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Palm Coast Pledges to Stick to $158 Red-Light Camera Fines and Tackle Vanished Payments

| June 11, 2013

ats-spy-camera

For the most part, the Palm Coast City Council will stick to the current set of traffic fines when a driver is issued a red-light infraction triggered by a camera. The council agreed on Tuesday not to raise those fines to as high as $408, as state law may soon allow. The city will stick with the $158 fine currently being levied, plus a $106 administrative fee should an individual contest a ticket and lose.

“This change is not raising by one cent any of the charges that are currently being charged if you run a red light,” Palm Coast Attorney William Reischmann said. “There’s the bait, and we’re not reaching for the bait.”

For that to be formalized, however, the city would still have to be more explicit than a proposed ordinance aligning with the new state law is at the moment. That proposal does include an allowance of up to $250 in additional administrative costs should an individual contest a ticket and lose. The proposal also includes an extra $50 fee for anyone who decides to contest a ticket only to then decide to pay it after all, and forego a hearing—even though that individual would not have appeared before a hearing officer.

Palm Coast Mayor Jon Netts has said that he would be adamantly opposed to such fees in Palm Coast.

The ordinance the council agreed to on Tuesday is a first step in coming into compliance with a new state law that would go into effect July 1, assuming Gov. Rick Scott signs it (or abstains from vetoing it). Another step would be for the city’s code enforcement division to more specifically set out the fine schedule it may and may not impose. It’s in that document that the city would specify that it would not impose the higher fees, including, presumably, the $50 fee.

Here’s an important distinction: While the council is clearly opposed to imposing higher administrative fees, the ordinance it agreed to today will still be on the books, and will give this or future councils room to impose those extra fees should they choose to do so. That’s not malice on the council’s part: it merely mirrors state law. But the distinction underscores the importance of the fine print yet to be written by the code enforcement division, to ensure that the council’s wishes to avoid any additional fines are followed.

The council made an exception for the extra $106 administrative fine that’s been levied all along, and that is also permissible by law, when an individual contests a ticket and loses.

The proposed ordinance, scheduled to be approved at two council meetings later this month and next, also formalizes a reversal: appeals will once again be heard before a Palm Coast-hired hearing officer, not by an independent magistrate at the courthouse. While the city and the court system favor the switch (back to a set-up in place before July 2010) because it lowers the workload on the court system and goes the city more control, it also diminishes the objectivity of the proceedings, somewhat stacking the deck against appellants: it is in the city’s interest to ensure that as many tickets are paid, because the city profits from them directly. The state court system does not.

Palm Coast previously had hired Sid Nowell, the current sheriff’s office attorney and former Bunnell City Commission attorney, as its hearing officer. The city has a request for proposal seeking officers at the moment.

One final change by the new ordinance: no one may be cited if the driver comes to a full stop while making a right turn, even if the driver goes past the white line. “We weren’t doing it anyway, but now it’s formalized,” Reischmann said.

There are 43 spy cameras currently in place at Palm Coast intersections. They’re run by Phoenix-based American Traffic Solutions, which makes about $1.2 million a year from the deal. Palm Coast makes in excess of $300,000 a year. The state takes roughly half the money generated by each paid traffic ticket.

One issue the new ordinance takes care of only halfway: the payments that seem to vanish in ATS’s ether, costing drivers in hassles and the consequences of actual traffic citations with points assessed—which is what happens when a ticket goes unpaid. It automatically becomes a “uniform traffic citation” issued by the state.

The new law will extend the number of days an individual has to pay or to file an appeal from 30 to 60. But it does not affect what City Manager Jim Landon described as a second, “much more difficult issue to find a solution for.”

Someone sends a check in three weeks before the due date, but it never shows in ATS’s system, and it gets kicked over to the court system as a uniform traffic citation, forcing the driver to owe more money (including that extra $106). “We’re getting too many too those complaints, so either that’s the ongoing—everybody is telling a story to get out of it,” Landon said, “but I actually know one person that happened to, and I trust them, and I think there’s other people. Something is not right there and we’ve got to figure out how we’re going to correct that one. But when the check doesn’t clear and it just seem to vanish, maybe you can help me with ideas as to how to solve that.”

“A mid-course warning,” Netts suggested. “Now that you’ve got 60 days, in the 30 days you send a second letter, we did not get your check in.”

The city intends to do that. But the city must still follow state law: it cannot, for example, require that drivers make their payments by certified mail. And it appears to be an issue with ATS, not just absent-minded drivers.

“I’ve taken it up to the top management at ATS at this point to try to make sure the resources in to help. They’re always very responsive,” Landon said. “When I have correspondence from ATS it’s yes, you’re always going to have some of this, but Palm Coast seems to have a larger number of those complaints than what they’re used to.”

The proposed ordinance is below, with the added language underlined twice, and the removed language in strike-through.

