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Tuesday, Mar 31, 2015

Red-light camera decision kicked to future Brooksville council


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BROOKSVILLE - The future of Brooksville's red-light camera program will likely be up to three new council members elected later this year.

During Monday night's meeting, City Council voted to "do nothing" about the cameras, and did not move to terminate the Sensys contract at the earliest possible date.

The contract is set to expire in December 2015, three years after the last of the city's 16 cameras were installed, according to City Attorney Clifford Taylor.

That means three new council members elected this fall will have to decide whether to renew the red-light camera contract.

Mayor Kevin Hohn is not seeking re-election, and Councilwoman Lara Bradburn cannot run again due to term limits. Both support the camera program. Councilman Joe Bernardini, who opposes the cameras, also cannot run again due to term limits.

That leaves Vice Mayor Frankie Burnett, who opposes the cameras, and Councilman Joe Johnston, who supports the cameras.

Council hopefuls Vi Coogler and Betty Erhard, who are running for Seat 4, said during the meeting they would oppose the cameras if elected.

Several other city and county residents told the council why they thought the red-light cameras should go during the meeting. They said the cameras had led to empty storefronts and given Brooksville a bad reputation. They questioned if the cameras were really about public safety, or an unfair "gotcha tax."

During a presentation, Taylor said the council needed to decide on a direction for the camera program, and presented five possible options, which included taking no action, upgrading some of the cameras to infrared to stop excessive "flashing" at intersections, upgrading all cameras to infrared at cost to the city, getting rid of the cameras or increasing the city's 5 mph right-on-red turn speed.

City Council decided not to upgrade the cameras from standard flash to infrared, saying Sensys had worked to correct the excessive flashing.

Council members agreed that if the cameras continued to flash more than necessary, they may seek to terminate the Sensys contract due to equipment malfunction.

Mayor Kevin Hohn said the camera issue has been a contentious point in council meetings.

"It got out of control ... Not one time in two years have I been able to say, 'you know what, they presented an outstanding case tonight,'" Hohn said, referring to citizens who speak out about the camera program during the meetings.

Hohn said the camera program is making a "dramatic difference" in safety in the city, and that revenue from people who run red lights is contributing to much-needed pavement improvements in the city - $400,00 this year alone.

"Unless someone wants to write a check for $12 million here, we've got to find ways to fund the street pavement," he said.

Hohn said the city could "dry up" if taxes were raised for improvements such as new streets.

(352) 544-5283

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