Sunday, September 6, 2009

Baltimore County Contracts for Speed Cameras Before Votes Cast

Officials in Baltimore County were so certain that speed cameras would be approved that they issued an request for bids for a speed cameras before state legislation permitting the use of the cameras was passed, and had already selected a vendor before public hearings on local enabling legislation took place.

The Towson Times reports that the county bid out it's existing contract for red light cameras with ACS State and Local Solutions on December 29 2008 and requested a bid for speed cameras to be included. The state legislature did not approve Senate Bill 277, which will allow such devices to be used throughout Maryland starting October 1, until April 2009. The report states that Baltimore County signed a new deal with ACS to provide the cameras on August 7th, and that ACS would be the vendor for the speed cameras as well as red light cameras, although the final details of the speed camera arrangement are still being negotiated. Each county is required to pass local legislation before the speed cameras could be used. Baltimore County held it's first public hearing on the subject on August 19th and the council will not be voting on this bill until September 8th.

Some towns in Prince George's County are also rushing to approve speed cameras, including New Carrollton who's council voted 0-4 for them on August 19. New Carrollton was found earlier this year to be issuing red light camera tickets to huge numbers of vehicles which came to a full stop just past the white line, a practice which was condemned by AAA for violating federal highway standards and which prompted one district court judge to throw out many of the red light camera tickets. Like Baltimore County, New Carrollton will be using its red light camera vendor (OptoTraffic, a division of Sigma Space Corporation) to provide speed cameras. New Carrollton hopes to bring in as much as $700,000 per year (10% of their current budget) from 3 cameras. Assuming revenue margins are similar to those in Montgomery County this would equate to about 2.4 tickets per year per resident of the city. Public officials frequently state that this money is required to be spent on public safety improvements, however in practice this restriction is meaningless and in Montgomery County it has not been complied with.