Red-light camera contract extension wins City Commission approval

Contract to expire on April 30, 2024

On a unanimous vote this week, the Sarasota City Commission approved a one-year extension of the agreement between the city and Redspeed Florida LLC for red-light camera enforcement services.

The new contract will be backdated to May 1 of this year, as noted in materials provided to the commissioners for their regular meeting on July 3. The agreement will expire at 11:59 p.m. on April 30, 2024, the document says.

The original agreement commenced on May 1, 2018, the materials said.

The city has 20 red-light cameras, Lt. Richie Schwieterman of the Sarasota Police Department told the City Commission. They have been installed at the following approaches, the contract says:

  • Southbound Tuttle Avenue at Bahia Vista Street.
  • Eastbound Bahia Vista Street at South Tuttle Avenue.
  • Northbound South Tuttle Avenue at Bahia Vista Street.
  • Northbound North Washington Boulevard at Fruitville Road.
  • Eastbound Fruitville Road at North Washington Boulevard
  • Westbound Fruitville Road at North Tuttle Avenue.
  • Northbound North Tamiami Trail/U.S. 41 at University Parkway.
  • Southbound North Tamiami Trail/U.S. 41 at University Parkway.
  • Southbound North Washington Boulevard at 17th Street.
  • Northbound South Tamiami Trail/U.S. 41 at Siesta Drive
  • Southbound North Beneva Road at Fruitville Road.
  • Northbound South Tamiami Trail/U.S. 41 at Bee Ridge Road.
  • Southbound South Tamiami Trail/ U.S. 41 at Bee Ridge Road.
  • Westbound Bee Ridge Road at South Tamiami Trail/U.S. 41.
  • Southbound North Lockwood Ridge Road at Fruitville Road.
  • Westbound Fruitville Road at North Lockwood Ridge Road.
  • Southbound North Tuttle Avenue at Fruitville Road.
  • Eastbound Fruitville Road at North Lockwood Ridge Road.
  • Northbound South Tamiami Trail/U.S. 41 at Bahia Vista Street.
  • Southbound South Tamiami Trail/U.S. 41 at Bahia Vista Street.

One member of the public — city resident Jose Fernandez — did object to the extension, contending that, based on the agenda materials, the city is not receiving sufficient revenue from the program.

The original contract provided for the city to pay $3,500 per month as a flat fee for each intersection approach covered, $70,000 a month for Redspeed’s services, and $4 “for each certified mailing” that the company sends to the owner of a vehicle identified as having made a red light violation at one of the intersections with cameras. However, the contract pointed out, if the ticket revenues did not exceed the city’s costs in a given year, the city would pay nothing that year.

A chart in the materials said the city received the following net revenue:

  • 2019 — $955,066.
  • 2020 — $408,751.
  • 2021 — $780,636.
  • 2022 — $1,494,733.

For this year, the total is projected to be $1,805,906.

The agenda packet materials, prepared by city officials, said that the average amount of revenue generated each year is $1,089,018, and the average expense to the city is $841,000.

Fernandez reported that his calculations, based on the figures he had obtained, showed the city paid nothing to Redspeed Florida in 2020 and 2021. Fernandez contended that the city has received only 30% of the total revenue since the program began.

Commissioner Erik Arroyo pulled that item from the board’s Consent Agenda No. 1 of routine business matters to discuss it, after Fernandez completed his remarks.

“I’ve expressed concerns about this in the past,” Arroyo said. However, when he had asked about the potential renegotiation of the contract, Arroyo continued, he was told that no other company could perform the work.

Then Arroyo told his colleagues that he would like to find out whether the contract could be amended to ensure that any person who receives a ticket based on the video shot by the cameras would have the ability to appeal it.

He has heard, he said, “that many of these cameras are timed incorrectly,” which makes drivers more suspectable to receiving tickets.

Schwieterman, assistant commander of the Support Services Division of the Police Department, explained that whenever someone gets a ticket, the person can review the video on a website. If the driver believes that no infraction occurred, Schwieterman continued, then the driver can appeal to a magistrate, who conducts such hearings on the first and third Thursday of every month.

During those hearings, he noted, the videos are shown to the magistrate.

If the magistrate concludes that the ticket was valid, Schwieterman added, the driver can appeal the decision to the 12th Judicial Circuit Court.

In response to another question from Arroyo, Officer Steve Mayforth explained that Redspeed Florida installs, maintains and calibrates the equipment for the program. The company sends the videos to the Police Department, he noted, where officers review the footage to determine whether tickets should be issued.

When Arroyo then asked whether other companies involved with red-light cameras pay more to jurisdictions where the cameras have been installed, Schwieterman told him that, at the time the original Redspeed agreement was being negotiated, that company was considered the best available. “We’re very happy with the service that they provide with us,” he added.

Further, Schwieterman pointed out, the department uses the cameras for purposes other than ticketing drivers for running red lights. For example, he said, the cameras assist officers with investigations of accidents.

Following that exchange, Arroyo made the motion to approve the extension of the contract with Redspeed, and Commissioner Debbie Trice seconded it. The motion passed 5-0.