Baltimore County Council members said Tuesday they believe taxpayers will get a good deal under a plan to install more speed and red-light cameras later this year.
A proposed contract with ACS State & Local Solutions was the focus of a work session during which council members questioned officials from County Executive Kevin Kamenetz's administration about the finances of the traffic-camera program, the bidding process for the contract, and the way fines are collected.
"We were all concerned and we wanted our questions answered," Council Chairwoman Vicki Almond, a Reisterstown Democrat, said after the meeting. "And I think we got that satisfaction."
The council's two Republicans, David Marks of Perry Hall and Todd Huff of Lutherville, opposed expanding the speed-camera program last year, but said after the meeting that they felt the proposed contract is better than the one the county has now.
Under the current contract, the county pays ACS nearly $12,000 a month per speed camera. The difference with the new proposal is that ACS's payment would be based on the number of tickets issued, not the number of cameras, budget director Keith Dorsey told council members. ACS would get a certain percentage of each fine.
Making that change would ensure that the cost to the county would decrease with the number of citations, Dorsey said in response to questions from Huff, who asked whether the program could support itself.
The contract would let the county add 14 new traffic cameras this year — seven speed cameras and seven red-light cameras — bringing the county's total to 37.
ACS, whose current contract with the county expires in February, could also install 18 additional cameras over the next seven years.
Speeding tickets issued through the camera system cost $40 each. A red-light ticket costs $75.
Under the proposed contract, ACS would get $18.95 for each citation issued through speed cameras; $29.34 for existing red-light cameras; and $35.50 for new red-light cameras.
According to county officials' estimates, ACS could be paid more than $9.1 million over seven years under the contract, which has an initial five-year term and two one-year renewal options.
Council members are scheduled to vote on the contract next week.
The number of speed cameras in the county had been limited to 15. Last year, the County Council voted along party lines to allow an unlimited number in school zones.
County administrative officer Fred Homan told council members that many communities support the cameras.
"We're not getting negative feedback at all," Homan said. "We're getting the opposite."
Officials have not decided where the new cameras will be placed. The Police Department will make that decision, as it has done since the camera program started in 2010.
Several council members said during the meeting they thought the new contract would be better for taxpayers than the county's current arrangement.
Earlier Tuesday, County Executive Kevin Kamenetz said the changes in the contract would ensure that "there's no chance that the county's going to lose money."
One other company submitted a bid on the contract, but ACS was considered the sole responsive bidder, in part because the other firm did not pay a bid deposit, Dorsey said.
Also at the meeting, Councilman John Olszewski Sr., a Dundalk Democrat, mentioned that many drivers don't realize that the cameras operate on holidays.