City of Melbourne hits brakes on red-light cameras

MELBOURNE, Fla. - The city council has decided no red-light cameras will be placed at Melbourne intersections, Local 6 news partner Florida Today reports.

Officials said state legislation makes the program too complicated and costly to implement

The decision comes after months of debate about the use of cameras and pre-empts installation of the electronic sentinels at two major Melbourne intersections.

"There is just no room for us to be in the red-light camera business," councilman Greg Jones said.

Effective July 1, the state legislature made local governments that installed the cameras responsible for providing a magistrate or hearing officer to oversee hearings when citations are contested. Previously, contested tickets went before a county judge.

That has shelved the yet-to-start Melbourne program, but does not give any break to drivers who receive tickets in Palm Bay and Cocoa Beach, the only Brevard County cities with red-light cameras.

Morris Richardson, the special magistrate who oversees code enforcement issues in Palm Bay, will now be tasked with handling red-light citation hearings, according to City Manager Sue Hann. Palm Bay has been running red-light cameras since 2008, collecting between $125,000 and $130,000 in annual ticket revenues since tickets started being issued in 2010.

Cocoa Beach is working on a contract with a magistrate — who formerly worked with the city — to handle contested ticket hearings about once a month, said Melissa Byron, director of marketing and economic development.

"That salary will be paid out of the fines the offenders are fined by the magistrate," she said. About 7 percent of the more than 5,000 tickets issued at Cocoa Beach's three monitored intersections are contested.

Last August, the Melbourne council approved a three-year deal with Massachusetts-based Gatso USA, the camera vendor that also contracts with Palm Bay. Under the terms, Melbourne agreed to pay the company $4,200 monthly for each of five cameras. The cameras would have been installed at U.S. 1 intersections with Strawbridge Avenue and Eau Galllie Boulevard.

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