It surprised almost everyone at city hall.
Even the city’s director of traffic who supported the use of red light cameras but use because of the legal and regulatory controversies surrounding them earlier in the week.
Paul Bertels, the city’s director of traffic, was not expecting the city council would approve the proposal to install red light cameras at its meeting Thursday.
“They obviously worked it out somehow,” Bertels said. "I’ve been doing this 41 years and I’ve never seen anything like this."
City leaders voted 3-2 to approve a measure that will add red light cameras at two intersections along Belcher Road; at Sunset Point Road and Gulf to Bay Boulevard. Vice Mayor George Cretekos and council member Paul Gibson voted against the measure.
Mayor Frank Hibbard, who was on the fence about installing the cameras, even saying “it smacks of Big Brother” during the discussion, voted for the proposal that will add the cameras on a six month trial basis. Hibbard said his worry of legislation against the cameras was assuaged after talking with a couple of state legislators earlier in the day.
The cameras are expected to be up and running by the end of the year.
John Doran, who has supported the proposal from the start, pulled the item for discussion. He started talking to Bertels about the timing of yellow lights.
“I am loathe to reject the bids because I know how much work it is for a company to go through the hurdles,” Doran said.
Although he offered up the first vote to approve the cameras, Doran said he was surprised it went through.
“I am grateful that the council will be able to move forward on it,” Doran said. He said successors can determine whether to maintain the program or not.
Charlie Buckles, the representative from Redflex the chosen operator of the red light cameras, was at the meeting. He was in town from Lafayette, La. He said the company operates 300 camera systems across the country.
“We understand your concerns about this,” Buckles said. “We chose not to come into states until legislation is adopted.”
Buckles admitted, that nothing can be done about litigation though.
Council members seemed worried about a potential rising cost for the cameras as a reason to move forward with the proposal. However, Buckles said the company would do whatever it took with no financial requirement by the city.
Police Chief Anthony Holloway sees the cameras as a useful enforcement tool.
“We should see a decrease in accidents and red light running,” Holloway said.
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