BELLEAIR BLUFFS - Town commissioners are watching the Belleair Beach police situation - now greatly unsettled - very closely with the anticipation that in the future the Sheriff's Office may return to do the policing in the town.
The subject came up at last Wednesday's commission meeting here at which a hearing on the millage rate and budget for fiscal year 2007 was held and approved.
With the departure of Chief Ernie Armistead for the Sheriff's Office and two other officers gone, the Belleair Beach Police Department is in some disarray.
Latest reports are that the City Council there will manage to get a referendum on the March ballot seeking to abolish the department, necessary under the city charter.
In the meanwhile, Belleair Shore officials said they would stand pat, awaiting developments.
Belleair Shore switched from Belleair Beach providing its police service to the Sheriff's Office some years ago and then switched back.
The sheriff may wind up policing Belleair Beach, depending on how that referendum goes next March, which would mean that the sheriff would be the police agency for the contiguous area from Indian Rocks Beach to Belleair Bluffs.
That makes eminent sense in terms of efficiency and economy. With that kind of set up, residents from Clearwater, Largo, Belleair Bluffs, Belleair Beach, Belleair Shore, Indian Rocks Beach would have police service from top of the line professionals.
The smallest municipality in Pinellas County and perhaps the state, Belleair Shore also undoubtedly has the lowest tax rate.
Commissioners cut the millage rate by 28.3 percent so that the small town's residents pay just a shade over half a mill - .5164. That's a shade over 50 cents on $1,000.
The diminished rate has followed a trend in Belleair Shore in recent years, most notably under the management of Mayor John Robertson and a city commission that moves carefully and prudently.
Last week the commission also approved the short term rental ordinance on first reading. The law follows the county rule which is that an owner may lease property only three times a year within a 12-month span but with a minimum of 30 days.
Also approved was a $3,000 donation to help sister cities in the county fight charter amendments that would strip municipalities of power and beef up the county.
It is clear to some observers that there is an aim by some to make Pinellas into another Miami-Dade county with most power residing at the county level.
Consequently, the cities are fighting charter changes, the first objective being to keep a referendum that would effect these changes off the November ballot.
On a per capita basis, the Belleair Shore donation is gigantic - amounting to about $30 a person. Were that the case in other cities, say, like Largo, the donation would be more than $2 million. Largo has authorized up to $30,000 for its contribution.
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