After Red Light Cameras Are Turned Off, Houston City Council Approves Big Settlement With Vendor

Photo by Gail Delaughter/KUHF

(Houston, TX -- Gail Delaughter, KUHF) The Houston City Council has voted to approve a  settlement with American Traffic Solutions, the company that operated the city's red light camera program.

legal battle erupted between the city and ATS after voters rejected the cameras in 2010, four years after they went into operation. The city's contract with ATS wasn't set to expire until 2014.

The cameras were shut off  after the 2010 referendum but they went back on for a short time last summer after a federal judge ruled the red light camera referendum was improperly placed on the ballot. The city council has since voted to repeal the original ordinance that allowed the cameras.

Under that settlement ATS will get close to $5 million over the next three years. Officials say about $3 million in fines is currently held in escrow, and there are $25 million in fines the city is still hoping to collect.

Houston Mayor Annise Parker says traffic violators are the ones who are paying the settlement and not taxpayers.  But if the city can't collect the money from those unpaid tickets, under the terms of the settlement that money would come out of the city's general fund.

And if the city does collect the unpaid fines, the agreement calls for ATS to share in that money.  The company's total take could be as high as $12 million if the city can collect everything it's owed.

The cost of each ticket is $75 and there's also a $25 late fee.

ATS has also agreed to drop its lawsuit against the city, and to take down all of its cameras within 60 days. About 50 cameras were in operation at the time the program was suspended.

The vote on the council to approve the settlement was 13-4.  Those against the settlement said they weren't happy that taxpayers may have to foot the bill if the city can't collect the outstanding fines.