Saturday, January 20, 2018
News Roundup

After heated discussion, St. Pete Beach to seek information from sheriff on contract costs

ST. PETE BEACH — After more than an hour of heated debate and insistence that they did not want to disband the police department, city commissioners are going to consider doing just that.

The commission directed City Manager Mike Bonfield to ask Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri to draft a cost proposal for taking over law enforcement in the city.

"The sheriff has one message —- don't get me involved in any of your politics about contracting (with him) or keeping your police department," Bonfield said, describing a meeting he had earlier that day with Gualtieri.

The sheriff said he is cautiously willing to provide a proposal, Bonfield said.

Mayor Steve McFarlin strongly opposed the move, but was overridden by the rest of the commission.

"Suggesting that we put our police department out to bid is alarming to me," McFarlin said.

"Speaking as vice mayor, if I were in your position with four against one, I would call it,'' Commissioner Bev Garnett told McFarlin. "Let's get the information (from the sheriff) and move forward."

"As mayor of this city I don't think it is wise," McFarlin shot back.

All of the commissioners were quick to insist they personally did not want to close the police department, but that it was their responsibility to look at every option in saving taxpayer money.

"We are not (advocating closing the police department). We are just asking for information," said Commissioner Marvin Shavlan, adding that to do otherwise was "sticking our heads in the sand."

McFarlin insisted the discussion was "destroying the morale of our police department" and potentially "dividing the community."

Commissioner Jim Parent stressed that his proposal was meant as a way for the commission to put all city operations "under the microscope" to determine where savings could be achieved amid a "very real budget problem."

The commission can't disband the police department on its own. It is included in the city charter and would require a citywide voter referendum.

Parent's proposal was made two weeks ago during the commission's first budget workshop.

That was when the commission learned the city is faces a $1.25 million deficit next year, largely created by escalating pension costs for police, fire and other employees.

"We would have to cut a lot of people to make any significant dent (in the budget deficit),'' Parent said then. "You are talking about some significant changes in services."

Another option is to raise property taxes, a prospect none of the commissioners is happy with.

"If we end up going the tax route, which I hate, that's a bad option, too," said Parent.

Garnett stressed Tuesday that St. Pete Beach has the lowest property tax rate in the county for a "full-service" municipality that operates both a police and fire department.

Shavlan said he did not want to disband the department but wants to "understand what kind of a premium" the city pays for that service.

"We need to know what we are buying," agreed newly elected Commissioner Lorraine Huhn.

"The residents are already asking. The pot has been stirred," Garnett said. "And one question that some are asking is if we do get rid of the police department and then later decide we made a mistake, how much will it cost to get it back?"

Bonfield said he would get numbers from the sheriff, and if the commission still wanted to pursue closing the police department, the sheriff could hold community meetings.

"At some point you will have to make a decision if you think it should go on a public referendum or not," Bonfield said.

Comments
Lightning falls to Wild, its fifth loss in seven games

Lightning falls to Wild, its fifth loss in seven games

ST. PAUL, Minn. — The Lightning said all the right things about needing to look in the mirror and do some soul-searching during its recent funk. Veterans said they had to lead the way. Coach Jon Cooper believed this eight-game trip would "show us wha...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Florida wins big SEC showdown with Kentucky

Florida wins big SEC showdown with Kentucky

LEXINGTON, Ky. — Jalen Hudson came off the bench to score 17, and Chris Chiozza, Keith Stone and Kevarrius Hayes contributed clutch baskets down the stretch as Florida rallied to upset No. 18 Kentucky 66-64 Saturday night. "We were able to win it jus...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Shrine Game journal: USF players’ thoughts are with grieving QB Quinton Flowers

Shrine Game journal: USF players’ thoughts are with grieving QB Quinton Flowers

ST. PETERSBURG — USF had expected to have four former players in Saturday’s East-West Shrine Game at Tropicana Field, but QB Quinton Flowers had to miss the showcase game after learning that his grandmother had died late last week."I most definitely ...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Late score gives West victory over East in Shrine Game

Late score gives West victory over East in Shrine Game

ST. PETERSBURG — With less than a week to install a playbook, offenses can have it tough in college showcase games.And for 58 minutes on Saturday in the East-West Shrine Game at Tropicana Field, the teams combined for just one offensive touchdown.But...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Tampa Bay jobs chief Ed Peachey making top dollar

Tampa Bay jobs chief Ed Peachey making top dollar

For years, Edward Peachey has bragged about the number of jobless people he has helped find work.As president and CEO of CareerSource Pinellas and CareerSource Tampa Bay, he’s in charge of the two main government agencies that provide training to the...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Diver from Dover dies in treacherous Eagle’s Nest cave

Diver from Dover dies in treacherous Eagle’s Nest cave

WEEKI WACHEE — The Hernando County Sheriff’s Office on Saturday investigated the death of a Hillsborough County man in the Eagle’s Nest, an underwater network of caves where at least 11 others have died since 1981.Even experienced divers have lost th...
Updated: 5 hours ago
More than 1,000 cold-stunned sea turtles rescued in Florida Panhandle

More than 1,000 cold-stunned sea turtles rescued in Florida Panhandle

Florida’s dip into frigid temperatures did more than just stun humans unused to such cold air. This month scientists and volunteers have rescued more than 1,000 cold-stunned sea turtles from a single bay in the Florida Panhandle.The U.S. Geological S...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Orchestra sets off fireworks in the brassy ‘Sinfonietta’

Orchestra sets off fireworks in the brassy ‘Sinfonietta’

TAMPA — Many times during Sinfonietta, Leoš Janácek’s notoriously difficult but joyous work, it was impossible for a regular patron of the Florida Orchestra to escape this observation: They have never sounded quite like this.This isn’t to say musicia...
Updated: 6 hours ago
The longer the shutdown lasts, the further the economic ripples will spread

The longer the shutdown lasts, the further the economic ripples will spread

The early days of the federal government shutdown won’t slow the U.S. economy much. No workers are missing paychecks yet, and because it is a weekend, few businesses expect to feel the effects of lost customers or suppliers.That could change, quickly...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Forecast: Tampa Bay’s bitter cold snap is finally over

Forecast: Tampa Bay’s bitter cold snap is finally over

Tampa Bay is finally clear of the bitter chill that covered the region this week as temperatures picked up on Saturday. 10News WTSPThe latest Tampa Bay-area radar 10News WTSPFeels-like temperatures around t...
Published: 01/20/18