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Brooksville won't shut down red-light cameras for holidays

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Published:   |   Updated: December 22, 2013 at 12:52 PM

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BROOKSVILLE - It looks as if Santa Claus won't be giving motorists who run red lights in Brooksville any presents this year.

County commissioners this week sent a letter to the mayor of Brooksville, asking whether the city council would consider shutting off the red-light traffic cameras for the next two weeks "as a demonstration of peace on Earth, goodwill toward men."

Commission Chairman Dave Russell, who as chairman signed the memo and sent it off Thursday to the mayor, said it would be the right thing to do.

"The fact is, this time of year, people need all their money for gifts and giving to charities," Russell said.

But it appears the cameras will keep rolling.

Brooksville Mayor Kevin Hohn said there will be no abatement of red-light enforcement for the holidays for two reasons. First, the council does not meet to formally make such a decision. Second, he said it makes no sense to compromise public safety for two weeks. If motorists don't want to get a ticket for running a red light, then they should not be running the red light, Hohn said.

"It's as simple as that," he said.

Hohn said county commissioners have been pounding the point home that they do not like red-light cameras and this is the latest salvo.

"Why red-light cameras when they improve the safety of the people of Brooksville?" he asked. "Why does the commission want to suspend them for two weeks?"

In the same spirit, maybe the county could add fluoride to the water supply for the holidays, Hohn said.

"It's not about making money" he said. "It's about keeping the streets safer and I hope at some point that the county commission understands that."

Russell said there will likely be more tourists traveling through Brooksville and it would be a sad present indeed for them to get a red-light camera ticket as a memento of their visit.

Russell said he is aware the council does not meet the rest of the year so, in lieu of disabling the cameras, "we would ask that they dismiss any citations issued between now and the first of the year."

Refunds do not appear to be an option either.

Board members have opposed the cameras ever since they went up and have tried to get the ones located on two county-owned intersections disabled. Brooksville has 16 cameras set up at eight intersections to monitor drivers who run red lights.

Commissioner Jim Adkins said it would be a great Christmas gift to the people of Brooksville and the entire county.

"It would be a nice gesture for the people," he said,

Brooksville Police Chief George Turner said he has received no directive from the city council as to the memo and he doesn't believe such a directive will be forthcoming.

"That would be like asking us not to enforce DUI laws over the holidays," Turner said.

On the contrary, the Brooksville police will maintain a heightened presence during the holidays because there will be more people on the roads.

"I think we should be increasing enforcement and make sure everyone stays safe out there on the roadways," Turner said.

Council member Joe Bernadini is an opponent of red-light cameras and wouldn't mind seeing them shut off permanently.

"I don't have a problem with cutting the cameras off at this (holiday) time," he said.

But logistically, he doesn't see it happening.

For one thing, there could be contractual problems with the company that installed them and derives revenue from the tickets, he said.

Bernadini expects red-light cameras to be a hot button issue in 2014.

"We want people to visit our city and we want them to be safe," Bernadini said. "But it puts a bad taste in their mouth when they get back home and get a ticket."

mbates@hernandotoday.com

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