BELLEAIR BEACH - Do the waters of the Intracoastal Waterway that lap the shores of Belleair on the east and Belleair Beach on the west make the two cities contiguous?
The argument has been made by Belleair Beach's city attorney, Paul Marino, that this water connection by virtue of the land beneath the waves, makes the two cities contiguous.
David Ottinger, Belleair's town attorney, agrees with Marino. Of course, Ottinger's town would love to have the contract for police service. Why Marino is so eager for Belleair Beach to engage Belleair is unknown.
But Marino says he and Ottinger have researched the question and agree that it fits the requirements of Section 166.0495 which, by the way, never uses the word "contiguous" but refers to "adjoining" jurisdictions.
Both words mean the same thing which is being in actual contact, touching along a boundary. There's no dispute over the meaning of the word.
Even if one were to accept the Marino and Ottinger thesis of boundaries and such, what is overlooked is that the two cities boundaries perhaps do not touch actually touch - even under the water.
Much of that land under the water in that area is owned by the federal government. Whether there is a gap where the two towns to touch is possible.
As one citizen who follows developments closely said, "If you believe the idea that the land under the waterway makes us contiguous with Belleair then Hawaii is contiguous to California and Japan, for that matter, and Europe contiguous to Africa."
Other than that glitch in the theory, the idea is ludicrous to most folks and it seems predicated on the idea of getting the Belleair Police Department to be the policing agency for Belleair Beach which will soon no longer have a police department by order of the voters, through a referendum.
Bellair providing police services for Belleair Beach? That's even more ludicrous to most observers than the water-contiguous idea.
Belleair's police force has been known as "household cavalry." One of the main duties over the years is fielding phone calls from the maids of affluent matrons who report trash cans rolling about in the streets. The department dutifully straightens out situations like that.
With the Belleair Beach force quickly evaporating - there are now three full time officers, including an acting chief, and two part time officers - something needs to be done and quickly.
The force has just melted away since Chief Ernie Armistead left for the Sheriff's Office. Two recent departures were the result of a firing for hijinks far below the dignity of a police officer and the other was the resignation after a criminal investigation. The full story on that is not known.
The situation with the diminished number of officers is so severe (there are supposed to be seven full time officers and seven part time in ordinary circumstances) that the Sheriff's Office has been called upon to provide service.
Why anyone would want to be distracted from the obvious choice of the Sheriff's Office as the one to perform police duties is a mystery to townsfolk following developments.
The City Council set today at 4 p.m. as a work session to discuss and probably choose what entity will provide police service.
The betting is that when the final choice comes, it will be the Sheriff's Office that is chosen, for obvious reasons - proficiency, equipment, professionalism not least among them.