Tuesday, April 24, 2018
Public safety

Brooksville should accept county help for events such as the King Day parade

Just about everyone agrees that downtown parades and festivals are good for Brooksville.

It would follow, then, that any obstacle to staging these events needs to be eliminated if possible.

And no obstacle comes up as persistently as the cost of traffic control, which is the biggest single expense for small events such as the annual bicycle race organized by (disclosure alert) my wife.

Yes, the City Council agrees to pick up this cost for most events, but not without grumbling that the city only has so much money, that it can only waive the fees for so many events and that it's sick of carrying this burden all by itself.

"It would be nice to have some help," Lara Bradburn said Monday as she and the rest of the council agreed to absorb the $1,600 cost of paying police officers for the upcoming Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade.

But the funny thing is, somebody already had offered.

"We said we were more than happy to help out," said Hernando County Sheriff's Col. Mike Maurer.

This is how it happened. Billy Healis, a local Walmart executive who — very admirably — volunteered himself and his company to revive the dying tradition of a King Day parade in Brooksville, is also one of the county's nine trained and sworn reserve deputies.

There are also 15 so-called auxiliary deputies, who don't receive as much training, but are suitable for helping out with traffic control.

Perfectly suitable, as a matter of fact, because, unlike the 13 Brooksville police officers who will receive holiday overtime pay on King Day, reserve and auxiliary deputies work for free.

Healis told the Brooksville Police Department he was sure he could round up a few of them to help defray the cost of traffic control. And he thought he had the department's okay to ask.

He didn't, said Brooksville police Chief George Turner. When he found out that Healis was putting out the call for volunteers early last month, Turner called Maurer to remind him that such requests need to come sheriff to chief or chief to sheriff.

Maurer said he then made it clear the department was willing to help. Turner doesn't recall hearing that.

Doesn't matter who's correct. The real point is, the conversation shouldn't have ended.

If the chief is really willing to accept the help of volunteers, and he says he is, this was the ideal time to talk to Maurer about how to work it out, not only for the parade but for all events.

For him to do otherwise makes it looks as though he is reviving another old tradition in Brooksville, turf battles between the agencies. Either that or preserving a system that rewards his officers with nice checks for cushy duty.

So, first of all, Turner needs to realize the city is the turf of the Sheriff's Office. City residents' taxes help pay for its services. The least they deserve in return is a few hours of volunteer labor.

Any obstacles the city puts up to taking this help means needlessly laying out funds and/or putting up unnecessary obstacles to good events.

Once on the margins, this year's parade has been fully embraced by the community. It will feature six marching bands and more than 100 entries.

If fact, scratch what I said about such events being good for the city. This one is great.

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