BELLEAIR BEACH - The Belleair Beach City Council approved a measure Monday night that will put the future of the city's police department in the hands of the voters in March.
The council gave a green light to placing a referendum on the March 13 ballot that could pave the way to the council contracting with another agency for police services.
According to the language of the ordinance, the referendum will do two things if approved - remove the police department as a charter department and direct the council to contract for police services.
Foremost among those likely to be contracted with is the Sheriff's Office. Voters in Belleair Beach in the past have turned down moves to abolish the police department.
A lot of turmoil has enveloped the department over the past year.
The chief, Ernie Armistead, left to go to work for the sheriff and other officers threatened to leave. Prolonged union negotiations also took place.
After years of supporting the police department, sentiment now seems in favor of making a change.
In other action, the council made routine changes in one ordinance and more clearly defined the city's nuisance ordinance, with some emphasis on repetitive nuisances like properties with grass that has not been cut.
The city, under the ordinance, is authorized to mow properties in need and bill the owner.
Also adjusted was the city's noise ordinance which was clarified and brought up to date for enforcement under current legal standards.
The council okayed a "candidates night" for the March 13 election even though only one race is being contested.
Mayor Rudy Davis is stepping down and current Councilmember Lynn Rives will face Donna Durante, a former member of the council.
January 29 has been set as a mediation date on the litigation between the county and 21 municipalities in the county over issues raised in charter changes in the November election.
That meeting will bring together city managers or mayors to resolve outstanding issues. If that fails another, cumbersome meeting is scheduled in February. Should that fail, the parties will wind up in court again.
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