Commissioners in North Redington Beach and Redington Beach didn't want to make the decision alone. So they put the fate of their joint Police Department on the ballot.
On Tuesday, the voters' verdict was loud and clear: The Redington Beaches Police Department and its seven officers should stay.
In North Redington Beach, 72 percent of voters wanted to keep the department and 28 percent voted to consolidate police services with the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office.
The vote tallies were remarkably similar in Redington Beach, where 73 percent voted to retain the department and 27 percent cast ballots to abolish it.
Police protection became an issue after Belleair police Officer Jeffery Tackett was killed last summer as he waited for a backup officer. Pinellas County Sheriff Everett Rice and the Pinellas Police Benevolent Association, a police union, suggested that small beach communities consider abolishing their forces or consolidating service with the Sheriff's Office.
As overwhelming as the support for the department was, the referendum in both cities is non-binding, which means commissioners do not have to follow the voters' recommendation. Representatives from both cities will meet this month to consider election results.
North Redington Beach Mayor Pete Farnum said he expects the voters' decision to remain final.
"I don't think there is any question that the board will strongly recommend that we maintain our present police force," he said.
North Redington Beach voters also selected two commissioners; one won by the skin of his teeth.
Incumbent David Yost, a 54-year-old agent with West Shore Realty, captured Seat 3 by just one vote. He defeated Kendall "Ken" McIntyre, a retired military aircraft specialist.
In the race for Seat 4, Don Suhadolnik defeated Sal Crimi, 68, a retired credit manager, by a more comfortable margin. Suhadolnik, 55, owns DPS computers, a marketing company specializing in upgrading computer systems.
Voter turnout was high in both cities. Roughly 63 percent of registered voters went to the polls in North Redington Beach and 56 percent turned out in Redington Beach.