I’m still trying to figure out what it means.
It will cost the city of Houston at least $4.8 million to get out of its contract for red-light cameras, according to a lawsuit settlement headed to the City Council on Wednesday.
American Traffic Solutions has agreed to take down the cameras within 60 days in exchange for $2.3 million upfront and a cut of future collections of delinquent fines from red-light runners.
“This settlement is going to be funded by the people who ran the red lights,” said City Attorney David Feldman, who negotiated the deal. “We would not agree to any settlement that would result in the taxpayers generally having to bear the burden. It had to come from the violations themselves.”
The complex deal does not guarantee that Houston taxpayers are off the hook.
If collections don’t cover the obligation, the city will pay $2.4 million in installments over the next three years. Feldman said he considered any dip into the general fund, which pays police officers and firefighters and finances other operations, unlikely.
Under the agreement, the city will also pay ATS $240,000 for technical assistance, such as access to video footage, as the city pursues scofflaws.
Beyond that, a future ATS payday depends on the city’s success in collecting from the 240,000 delinquent red-light runners. If the city were to collect all $25 million in outstanding fines — highly unlikely since some of them are already 5 years old — ATS’s payout could reach $12.3 million.
According to the press release, the funds to pay this will come from “previously collected fines that are in escrow”. I have sent an inquiry to ask how much is currently in that escrow account – sure would be nice if it’s at least $2.3 million – and how much of that $25 million the city has tried to collect before. I will let you know what responses I get. If this actually can be resolved without touching general revenue, that’s great. We’ll see how it goes.