City approves new speed cameras, towing contracts

The city's Board of Estimates on Wednesday formally approved an overhaul of the city's speed cameras and the replacement of a police-towing company accused of overcharging customers.

The panel voted 4-1 to approve a $2.2 million payment to Brekford Corp., the city's new speed camera vendor, for a purchase of 72 speed cameras.

In January, the city's speed and red light camera system experienced a near-complete shutdown during what city officials called a problematic transition from previous contractor, Xerox State & Local Solutions. City officials said at the time that they were replacing all 83 speed cameras at a cost of about $25,000 each, with Brekford absorbing roughly half of the $50,000-plus cost per camera.

City officials said Wednesday that Brekford had purchased the cameras but needed the spending panel's approval to finalize the purchase.

"Some of [the cameras] are on city property, but they are Brekford's property," said Erin Sher Smith, an assistant city solicitor.

City Comptroller Joan M. Pratt, who opposed the deal, questioned why the city had not taken action against Xerox State & Local Solutions, since city officials are blaming the January shutdown on "deficiencies in the performance of the prior vendor," according to board documents.

Timothy Krus, the city's purchasing agent, said officials are still exploring their legal options.

"We are in active discussions with the previous vendor," he said.

City Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young said he backed the purchase because Brekford's owner lives in Baltimore.

Also Wednesday, the board canceled the city's contract with Berman's Towing over allegations that the company was adding "excessive charges" to its bills.

The company was one of the city's "medallion" towing firms that respond to police calls for service. City officials accused Berman's of charging for "equipment and services not actually provided or allowed under the contracts."

In Berman's place, the board voted to award the work to Greenwood Towing, Elliott's Towing, McDel Enterprises and Nate's Towing Services.

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