Just hours after Hernando County commissioners agreed to pull the plug on two red light cameras on county roads, the Brooksville City Council met on Tuesday to review the 2012-13 budget figures, discuss projects in the works and repayment of the city's loans and bonds, and how to spend red light camera funds.
The traffic camera fund was the last item on the agenda but one of the most discussed matters of the evening. Council members did not mention the county's decision to disable red light cameras at the intersections of Cobb Road and Jefferson Street and at Broad Street and Wiscon Road.
On Wednesday afternoon, City Manager Jennene Norman-Vacha said the city has "not received anything formal from the county to respond to" regarding the two cameras being removed and said the legality of the move was questionable.
County Commission Chairman Dave Russell said the county's legal department is reviewing the issue to determine if the county has the jurisdiction to remove the cameras at two intersections where the county maintains the signals and road. Russell said it might take a few weeks to get an answer, but the county has got "Brooksville's attention that we're very displeased and don't want to be a party to" the cameras.
From May to December 2012, more than $1.1 million was collected from the red light cameras.
After giving about $590,000 to the state and paying about $283,000 to the vendor, the city received about $267,000 of the more than $1 million generated.
The $158 ticket for traffic infractions caught on camera is mandated by the state, with $100 going to the general revenue fund, $45 going back to the municipality and the rest going into various trust funds.
Brooksville Mayor Lara Bradburn said her "preference" would be spending the majority of the funds on reviving transportation.
Council member Joe Bernardini said he'd like the see all of the revenue spent on safety education. Vice mayor Kevin Hohn said spending the money on safety education is a "perfect idea" and said he had spoken with Brooksville Chief of Police George Turner about providing a certified instructor to teach traffic safety, instead of driver's education through the school system.
Hohn added that the money sent to the "school system disappears."
Turner spoke to the council about the police department's handling of the $158 tickets, which if unpaid become uniform traffic tickets for $262. The chief said the police department has been allowing residents who intended to pay the ticket but did not receive a notice within 30 days to pay the original $158 fine.
The Brooksville Police Department then informs the court of the payment, dismissing the ticket, Turner said.
Turner said Wednesday that allowing residents to pay was in their "best interest" and that the department has allowed residents to do so for the past six or seven months.
Council members also discussed the next steps for collecting unpaid fire assessment fees.
Fire Chief Timothy Mossgrove said about 65 percent of the fees have already been paid, and the majority of the delinquent payments are from owners living outside the state or country.
Some members were in favor of a 10 to 25 percent late penalty. Council member Frankie Burnett noted that fee billings were sent out late after many people had already paid their taxes and a new deadline should be sent before late penalties are tacked on.
Norman-Vacha said the city would look into sending out reminder postcards for delinquent payers and, if the fees go unpaid, rolling them onto the following year's tax bill.