Vero Beach moving forward with red light cameras

VERO BEACH — Eight months after approving a contract for red light cameras to be installed on City of Vero Beach intersections, the city is finally moving forward.

Vero Beach Mayor Kevin Sawnick said that in a briefing with city staff, he was told that American Traffic Solutions and the city would be moving forward with installing cameras in the next month or two.

Four intersections have been identified as potential places for cameras to be installed, according to Sawnick, City Clerk Tammy Vock, and City Councilman Ken Daige.

Vock identified the intersections as:

17th Street at US 1 – Westbound

20th Place at State Road 60 – direction unknown

20th Street at 20th Avenue – Northbound

Barber Bridge at Indian River Boulevard – Westbound

City officials had put the project on hold due to lawsuits pending in other counties regarding the cameras and potential state legislation coming out of Tallahassee.

American Traffic Solutions is the company the city hired in June 2009 to install and monitor the cameras that would capture images of vehicles running red lights that would then be used to issue citations.

Mayor Sawnick, who met with City Attorneys Charlie Vitunac and William Coment, City Manager Jim Gabbard, and Police Chief Don Dappen, said they gave him the impression the city would be protected if it proceeded with installing the cameras.Vock said the meetings with the council members were to inform them that the city would be following through on its contract with American Traffic Solutions to install the cameras.Citing the pending lawsuits and potential action from the state legislature, Councilman Brian Heady said he wants to hold off on proceeding with the cameras.

“This is a money-making scheme,” the councilman said, adding it was a prior council that had approved the ordinance allowing the cameras and the contract hiring American Traffic Solutions.

“I don’t think they’re a safety issue,” Heady said. “I couldn’t be more opposed.”

Neither he nor Daige were on the council at the time, which unanimously approved both measures.

Chief Dappen said that red light traffic cameras reduce accidents at intersections.

“It’s a proven fact,” he said, adding it can’t be disputed.

Of 10 intersections the city requested ATS to review for red light violations, ATS reported back on seven. Chief Dappen declined to identify the intersections, saying that if the cameras were installed on other intersections it would “cause confusion” on the part of residents who might think the listed intersections did have cameras installed.

The chief said that ATS reported back the number of violations ranged from nine to 39 with an average of 17.5 red light violations over a period of eight to 12 hours on one given day.

“These things work,” the chief said, explaining because the cameras bring more attention to the intersection. He said 90 percent of the time red light runners do so because they were not paying attention to the traffic signal.

“They’re doing it for safety issues,” Daige said of the city moving forward with cameras. He added that his meeting with city staff – as with all his meetings with staff – was recorded and minutes taken.

Chief Dappen added that, while the cameras do generate revenue for the city, the revenue tapers off as drivers become increasingly aware of the camera enforcement.

Calls to City Attorney Vitunac and City Manager Jim Gabbard were not returned.

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