COLLIER COUNTY — Collier County will continue to hand out red-light running citations to motorists caught on camera for the next decade.
Hiller said she could not vote for the cameras with concerns looming about their constitutionality.
“When there is a question of constitutionality and the rights of individuals, it trumps what they’re trying to do,” she said.
Proponents said the cameras, which were first installed on Collier roads in 2009, have improved safety.
“When asked if we still need this program, the majority of people still said yes,” Sheriff Kevin Rambosk said. “And I notice when I am on the road that, even at the intersections where there are no cameras, more people are approaching those intersections more cautiously.”
But Hiller said the claim that the cameras improve public safety is not accurate.
Based on 2011 figures, the cameras at the intersections caught, on average, between 1 and 1.85 drivers violating the law daily, she said. The small number of intersections with cameras — 19 cameras are installed at a dozen intersections — is not enough to improve safety, she said.
The new contract was negotiated with ATS because the Collier County Clerk’s Office contended the previous contract didn’t comply with a July 2010 state law that prevented municipalities from paying vendors on a per-citation basis. As a result, county staff had not paid ATS since August 2010.
Under the previous contract, ATS paid the county $8,250 monthly for the right to operate the program, and split the $158 fines with the state.
With the contract approved Tuesday, the county will pay ATS $28,500 monthly to run the program, and will split the fines with the state. Commissioners also agreed to pay ATS the $522,545 owed since August 2010.
After a year, if the average number of citations exceeds 1,500 monthly for two consecutive months, ATS can ask to renegotiate. Between April 2009 and December 2011, the county issued an average of 766 violations per month, according to Jay Ahmed, director of transportation engineering for the county.
The county also has the option to cancel the contract with ATS after one year, provided it gives the company 30 days notice.
Commission Chairman Fred Coyle asked Rambosk about the implications of not renewing the contract with ATS.
Rambosk told commissioners that without the cameras, he would need to add four or five traffic officers at a cost of $100,000 per officer.
“I am voting for this. I am erring on the side of health, safety and welfare,” said Commissioner Jim Coletta. “I have all the confidence in the world that the sheriff will do the right thing.”
The move was an about face for Coletta, who told the Daily News last week that he didn’t know if he could support a program where the reduction in crashes was “negligible.” There were 125 crashes in 2009, which fell to 112 in 2010.
“He was very impressive today,” Coletta said of Rambosk. “... And the contract goes month by month.”
Citizens who spoke to the commissioners Tuesday said they did not think the county should enter into a new contract with ATS.
“American Traffic Solutions, in their quest for revenue, has caused legal problems for this county and more to come,” said Vinny Angiolillo, a candidate for sheriff. “They have raped this community of money from hardworking citizens with no significant reductions of traffic accidents where the cameras are active.”
Immokalee resident and County Commission candidate John Lundin argued the cameras violate a motorist’s right to due process. Hiller agreed.
“There is a presumption that the owner of the vehicle is the guilty party,” she said. “It shifts the burden of proof to the vehicle owner.”
In other red-light camera news:
Collier Circuit Judge Cynthia Pivacek granted a motion Tuesday to approve a $665,773 settlement with two Collier drivers who filed a class-action lawsuit alleging the county’s red-light cameras were illegal. The county will pay $345,820, with ATS paying the rest.
On Friday, a postcard will be mailed to recipients of roughly 28,000 red-light citations issued before July 1, 2010, the day the Legislature legalized the cameras on state roads. They will have 90 days to respond and join the class. The settlement does not affect the tickets issued after July 1, 2010.
A website about joining the class, FloridaRedLightCameraSettlement.com, will begin operating Friday afternoon.
Depending on the number of drivers responding, Collier could keep more than $700,000 of more than $1 million it already retained from ticket revenues prior to July 1, 2010.
The lawsuit is one of 26 red-light lawsuits filed statewide by attorney Jason Weisser of West Palm Beach. If all drivers respond, Weisser said, they would get $12 back, but more if fewer people responded.