BELLEAIR BEACH - Action by the City Council Monday night put the city hall project on hold until the police situation is clarified and that may take up until next March.
The council had on its agenda Monday night a discussion of how bidding would take place for what is now called the municipal center, but with the police status up in the air and the department taking up to 20 percent of the area of the new building, council members found it impossible to proceed at this time with city hall plans.
After prolonged and painful negotiations which saw the departure of the chief and a verbal tussle between Mayor Rudy Davis and Sheriff Jim Coats - the contention is now smoothed over - police and the city still have not reached agreement on a contract.
That matter will be in the hands of a mediator.
The police budget, once things are resolved, is estimated to be in the $600,000 range, but if the sheriff takes over police duties in Belleair Beach that cost will be about $382,000.
What comes next is that the City Council will decide whether to put the question of retaining the police department on the March ballot.
Thus the holdup. First, the decision to put the question on the police to the people. That call could be influenced by the still stalled contract talks. Then the budget considerations depending on how the police referendum vote goes. After that, it's back to square one on the city hall - a city hall that will include a police department or not.
Mayor Rudy Davis, who was effusive in his praise of the council Monday night for its businesslike and crisp discussion of these key issues, said that if the decision is made to go to referendum on the police, the council will take a neutral and objective role and provide extensive education on all sides of the question.
The Sheriff's Office will be in to give a presentation and all officials will be fully available in public meetings to answer questions from the public.
On another question, the council decided not to outsource the work of the city's Finance Department. The departure of Melanie Neuman, who had held the financial director post until taking another job, gave rise to the question.
But a thoughtful examination of the situation left council members agreeing that the finance activities needed to be kept in house.
The council gave unanimous approval to another 11 items that were pretty much routine or housekeeping matters.
A special meeting preceded the regular meeting. This was to take up the status of the compliance of the property owned by Thomas and Sandra Brown on Harbor Drive.
There has been much contention over the construction taking place on the property and under the provisions of an agreement made last spring the question was up for review.
Randy Lamb, the city's code enforcement officer, said that the property was in compliance in terms of the agreement as of Monday so no adverse action was taken against the Browns.
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