The Town of Medley held a special meeting last week for an assortment of items, but perhaps none was more important than the issue with the town’s red light cameras.
Legislation recently signed into law by Florida Governor Rick Scott was a game-changer when it came to red light cameras as traffic infraction detectors. This was not only for Medley but most other municipalities around the state, including Miami Springs.
As of Monday, July 1, anyone who is dealt a citation for running a red light no longer will have to deal with the backlogged court system of Miami-Dade County — or any other county, for that matter.
Whether they wish to simply pay the fine or appeal it, offenders now will go through the local municipality wherever that red light happens to be. After a First Reading last month, Medley had to go through the Second Reading procedure at the June 18 meeting in order to beat the July 1 deadline.
“We have no choice but to pass this today,” Medley Town Attorney Michael Pizzi said to his council. “If we or any other municipality, for that matter, does not have a new plan in place by July 1, it will be too late and the red light program will cease to exist.”
The City of Miami Springs was in the same boat at their regular meeting on June 24 and passed the same change. While the council passed the change on second reading, no other details as far as implementation were discussed or decided on.
The Medley council members asked a few questions but finally were left with no choice but to pass the change and, after Susanna Guasch made the motion, passed it unanimously.
While some municipalities may look at this as an unanticipated burden, Medley mayor Roberto Martell does not.
“We’re very excited about this program and feel it will be a great benefit to the town in terms of added revenue,” Martell said at the meeting’s conclusion. “It will be extra work for us but we’re going to do everything the right way. We will have cameras installed in the council chambers and it will be up to me as far as hiring a traffic magistrate to run the proceedings.”
The Medley council chambers now will be transformed into a mini-courtroom once a week, according to Pizzi.
“Depending on the amount of inquiries it looks like the plan right now is to do it every Friday morning from 9 to 11 a.m.,” said Pizzi, who confirmed that he will act as the council representing the town.
“I already work eight days a week, why not make it nine?” quipped Pizzi, who also serves as the mayor of Miami Lakes in his “spare time.”
So, with not only Town Hall usage and having to pay for a traffic magistrate among the new expenses, how will the town make money? Relatively simple: court costs.
Medley already has set the number at $175 should the contesting traffic offender be assessed such charges.
Currently, Medley has four different red light cameras set up around town, while Miami Springs has five.
But what would appear to be the biggest money-maker for Medley other than having its own “red light traffic court” is the idea that the town plans on offering up its services to other municipalities that don’t want to go through all of the trouble.
“I’ve already been contacted by several cities, who might be looking to piggyback on our services,” Pizzi said. “Medley would keep the entire $175 and also a portion of the $158 (traffic fine) as well.”
“We’re going to check on that to make sure that’s OK because we don’t want to do anything we’re not supposed to be doing,” Martell said a few days later when asked if Medley would owe any of the “piggybacking” municipalities a portion of that $175. “We’re looking forward to making ourselves available for other cities who wish to have us handle their red light camera issues.”
“This really is not going to affect us much from the area of law enforcement,” Medley Police Captain Jack Young said. “Where there really will be quite a change will be the fact that people will now have 60 days to respond instead of 30 and they will no longer be in debt to the courts. Should, for whatever reason, they decide they don’t want to pay the fine and walk out, nothing will happen to them until it comes time for their registration renewal. That’s when they will see it come as a kind of lien and they will not be issued a new registration until the fine is paid.”