Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

St. Pete Beach voters to decide fate of Police Department on Nov. 6

ST. PETE BEACH — It's official. Voters in November will decide whether to keep their city-run Police Department.

City commissioners unanimously voted Tuesday to put a referendum question on the ballot in a self-described effort to be fiscally responsible.

"This is an exercise about the budget. It is an opportunity to save money," Commissioner Jim Parent explained.

The $1.4 million in savings of taxpayer money would occur only if the referendum passes and then only if the commission decides to disband the Police Department and contract with the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office.

Two weeks ago, many residents complained that they were confused about the wording of the referendum and were not sure what a "yes" or "no" vote would mean.

City attorneys reworded the ballot question in an attempt to make its purpose clear.

Here is the actual ballot language:

"Charter Section 4.06 requires the St. Pete Beach Police Department to be established as a Charter Department and prohibits transfer of law enforcement activity by contract or any other process to any department or employee not administered by the City Manager. Repeal of this section will allow the City to transfer law enforcement activity to an outside agency by contract or other process. Shall Charter Section 4.06 be repealed?"

If voters check the "yes" box on their ballots they will be voting to allow the commission to close the Police Department.

Choosing "no" would maintain charter protection for the department and the commission would be unable to contract with the Sheriff's Office.

This year, even more than in past years, the city is facing a major revenue shortfall that will force substantial cuts or increases in property taxes.

Because the city's fiscal year begins in October and the budget must be approved before then, the November referendum will not have an immediate effect on next year's property taxes.

Commissioners are already leaning toward a 25 percent tax increase, a choice several residents said they would agree to in order to save the local police force.

Closing the Police Department "is the wrong thing to do, folks," said resident Rick Falkenstein, who predicted voters would opt to keep their department.

"You need to explain to people that if want to keep their police force you will have to raise taxes," resident Rosemary Manning said. "People need to understand that you get what you pay for."

Manning said she moved to the city years ago largely because it had its own Police Department and hoped that it would remain.

"We are going to provide a choice," said Mayor Steve McFarlin. "Due to the significant savings, we have an obligation to take this forward. If people are willing to pay for having their own Police Department, so be it."

The city plans to have a series of workshops before the election to explain how switching to the Sheriff's Office would or would not change law enforcement in the city.

If the switch is made, the city will be able to decide how many deputies it wants patrolling the streets and what extra services would be provided — handling traffic and accidents, investigating burglaries and violent crimes, enforcing noise ordinances and so forth.

All of the Sheriff's Office special investigations units would be available to the city, including SWAT, marine and canine patrols, according to Sheriff Bob Gualtieri. The deputies exclusively assigned to the city will likely serve in the city for many years, he said.

Gualtieri has said he is willing to speak at commission workshops and neighborhood meetings before the referendum.

"At end of day in November," said Commissioner Bev Garnett, "if we keep our Police Department, I think Chief (David) Romine and all those men and women are going to feel so much better because next year it is not going to come up on the chopping block again."

St. Pete Beach voters to decide fate of Police Department on Nov. 6 07/28/12 [Last modified: Saturday, July 28, 2012 4:32am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Bucs have chance to beat Vikings in their third stadium

    Bucs

    Here's a cool sign that the Bucs are getting up there as an NFL franchise: If Tampa Bay can win Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium, it will mark the first time the Bucs have posted road wins against the same NFL opponent in three different stadiums.

    TIMES ARCHIVES (2012) | Bucs RB Doug Martin runs during Tampa Bay's 36-17 win at the Vikings in 2012, in what was then called Mall of America Field. If Tampa Bay wins Sunday, it will mark the first time they have road wins against the same NFL opponent in three different stadiums.
  2. Memorial for Snooty the manatee, postponed because of Irma, to be held Sunday

    Wildlife

    A public memorial to celebrate the life of 69-year-old Snooty the manatee will be held at the South Florida Museum on Sunday from noon to 5 p.m.

    Snooty , the world's most celebrated manatee, begs for another slice of apple in his pool in the Parker Manatee Aquarium at the South Florida Museum in Bradenton in 2008. Snooty was 60 then. [Times 2008]
  3. Residents wade through a flooded road after the passing of Hurricane Maria, in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico, Friday, September 22, 2017. Because of the heavy rains brought by Maria, thousands of people were evacuated from Toa Baja after the municipal government opened the gates of the Rio La Plata Dam. [Associated Press]
  4. NFL commissioner, players' union angrily denounce Trump comments on national anthem

    Bucs

    SOMERSET, N.J. — The National Football League and its players' union on Saturday angrily denounced President Donald Trump for suggesting that owners fire players who kneel during the national …

    President Donald Trump walks off the stage after he speaks at campaign rally in support of Sen. Luther Strange, Friday, Sept. 22, 2017, in Huntsville, Ala. [Associated Press]
  5. New earthquake, magnitude 6.1, shakes jittery Mexico

    World

    MEXICO CITY — A strong new earthquake shook Mexico on Saturday, causing new alarm in a country reeling from two still-more-powerful quakes this month that have killed nearly 400 people.

    Locals play pool at a venue in Mexico City's La Condesa neighborhood, Friday, Sept. 22, 2017, four days after the 7.1 earthquake. The upscale Mexico City neighborhood was one of the hardest hit, with more than a half-dozen collapsed buildings in the immediate vicinity. The few Condesa residents who ventured out Friday night said they were anxious for relief from an anguishing week. [Associated Press]