Palm Coast City Manager Jim Landon has started talking to red-light camera company American Traffic Solutions about the possibility of ending Palm Coast’s red-light camera program, but the city doesn’t yet have firm numbers on how much it would cost to end the contract.
Councilman Bill McGuire asked at a city council workshop May 13 about the economics of getting rid of the cameras, and whether the figures would be explained to voters in ballot language if the issue goes to referendum in November.
“If this petition, talking about red light cameras, if it goes before the voters, does it give how much it’s going to cost to do this?” he said. “Because you know as well as I do that ATS is not just going to walk away from this … If I’m going to go to the polls and make a decision on this, if I want to see all the red light cameras go away, I also want to see if it’s going to cost me anything to do it.”
“That’s how you craft your ballot language,” Palm Coast Mayor Jon Netts replied. “’Shall the city of Palm Coast incur an expense of blah blah blah in order to…’”
It’s unclear at this point whether the issue will make the November ballot or not.
Palm Coast resident CarMichael McMillan, who runs a local swip-swap group, organized petition drive to get rid of the cameras, but has decided not to go through with it.
“My biggest worry now, as they discovered in there, is the penalty they’re going to face as a city,” he said after the workshop.
McMillan said he’d hoped the council would have some firm numbers at the workshop, and fears the city won’t fight ATS to get out of the contract without penalty.
“There are other cities that are in this situation, and they’ve come up with very creative ways of getting out of the contract,” by, for example, leaving the cameras in place but covering them over, or by refusing to enforce the tickets.
“But the Council would have to ask the city attorney, ‘What are our options? I don’t think we have that kind of council,’” McMillan said.
McMillan said he has about 11,000 petition signatures out of the approximately 15,000 he would need to submit to supervisor of elections by May 19 in order to get the red-light camera issue on the November ballot as a referendum.
Instead of doing that, he said, he plans to start collecting signatures for an effort to eliminate the cameras statewide and work to remove council members he considers pro-camera, including Councilmen David Ferguson and Bill Lewis, who are up for reelection. McMillan said he isn’t affiliated with or endorsing any other individual candidates.
But even without McMillan’s petition, there are others ways to place the issue on the November ballot.
“There are situations where there are what’s called ‘advisory referendums,’” Palm Coast City Attorney Bill Reischmann said at the workshop. “The city has done one in the past. Many other cities do them. This is where the Council gets in front of an issue. There’s no petition, the Council just says, ‘We’re looking for guidance. We’re just looking to see what the citizenry and the voters might want.’ So you prepare a question that would go to the voters in November, and it could say, ‘What do you think about this?’ And then when you get the votes back, you can do whatever you want.”
The ballot language for an advisory referendum would need to be submitted to the Flagler County Supervisor of Elections Office by June 20, he said.