Clearwater City Council Passes Millage Rate, Keeps Crestlake Open After 9pm
By Josh Valone
The Clearwater City Council met Wednesday night, formally passing the 2010-2011 budget and millage rate. Police Chief Anthony Holloway also checked in with a report on the status of Crestlake Park after 9:00 p.m., a situation that has recently become a cause for concern among local residents.
Wednesday's meeting began with a final vote on both the operating budget and millage rate for the next fiscal year. With specifics having already been hashed out in previous weeks, there was little discussion on the matter, aside from a basic outline. The 2010-2011 budget, which takes effect October 1st, is officially $369 million; a $5 million decrease from 2009-2010's total. The 2010-2011 millage rate, which also goes into effect October 1st, will be 5.1550 mills.
The meeting's longest discussion centered on whether the city should modify the operating hours of Crestlake Park. Police Chief Holloway issued a report to council members in response to residents concerned about activities after dark compromising safety. If any change were to take place it would be to alter the park's closing time, shutting it down at 9:00 p.m.
Chief Holloway's verbal report did little to substantiate claims that the park was a safety hazard, or that it was an above-average area of crime after dark. His recommendation, if a decision were to be made based off statistics, was to leave the operating hours as they were until further evidence could be compiled to definitively prove the park was a dangerous area.
Following his report, several residents stepped forward to speak on the issue. The majority seemed to be in favor of the proposed 9:00 p.m. closing time, citing drug sales and prostitution as just some of the unseemly activities taking place at Crestlake after dark. Residents admitted that not every crime was being reported to police, which they assumed was the cause of the discrepancy between their reports and official police statistics.
Chief Holloway reiterated the key role residents play in preventing crime and giving the police a clearer picture of what was taking place in various areas of the community. Residents' anecdotal evidence would need to be verified in order for it to be acted upon, something that was impossible without the community's cooperation.
Mayor Hibbard sympathized with resident support for the 9:00 p.m. closing time, but said it was not possible to make that sort of decision given the statistics that were available at present. Residents were encouraged to continue reporting crime in Crestlake Park and the council would revisit the issue again in two months after police had been given adequate time to compile the latest statistics.
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