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City awards new traffic camera contract

Stephanie Rawlings-Blake

Baltimore broke ties with its longstanding red-light and speed-camera operator Wednesday, awarding a multimillion-dollar contract to a Hanover-based company that has served smaller cities.

The Board of Estimates voted 4-1 to give the contract to Brekford Corp., which has run the speed camera system in Laurel, among other places.

The action came over the protests of the company that has operated the cameras in Baltimore since 1999, bringing in $140 million in revenue.

"If you don't like my client, do it the right way," said Robert Dashiell, an attorney for Xerox State & Local Solutions Inc., formerly called ACS State & Local Solutions, the longtime operator. "Don't came up with this fictitious argument that somehow we aren't responsive."

City officials argued that Xerox's bid for a renewed contract was technically deficient.

"We had to take a look at the bids in a way that was fair to all. In doing so, Brekford won," said Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who controls the board. "It's the cheapest. But it wasn't scored just on cost alone. They came out on top."

Maurice Nelson, managing director of Brekford, said the city "made a bold step forward" by switching firms.

"Sometimes we don't get an opportunity because the larger companies have the contracts locked up," he said. "This was a great opportunity for us — not just the giants — to show what we can do."

Brekford operates 12 speed-camera programs, including those in Laurel, Salisbury and Hagerstown, and has assets of less than $10 million.

The company offered Baltimore about $2 million more in revenue over the course of the five-year contract — $90.7 million versus $88.8 million. The amount of revenue pledged to the city was the largest determining factor in deciding a company's score during the bidding process, documents show.

The new company will take over the camera system Jan. 1.

Xerox had gone to some length to keep a lucrative contract. Xerox made more than $9 million in profit from speed cameras last year, while the city took in more than $19 million. Dallas-based Xerox hired Baltimore lobbying firm Harris Jones & Malone to help secure the deal. For the better part of an hour Wednesday, a representative from the firm attempted to convince board members to change their mind and award the contract to Xerox.

In a letter to the spending panel, Dashiell argued that his clients have reduced speeding at intersections with fixed cameras by 88 percent. Brekford, he argued, had no experience with a jurisdiction as large as Baltimore.

Nelson said Brekford's smaller size will work to its advantage. "We're local," he said. "We're not a $23 billion corporation. We're going to pay attention to quality control."

Jamie Kendrick, a deputy director in the city Transportation Department, said the agency would not ask Brekford to install new cameras, just to maintain existing locations.

Rawlings-Blake has convened a task force to study the devices. The Automated Traffic Violation Enforcement System Task Force is charged with studying camera locations, citation accuracy rates, and program management and performance.

The committee's eight members — representatives of city and state government, a driver advocacy group and a community group — plan to issue a report next year.

The city currently has 83 speed cameras, which issue $40 citations. Of those, eight portable cameras move around the city to 87 different locations. The city has 81 red-light cameras, which issue $75 citations.

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Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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