Mobile, AL (WKRG)
After a little more than a week in operation, Mobile County’s new fledgling stop-arm camera program is already catching dozens of bad drivers. While the program comes at no cost to taxpayers, the school board, and local law enforcement probably won’t see a dime from it for a long time.
From the outside, the cameras look like tiny lenses in a glass and metal box. They capture a bug-eyed view of the world–getting violators from four angles on each bus. In a little more than a week, the 80 buses with cameras have caught more than 40 violations.
“If we have one car that violates going through a stop arm that brings concern,” said MCPSS Transportation Director Patrick Mitchell. “It’s alarming and it brings tgreat concern to us knowing our children are walking in those danger zones.” According to state law, violations for driving past a stop arm can start at $150 dollars for a first-time offender to as much as $3,000 to someone who rolls by stop arms repeatedly.
For the time being, the company installing these cameras keeps all of the fine money. According to the contract (page 24 paragraph number 9), Force Multiplier Solutions will get 100% of the money until they recoup expenses for operating and installing the hardware.
The contract says it costs the company $10,000 dollars per bus. To cover the cost of the 600 Mobile County school buses in the contract the company needs to recoup at least $6 million for the cameras alone.
“That’s a pretty significant number to put to taxpayers but we’re fortunate enough we don’t have to put the bill to taxpayers,” said Mitchell. The contract says operation costs could run as high as $1 million per year upon full deployment. Because of the fluctuating nature of each fine and the gradual rollout, it’s difficult to say without more clarification how much the company would have to recover to end the reimbursement period.
The contract doesn’t say how long the reimbursement period typically lasts. After that, the company still keeps 60% of every ticket with about a third going to the Mobile County School Board and then four percent each to ALEA and the Alabama State Board of Education.
The contract says 300 buses should be outfitted with stop arm cameras in the next six months. The rest should be installed by December of next year. We reached out to representatives of the Mobile County School System and the camera company to get further clarification of the contract details but haven’t heard back.