BELLEAIR BEACH - The City Council heard a presentation Tuesday night at a special meeting from the Sheriff's Office which would like to provide police services for the city.
The council also appointed a new finance officer to replace Melanie Neuman who left for another job.
Named was Maria Kemp who has been the senior staff accountant for the city of Tarpon Springs since 2001.
Although Sheriff Jim Coats was unable to be at the meeting personally because he is away celebrating his wedding anniversary with his wife, Cat, he did participate in the discussion by telephone.
On hand for the presentation from the PCSO were Chief Deputy Dennis Fowler and Lt. Robert Fletcher.
The bottom line on the sheriff's proposal is a cost to the city of $382,066.91 which contrasts favorably with the current $580,000 budgeted by the city.
That figure would go up next year to between $600,000 to $620,000.
Under the sheriff's proposal, a deputy would be on service in Belleair Beach 24 hours a day, seven days a week, exclusive to Belleair Beach. That is, that officer's time would not be shared with any other municipality.
Also present for the sheriff's presentation was Ernie Armistead, former Belleair Beach police chief, who now is involved with emergency management with the PCSO.
Armistead assured council members that the sheriff's would provide full emergency service, including supervising an evacuation and safeguarding property.
The next step is for the City Council to decide whether to put the question of retaining the city's police department on the March ballot. It requires a referendum to abolish the police department.
An ordinance authorizing the ballot referendum in March would have a first reading at the council's meeting next Monday.
If it passes, a second reading would take place in January and would have to be passed before January 19, the date that it would have to go to the Supervisor of Elections.
Mayor Rudy Davis said the council has agreed to take no position on the question but, instead, will provide information on both sides of the question for the public.
Wrapped into the issue is the prospects of the new city hall. If the voters decide against keeping the city police force, the new building will be able to be considerably smaller at no little cost.
Cost is a big factor in planning for the new city hall because the price of building materials has skyrocketed.
In appointing a new finance officer, the council abandoned the idea of outsourcing this work, an idea that had been discussed.
Instead, the council agreed that the finance activities needed to be kept in house.
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