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Suffolk vote on red light cameras expected

A red-light camera monitors the North Service Road

A red-light camera monitors the North Service Road of the LIE at Ronkonkoma Avenue in Ronkonkoma. (Oct. 28, 2010) Photo Credit: James Carbone

The Suffolk Legislature may vote Tuesday on an emergency resolution to allow County Executive Steve Levy to negotiate a three-year extension of its red light camera program, whose revenue this year could be short by some $10 million.

The possible move comes after lawmakers balked at letting Levy finalize a deal without further review.

A revised resolution was being drafted after lawmakers suggested the county should get a larger share of the revenues. The county splits the money about 50-50 with the current vendor, State and Local Solutions of Dallas.

Suffolk's red-light camera income fell far short of budget projections last year because of delays in installing cameras at 50 locations. Legislative budget analysts say the $20 million in revenue Levy aides forecast for this year may be short again by half.

Legis. Edward Romaine (R-Center Moriches) said Suffolk should pay its vendor a flat fee as Nassau County does. Between August 2009 and June, Nassau received $29 million in fines to its vendor's $9 million in fees.

"We should have gone with a flat fee," said Romaine. "Nassau County is a glaring example. Here we are splitting the fees half with the company."

Suffolk's red-light-camera project manager Kim Brandeau said the county rejected a flat fee because it could end up paying for cameras in spots with few violators. Revenue sharing, she said, "gave the company all the risk and the taxpayer none."

Levy aides, noting the vendor has invested $10 million, said they are looking to negotiate for a better split and the ability to move at least 10 percent of the locations to improve safety over a wider area and bolster revenue.

But Legis. Jay Schneiderman (I-Montauk) said he believes the contract should be reopened to other competitors, adding, "I'm a little troubled there's no competition for the bid."

But public works officials warned that new bids would cause serious delays.Legis. Thomas Barraga (R-west Islip) said the county should get a larger share of revenues, but only after the vendor has recouped his capital costs. "When we do the next contract in 2015, we should get 75 cent of the dollar," he said.

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