MILTON — The city has used five red light traffic cameras for more than six years.
The cameras — installed in June 2011 — are located at the intersection of U.S. Highway 90 and Glover Lane, eastbound and westbound lanes; U.S. Highway 90 and Parkmore Plaza Drive, eastbound and westbound lanes; and the northbound lane at the intersection of Dogwood Drive at Hamilton Bridge Road, according to Milton Public Information Officer Pamela Holt.
The contract with American Traffic Solutions — a company based out of Arizona — was renewed in July 2016 after unanimous agreement from former City Council members. The city reportedly averages approximately 3,000 notices and 630 citations using the traffic cameras per year.
WHERE DOES THE MONEY GO?
“Out of the $158 (cost of the citation), $83 goes to the state of Florida and $75 goes to ATS for contract fees,” Holt said. “The city does not make money.”
This is not the case with other municipalities, however.
In Gulf Breeze, 48 percent of the funds collected from citations go to the state while 24 percent goes to the vendor; the remaining 28 percent goes to the city.
The Office of Program Policy Analysis and Governmental Accountability conducted a survey on this practice and found that 78 percent of municipalities using red light cameras reported excess revenue after payments to vendors and other program-related expenses, and 16 percent that reported difficulty generating enough funds to pay vendors had accrued outstanding balances.
For those reporting excess revenue, 76 percent of the extra money was allocated to the governments' general funds, 14 percent went to public safety or police and 5 percent went to road repair and maintenance.
Milton's contract with ATS lasts until 2021. A clause within the contract states that if the Florida legislature takes action to eliminate cameras from the federal highway system, then the cameras get removed at no cost to the city. This clause may be beneficial to the city in the future.
On Jan. 12, the Florida House of Representatives passed a bill 83-18 banning municipalities from using red light cameras. The bill, which still needs to pass through the Senate, would repeal the law allowing this traffic enforcement practice, and once signed by Gov. Rick Scott, would go into effect July 1, 2021.
'ACCIDENTS WAITING TO HAPPEN'
Not all Milton residents are in favor of the cameras.
“I think they are accidents waiting to happen,” Sharon Wendell of Milton said. “People see it turn yellow, panic about a ticket and slam on brakes. [I have] watched several people just barely miss getting hit because of it.”
Guy Schweigert of Milton said he would be in favor of the cameras if they were used exclusively to promote safety, signage, speed bumps or more controlled intersections.
“[They are] not a deterrent, which is the point,” Mike Bowman said. “Just makes money for the camera company.”
Marty Coates of Milton said the cameras are not accurate, which causes issues.
“I have personally seen the one on Dogwood go off randomly,” Coates said. “Today, everyone was [sitting] at the light, no movement and it flashes.
"If you don't have the right to dispute it, the city… shouldn't have the right to install.”