Palm Coast’s Proposed Red-Light Camera Ordinance

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18 Responses for “Palm Coast Pledges to Stick to $158 Red-Light Camera Fines and Tackle Vanished Payments”

  1. r&r says:

    I think they save lives.. The people against them are people who run them.. You do the crime you pay the fine.

  2. PJ says:

    I guess we are supposed to be thankful………………………..PJ……….thank you

  3. Sgt Saber says:

    Here’s an idea you MONEY SUCKING VAMPIRES…Get rid of all the camera’s and put police at the intersections. Do us all a favor and DON’T DO US ANY FAVORS !!!!

  4. Maryjoe says:

    People would pay the fine online more if they weren’t charging a fee to do so. I paid mine via mail BECAUSE of the extra money they were trying to collect via the website.
    And.. who is going to reimburse the payer the stop payment fee they have to pay to make sure the original check isn’t cashed when they send another one?

  5. pete says:

    That’s not true. Those lights change too fast. You’re constantly looking at the lights even before getting to the intersection hoping the light doesn’t change and sometimes when it does, it’s too late. Click, you’re on Candid Camera. You should be allowed to challenge a red light without prejudice and paying extra fees to request a hearing should be illegal. It’s nothing but a scam. In the District of Columbia they have speed cameras snapping motorists for big bucks.

  6. Sherry Epley says:

    There are some countries whose traffic signals have a 2 or 3 delay between the red on one side and the green on the other. This has proven to be a very successful safety technique to clear the intersection before traffic proceeds. . . and it actually lowers the costs to the public. . . in fines and in health and lives saved. If safety were the real motive for the cameras, we could easily implement something like this.

    Oh yes, I forgot. . . it’s not about safety. . . but about profit for the company selling the camera service, and money for city coffers. A tax by any other name. . .

  7. Think About it says:

    One thing about it, You know where the cameras are and should heed them. In Daytona they have them but not like in PC, and it’s a LOT easier to get a ticket there.
    Boils down to, pay attention to your driving and you won’t get a ticket, it’s very simple..

  8. DoubleGator says:

    I think they don’t save lives and were merely imposed as a revenue generator. They are intrusive. You only have to look about the state to see they are not used to any extent and are being eliminated (except for our elightened Commissioners in Palm Coast).

  9. David S. says:

    It might be time for the residents of Palm Coast to consider placing a referendum on the next ballot that does one of two things. 1. Remove all red light cameras from the city. 2 Set the yellow light times to a minimum of 6 seconds at all intersections with the maximum time set based upon the physical layout and location of the intersection. It that some of the yellow light times are currently so short that traffic violations being issues could be considered a result of intentional entrapment.

  10. markingthedays says:

    I’ve said it once and I will say it again. Stop running red lights and the problem is solved.

  11. FlaglerSurf says:

    Attention Palm Coast Commissioners! Want people to be safer? Install these cameras at Graham Swamp & other public parks. Perverts and thugs have been frequenting these places and have destroying property.

  12. fla native says:

    This scam was doomed from the start. Recall Netts and Landon.

  13. Charles "Bub" Robson says:

    It does not matter if you agree with the red light cameras. Those cameras deny a citizen the right of DUE PROCESS as set out in the 14th Amendment. Every person in this country is entitled to be able to confront their accusers. This red light MESS does not allow this. These cameras/tickets are ILLEGAL PERIOD. These cameras should only be used as an investigative tool by Law Enforcement after a crash or other crime.

  14. Pete says:

    These Red Light Cameras under the Commerce Clause are unconstitutional. They unfairly impede pedestrian traffic and are more a nuisance than a safety feature. It reminds me of Merry old London when the Highwaymen stopped and demanded your money for safe passage.

    Remember, the Civil Rights era was promulgated by the Commerce Clause. Remember President Reagan: “Mr Gorbachev, tear down these cameras.”

  15. palm coaster 12 says:

    I will not be voting for anyone who promotes or votes for these cameras

  16. Initialjoe says:

    The cameras are fine. It keeps my reflexes on alert while driving. I got a ticket a while back but it was because I wasn’t paying attention and went right through the intersection on red. It’s an expensive mistake for sure, but I should have been more alert. In a perfect world nobody would complain about these cameras…but I guess people enjoyed running lights?

  17. Charles "Bub" Robson says:

    The citizens of Palm Coast must demand their leaders get rid of the cameras. Some day not to long from now the Red light traffic cameras will be ruled unconstitutional and will have to repay those citizen who were ticketed by the camera system. A City in NJ already has been ordered to repay millions to their citizens. It is not whether you like the cameras or not. The 4th and the 14 amendments to the constitution states that anytime you are accused of a crime you will be allowed to confront your accuser. A traffic camera can not confront anybody. The powers in charge in Houston got rid of their PLAGUE (cameras) because the citizens did not let up until the cameras were taken down. Stand up and be HEARD.

  18. Magnolia says:

    I remember when elected officials used to listen to their constituents. That was a long, long time ago. These dudes don’t care what you think.

    Time to remind them who they work for?

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