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One of three parts of a red light camera surveillence array looking at northbound traffic on College Drive, at its intersection with Perkins Road, on May 31, 2018.

The East Baton Rouge Parish Metro Council has agreed to extend the contract for the red light camera program for another four years, after weeks of questions around use of the cameras and the company operating them.

The Metro Council approved the agreement in a 8-2-2 vote without any debate Tuesday night. 

The new agreement would extend the city-parish's professional relationship with Verra Mobility until December 2023, something several council members had expressed issues with. One resident also spoke against the cameras during the public hearing on the contract. 

The city-parish currently has 24 cameras stationed across 16 intersections.

Chief Administrative Officer Darryl Gissel told council members that use of the red light cameras has been an important public safety program for the 11 years they have been in use. 

The operation of Verra's cameras is facing legal scrutiny in a lawsuit filed against the city-parish last year, Metro Council members have been reluctant to approve anything beyond a year-to-year agreement with the company. 

There was also some concern over the recent news that Verra was censured in North Carolina for operating without an engineering license. The firm also isn't licensed in Louisiana. City-parish officials have said the firm assured them it was compliance with state law. 

It isn't immediately clear whether the lack of an engineering license would give drivers who received tickets an opportunity to challenge them.

The uncertainty around the licensing issue caused Councilman Matt Watson to previously question whether any film captured by the red light cameras would be inadmissible in court — something he feared could adversely impact the Baton Rouge Police Department, which intended to use the cameras to monitor live feeds at their forthcoming Real Time Crime Center under new stipulations included in the four-year agreement with Verra Mobility. 

Currently, the footage is temporarily stored by Verra Mobility and is not directly or immediately accessible to law enforcement. 

Voting Tuesday in favor of the four-year agreement were council members Chauna Banks, LaMont Cole, Donna Collins-Lewis, Barbara Freiberg, Erika Green, Trae Welch, Tara Wicker and Scott Wilson. 

Councilmen Dwight Hudson and Watson voted in opposition. Councilman Chandler Loupe was in attendance but did not vote and Councilwoman Denise Amoroso was absent from the meeting.

Under the four-year contract, the firm agrees to absorb 100% of the cost to upgrade the technology that would allow the city's police department to access real-time footage in its crime center. And the city-parish added a stipulation allowing the city-parish to take over collection services for the citations if they want.

Under the current agreement, the city-parish gets about 73% of the revenue from the tickets. The rest goes to Verra Mobility. The new contract implements a sliding scale. As more tickets are successfully collected, the city-parish receives a higher percentage of the revenue — up to 85% per ticket.

The red light camera program has generated significant revenue: $3 million annually from 2016 to 2018 and $3.5 million so far in 2019.

The 2020 budget projects $2.205 million in revenue from the program.

Email Terry Jones at tjones@theadvocate.com