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No Stop Sign for Manatee County's First Red Light Surveillance Cameras

BRADENTON -- After getting repeated assurances that Manatee County would pay nothing during what may be an extended warning period for red-light surveillance cameras, the commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to approve their installation at two busy county intersections andf start sending our warning letters to violators. Commissioner Joe McClash said he was a bit taken aback by monthly fees of $4,650 for each approach to a red light, and sought to eliminate confusion about when the charges would begin. Complicating the issue, the final contract with ACS, a camera system vendor based in Denver, has yet to be negotiated.
Commissioner Donna Hayes said she would have preferred to wait until the legislative session was over and any possibility of the statute enabling the cameras being repealed is gone. In Tallahassee, Sen. Rene Garcia proposed a law that would repeal the bill, but Sen. Mike Bennett, the Manatee County legislator who is the second ranking member of the Senate, has privately assured county officials he will not let the repeal bill pass.
With the additional assurance from Abby Jenkins of ACS and a county attorney that no charges would be levied until the warning period was over - even if it had to be extended - the commission approved an amended motion to give the start-up a green light.
The first intersection to have the cameras turned on will be northbound 15th St. E. at 57th Ave. E. Soon to follow will be southbound 34th St. W. at 53rd Ave. W., and then the southbound approach to the same intersection. It will take the capture of two violators a day each month to completely defray the cost of each camera, Jenkins said.
Other proposed locations are northbound and southbound approaches on Cortez Rd. to 26th St, W., northbound and then southbound US 41 at 57th St. W., eastbound State Road 70 at Tara Blvd., and southbound US 41 at 73rd/69th St. E. All approaches to the intersection of US 41 and Cortez Rd. are currently being validated by ACS studies, Jenkins indicated.
For drivers, the cameras may be a boon in several ways. First, of course, they may heighten safety awareness. But beyond that, those who run red lights will get a Notice of Violation when they are caught on camera running a light, and that is both less expensive ($158) than the state's Uniform Traffic Code ticket, and doesn't get reported to insurance companies as the UTC violation does.
Violators can plug in a Website address when they get their warning or a Notice of Violation and view a 12-second clip of their violation in progress. They can then challenge their tickets or pay for them by phone, on the Web or by mail.
The original proposal that came before the commission was hotly contested; today, however, the enabling motion drew no public comment at all.


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