Friday, December 15, 2017
News Roundup

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 Shall Charter Section 4.06 be repealed?"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."

Comments

FHP: Overturned vehicle reported on northbound Howard Frankland

ST. PETERSBURG — Drivers should avoid the northbound Howard Frankland Bridge for a while: The Florida Highway Patrol is responding to a report of an overturned vehicle there.The incident was reported on northbound Interstate 275, near mile marker 32,...
Updated: 9 minutes ago
Tampa Bay Times’ all-Tampa Bay girls swim teams

Tampa Bay Times’ all-Tampa Bay girls swim teams

Hillsborough County Swimmer of the Year: Morgan Tankersley, Sr., PlantTankersley defended her state title in the 500 free (4:44.75) and placed second in one of the country’s fastest 200 free races in 1:46.75, 2.07 seconds behind Buchholz junior Isa...
Updated: 17 minutes ago

No charges against motorist as bicyclist is hit from behind, killed in Seminole Heights

TAMPA — A 52-year-old man riding a bicycle was killed early Friday when he was struck from behind by a car in Seminole Heights, Tampa police said.Wayne Kersh, 52, was killed in the collision about 12:15 a.m. on Hillsborough Avenue near N Central Aven...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Tampa Bay Times’ all-Tampa Bay boys swim teams

Tampa Bay Times’ all-Tampa Bay boys swim teams

Hillsborough County Swimmer of the Year: Brendan Driscoll, Jr., JesuitDriscoll was the only boys swimmer from Hillsborough County to win an individual state title this year and he did it with emphasis, taking gold in the 500 free in 4:29.50, almost...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Ranking America’s top 10 chain restaurants. How does your favorite stack up

Ranking America’s top 10 chain restaurants. How does your favorite stack up

People love to pick on chain restaurants. Like used car salesmen, the mass feeders are easy targets. Their uniformity and ubiquity seem to go against a culture increasingly bent on personal customization. Indeed, it has been a rough past few years f...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Taxpayer subsidies of Tampa golf courses are on the rise as struggles continue

Taxpayer subsidies of Tampa golf courses are on the rise as struggles continue

TAMPA — For the half of the year that Harry Nichols lives in Oldsmar, he plays 18 holes several times a month at Rocky Point Golf Course. On a good day, Nichols said he shoots close to par on the Dana Shores course. And if he’s really lucky, it’ll on...
Updated: 1 hour ago
When you think you’ve got Brayden Point figured out, a surprise awaits

When you think you’ve got Brayden Point figured out, a surprise awaits

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Center Brayden Point is the Lightning’s calmest player, both on the ice and off, according to Victor Hedman.Point’s soft-spoken nature belies his baby face and 5-foot-10 frame. "I’ve never seen him angry before," Hedman said.That ma...
Updated: 2 hours ago
How to optimize your college football bowl-watching experience

How to optimize your college football bowl-watching experience

Game-day guide to watching bowl games over the next few weeks: Five locals to watch Toledo WR Diontae Johnson (Lennard High): Only two players in the country average more yards per touch than Johnson (19.1), who could light up Appalachian State in ...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Top 5 at Noon: Struggle, taxpayer subsidies continue at Tampa golf courses; Why the Bucs need a Dungy, not a Gruden; Submit your Festivus grievance

Top 5 at Noon: Struggle, taxpayer subsidies continue at Tampa golf courses; Why the Bucs need a Dungy, not a Gruden; Submit your Festivus grievance

Here are the top stories on Tampabay.com today. THE STRUGGLE, AND TAXPAYER SUBSIDIES, CONTINUE FOR TAMPA GOLF COURSES Tampa's golf courses are often a bargain in terms of cost versus quality, but for taxpayers, golf has become more expensive due to...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Florida’s $1.1 billion Hardest Hit Fund winding down after some hard knocks

Florida’s $1.1 billion Hardest Hit Fund winding down after some hard knocks

In 2010, Florida was in the throes of an unprecedented housing crisis. One in every eight homes was in some stage of foreclosure. Today, the foreclosure rate is one in every 83. Because of that enormous drop, Florida’s Hardest Hit Fund will s...
Updated: 3 hours ago