Council Rejects Overture From Sheriff
After reading the September 24 article in the Clearwater Gazette by Carl Wagenfohr, I was dumfounded at the Clearwater City Council's response to Councilmember John Doran's question regarding if they were interested is soliciting a proposal from Pinellas County Sheriff Jim Coats to take over the policing responsibility. I would like to know the reasons why the City of Clearwater would not look at consolidating with the Sheriff's Office at the expense of raising taxes, closing libraries, canceling programs, and services and laying off employees.
Mayor Frank Hibbard cited an efficiency report by Matrix stating the CPD is a very well managed police department. I do not think this is in question. The question is can we maintain the same service and reduce costs to the citizens of Clearwater?
After speaking with Sheriff Jim Coats he feels he could save the City of Clearwater 10 million dollars a year. I feel strongly this needs to be investigated; can the Sheriff's Office save the city 10 million a year in police services? Currently, the Sheriff's Office provides many services for the city including forensics services, air support and marine patrol.
I feel we should at least ask the Sheriffs Office for a RFP on consolidating the Sheriff and Clearwater Police department and feel it is owed to the city residents. When you (as city officials) "choose" to raise our taxes and cut existing services it is imperative to look at all avenues in cutting costs.
Furthermore, I find Mayor Hibbard's statement "As long as I am here, I will not entertain getting rid of our police department" very disturbing. We live in America, which despite his obvious current belief, is a free country and not a dictatorship. Our government officials are elected by the people to represent the majority of the constituents. It is not the Mayor's position or City Council to dictate what is best for the city - they are to guide the city into prosperity. The City Council should ensure the citizens have all factual information regarding a particular department, then act on the citizens' wishes. Since the Mayor "refuses" to look at the potential benefits that may be provided by the Sheriff, "we", the citizens do not know if there is a benefit or not.
Vice Mayor Paul Gibson stated that he asked Sheriff Jim Coats "how can you save us the amount of money you think you're going to save us?" Gibson stated Coats was not really able to answer that question. However, further in the article, Sheriff Coats suggest a figure of approximately 10 million; I personally think that is a pretty significant number.
The city is spending thousands of dollars looking for a replacement for retiring Chief of Police Sid Klein without even considering a proposal from the Sheriff's Office. Again, I do not question the ability of the Clearwater Police Department, I think there should be a fair evaluation of the services the Sheriff's Office will commit to and how the merger will affect the officer's themselves (i.e.: retirement benefits etc.).
Is this a power or control issue or just what the City Council thinks is best for the citizens of Clearwater?
I also would like to thank Councilmember John Doran for raising the question. I feel he is looking out for what is best for citizens of Clearwater. He has my vote.
- Rusty Hoaglin, Clearwater
Return to Current Edition