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by Mark Reutter7:20 pmMay 15, 20170

Xerox subsidiary and Arizona firm set to operate speed camera program

Nearly $10 million is headed to two vendors to restart the troubled program. A surprise winner: public relations guru Sandy Hillman.

Above: A speed camera guards a stretch of North Charles Street in 2013. (Mark Reutter)

The Pugh administration is set to award nearly $10 million to relaunch Baltimore’s problem-plagued speed and red light camera programs designed to catch errant drivers.

American Traffic Solutions of Mesa, AZ., will be paid $5.4 million to operate the city’s speed cameras under a contract coming before the Board of Estimates on Wednesday, according to the board’s agenda.

At the same time, Conduent State & Local Solutions, a subsidiary of Xerox, will be paid $4.17 million to run the red light program under a parallel contract.

“Splitting the award between two vendors,” according to the city Department of Transportation, “provides assurance that if one vendor fails to perform, another vendor under contract [is] ready to to provide these services.”

The two vendors were selected from six finalists whose names were announced two weeks ago after the city stonewalled media requests for information for months.

A total of 36 fixed and portable cameras are expected to be operating on city streets over the next month. They will include 10 red light cameras, 10 fixed speed cameras, 10 portable speed cameras and 6 cameras designed to detect height violations by commercial trucks.

Both contracts will be in effect for five years, according to the agenda, with two 2-year renewal options.

Anticipated First Year Return

Mayor Pugh has budgeted $8 million in revenues from the electronic ticketing of drivers who run red lights or drive too fast in school zones in her new budget, which begins July 1.

A much-larger program was halted three years ago after The Baltimore Sun revealed that the Xerox-operated cameras had a relatively high error rate, sometimes issuing speeding tickets to stopped or slow-moving vehicles.

A new vendor boasting a more costly program, Brekford Corp., failed to get the system running again, and the program was shut down in April 2013.

$625,000 to Fundraiser Hillman

Since a Request for Proposals (RFP) was issued in January 2016, seven companies have vied for the contract, many of them hiring lobbyists to press their case at City Hall and before the Department of Transportation.

For example, the biggest winner of the 16-month-long process, American Traffic Solutions, was represented by Frank D. Boston III, who was paid $20,000 to lobby city officials between February 22, 2016 to December 31, 2016, according to his self-reported statement for 2016.

Another clear winner of the upcoming ticketing program is Sandra S. “Sandy” Hillman.

Her Towson public relations firm, Sandy Hillman Communications, is in line for a $625,000 slice of the red light contract apparently to establish a “public information and outreach campaign (PI&O), public relations and advertising,” according to city DOT.

She was awarded the money as a woman-owned enterprise under the city’s minority business program.

Hillman and her husband, Robert, a former city labor commissioner, have been important money bundlers for Mayor Pugh.

Last June, they held a gala fundraiser at the Convention Center that netted Pugh’s election committee enough to pay off outstanding campaign loans to such people as Walter Tilley, the pest control king, and James T. Smith Jr., the former Baltimore county executive who is now chief of strategic alliances for the mayor.

Additionally, Greibo K. Designs, headed by African American Festival promoter Shelonda Stokes, is set to receive $54,000 in city funds for public outreach.

Also expected to be approved on Wednesday – a third contract, worth $80,000, to Columbia-based MRA Digital to perform calibration checks on the city’s traffic cameras.

According to DOT, “The Department determined through research that MRA Digital LLC is the only company that has the expertise, business structure, past performance record, and calibration equipment available to service both selected vendors.”

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