BELLEAIR BEACH - The long and festering issue of who will police Belleair Beach came to end last Thursday with the unanimous decision of the City Council to employ the Sheriff's Office for that job.
Only a few days before, on Monday, the path to making a choice seemed strewn with land mines.
Paul Marino, Belleair Beach's city attorney, had made an argument, with Belleair's lawyer, that the two cities were "adjoining." That idea tasked the most innovative of minds.
Belleair was supposedly interested in getting the police contract, but there was none of that interest in evidence on Thursday.
Officials from the Sheriff's Office were at the work session meeting, but a nary a soul from Belleair showed up.
And the "19 concerns" with the sheriff's proposal that had been seriously and at length laid out by Marino at Monday's session seemed to have evaporated.
It appeared that the whole thing was a done deal Thursday before the actual deal was done.
The contract with the Sheriff's Office will cost Belleair Beach taxpayers about $200,000 less in their annual city budget.
For those who had thoughts that Marino was an advocate for Belleair providing police services and that he was opposed to the Sheriff's Office, Marino sought to disabuse anyone of that notion by saying, "I was not in favor of Belleair Beach contracting with Belleair."
Whatever feelings that Marino might have had melted away Thursday. Perhaps the fact that he was about to depart for faraway places with strange sounding names inclined him to shrug off any further ado about the subject.
Marino, before he left, explained "Reid Silverboard (the Belleair Beach city manager now departed) asked me to research the question of contiguous jurisdictions, which I did with David Ottinger (Belleair's town attorney)."
As a sidelight to that, Belleair Beach's Charter stipulates that the city attorney reports to the City Council and that the city manager is not to direct the lawyer.
How that stacks up in the request to Marino by the city manager to look into the "contiguous border" thing is still an open question.
Marino insisted that the two municipal boundaries "track each other" in the Intracoastal Waterway. Whether the government owned land under the surface was taken into account is not known.
Another element is that Florida law proscribes one police agency leaving its own jurisdiction, traversing a foreign jurisdiction (Belleair would have to go through Belleair Bluffs) to get to a contracted jurisdiction (Belleair Beach).
Some observers thought that Marino's "19 concerns" with the sheriff's proposal was interesting in light of the record that the PCSO has contracts with about a dozen municipalities none of which, as far as is known, have had any contract squabbles and which, in fact, shower the Sheriff's Office with effulgent praise for its services.
On Thursday, Mayor Lynn Rives made short work of the task. He said the proposal from Belleair was not going to work and would not be good for Belleair Beach. No one rebutted that and the vote went 7-0 with almost no discussion.
Belleair Shore is expected to follow suit and have the sheriff police that town, too.