With Manatee County’s contract for red-light cameras set to expire this fall, the county commission began the discussion Tuesday about whether to renew the contract.
Since it was a work session Tuesday, the commission took no action but heard from county staff and the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office about the 10 existing red-light cameras in the county.
“I think they are beneficial,” Manatee County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Mike Kenyan said. “I think they do in fact save lives. It’s another set of eyes out there to protect the public.”
Rather than right turn on red, Kenyan said their concerns are straight through violations as well as left-turn violations.
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“Those are the ones that hurt and kill people,” he said.
Red-light cameras for the county aren’t a large revenue generator. In 2015-16, the net revenue to the county was $292,940, which went into the general fund. Of the $158 fine for running a red light, the county receives $75.
“We are barely breaking even,” said John Barnott, the county’s building and development services director. “This program will not cost us any money.”
With a couple pending legal challenges with respect to red-light cameras, there is a clause in the county’s contract that should something happen in the courts or in the state Legislature, the county is out of the contract with no penalty, according to Barnott.
In previous years, red-light cameras have been a huge issue in Tallahassee, Commissioner Vanessa Baugh said.
“We need to watch kind of what is going on with Tallahassee,” she said.
Motorists become educated with the red-light cameras, Kenyan said.
“Our problems start to go down and our safety goes up,” he said.
County staff will bring forward a request to extend the contract for five years at a future commission meeting.
Also on Tuesday, the commission discussed the placement of wireless telecommunications facilities within the county. A proposed ordinance would not allow new poles on right-of-way countywide but only for two designated areas — one in Palmetto and one near the DeSoto Square mall.
Baugh said they may see them in Lakewood Ranch.
“It is something that is a major problem in Lakewood Ranch and the surrounding area,” she said.
The intent of the ordinance is “trying to drive these towers on the private property,” County Administrator Ed Hunzeker said.
“There is all that private property,” he said. “Go wherever you want, just stay out of county right-of-way.”