, it was a no-cost venture for the cities,” Vitunac said, prior to the law’s passage. He added that some cities – perhaps Vero Beach – could find themselves “out of pocket” to implement the red light camera enforcement.

“That shouldn’t be a concern,” George Hittner, of ATS, said of the payment change, adding that ATS has flat fee contracts with cities across the country.

Hittner, American Traffic Solutions’ general counsel and vice president of governmental relations, said he believes the company and the city can work out a satisfactory arrangement given the change in payment.

He said that the company would work with the city to determine what best fits the city’s needs.

“I’m definitely looking forward to having the cameras installed,” Vero Beach Mayor Kevin Sawnick said, noting he understands why the cameras have been placed on hold.

Sawnick said he supports the cameras for public safety reasons.

“It’s another tool for lawyers and police,” Sawnick said, explaining that the footage from the cameras could be used in court to prove the red light violator was at fault in a crash.

While detractors of camera enforcement claim the program would be used as a new revenue stream for governments, Sawnick said any money the city receives from the cameras should be used for public safety education.

The state law would fine violators $158, of which $113 would go to the Florida Department of Revenue and $45 to go to the local government in which that violation happened.

The $113 to the Department of Revenue would be split three ways – $100 to the state’s general fund, $10 to be transferred to the Department of Health Administrative Trust Fund, and $3 for the state’s Brain and Spinal Cord Injury Trust Fund.

By comparison, if a red light violation were caught by local law enforcement officers – not cameras the local government would receive more money back from the $158 fine.

Instead of $100 going to the state’s general fund, $70 would be allocated and the remaining $13 would be split the same between the two trust funds. The local governments, however, would receive $75 instead of the $45.

Attempts to reach the Vero Beach Police Department for comment regarding the new legislation’s impact to the city’s proposed red light enforcement cameras were unsuccessful.

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