Wilmington red light runners to get $800,000 refund

 (AP photo/File)

(AP photo/File)

The city has suspended its use of red light cameras for drivers who turn right on red, after a change in state law raised questions about the legality of those tickets issued in Wilmington.

More than 6,700 drivers who received tickets for turning on red under the red light camera program between July 1, 2016 and January 11, 2017 will receive a refund that will cost the city more than $800,000.

Another 2,500 drivers who received citations during that time, but have not paid yet, will receive notifications that their fine has been voided and that they don’t need to pay.

The refunds are being issued because of a change in state law that was approved by the General Assembly last June. State lawmakers added language in the Bond Bill that only allowed municipalities to issue tickets for turning on red if there was safety and crash data to support it. That safety and crash determination would be made by the state Dept. of Transportation.

“We chose the prudent and fair approach of suspending enforcement until the statute is clarified,” Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki said. Purzycki ordered the program to be suspended as of January 11.

The move was praised by AAA Mid-Atlantic, which has its headquarters at the Wilmington Riverfront. “AAA supports the use of red light camera enforcement at intersections where public safety is a proven risk,” said the auto club’s Cathy Rossi. “We are committed to working with the Purzycki administration to improve traffic safety in the city.”

The refund payments won’t help Wilmington’s budget troubles. Purzycki cited the payments as part of the reason he plans to cut 29 positions in state government, in addition to increasing the city’s property tax.

Last week, he presented his budget plan to city council. That budget included $2.5 million in spending cuts, including eliminating vacant positions in the police and fire departments. He’s proposed a 7.5 percent property tax increase to help fill Wilmington’s $14 million financial hole.

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