BELLEAIR BEACH - After Belleair Beach's City Council met Tuesday it appears that Ernie Armistead, the police chief, will indeed head for employment with the Sheriff's Office.
The status of the rest of the six-person department is unsure. Contract talks between the city and the Fraternal Order of Police, which represents police officers, are continuing.
Mayor Rudy Davis said Tuesday that if Armistead does leave, as he indicated he would lacking the city meeting his demand for increased pay, the city would advertise for a replacement.
Still a mystery is how police officers will vote on the contract. All, a few or none could leave.
Some of the officers have threatened to quit. A letter signed by six of the officers indicated they wanted to, in a body, join the Sheriff's Office.
"We can't tell them what to do," he says, "they will have to decide. So Belleair Beach could be lacking a police department although Sheriff Jim Coats as reportedly indicated he would "not strip" the Belleair Beach force of officers.
At one point just a few days ago, it seemed certain Armistead would leave Belleair Beach for a job with the Sheriff's Office.
Some council members urged that he remain. It came down to a meeting between Armistead and Reed Silverboard, the city manager, to determine what it would take to keep Armistead.
Silverboard reported Tuesday that Armistead, now making a salary of $54,132 wanted a 17.3 percent raise that would bring him to $63,496. Why Armistead zeroed in on the particular figure of 17.3 percent is unknown.
With that in mind, Silverboard said that Armistead agreed to go as low as a 15 percent increase.
Councilmember Lynn Rives was having none of that. He moved that Armistead be offered a 6.7 percent raise, the same amount being given to all department heads.
That was approved by the council and apparently has settled the matter regarding Armistead, who has been a member of the department since 1993. Before that, he did some part time work for Belleair Beach.
In developments leading up to Tuesday's action, members of the police department have threatened to quit. A letter signed by six of them said they wanted to join the Sheriff's Office as a group.
At that time, officers suggested that the city could no longer afford a police department and they said they could no longer afford to work for the city.
They said the council should abolish the department.
That cannot happen in Belleair Beach. It would take a referendum to eliminate the police department, and that is a road the city has been down before with the public in each case voting to keep the police department.
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