Pinellas County Sheriff's Offer and Amendment 4 Approved By SKCA
By Anne McKay Garris
Sand Key Association Board members, including: Board President Gene Gillespie (second from left), Cynthia Remley, and Richard Jackson, greet Pinellas County Sheriff Jim Coats (left) at the June meeting of the Association, held at the Clearwater Community Sailing Center.
Last week, at their regular scheduled meeting, the Directors of the Sand Key Civic Association approved two resolutions. They recommended a vote in favor of Florida Hometown Democracy's proposed amendment to the Florida State Constitution. They also urged the City Council of Clearwater to accept the offer of Pinellas County Sheriff Jim Coats to take over the policing of Clearwater.
After an introduction, in which an impressive list of education, training, and accomplishments of Sheriff Coats were reviewed, the Sheriff carefully reminded the Association Board and members that the Clearwater Council had already rejected his offer but, as he was invited to speak to the SKCA before this happened, he would be glad to answer any questions they had for him.
In answer to the questions, Sheriff Coats explained that he would continue the community policing begun by Clearwater Police Chief Tony Holloway, using Clearwater police officers who moved to the Sheriff's Department in Clearwater. He pointed out that much of the savings would result from reduction of duplication in administrative services. Some of it would come from a difference in the pay scale between the Clearwater Police and the Sheriff's Department. Top Clearwater police officers could lose as much as $10,000 a year in the move.
"I would offer Chief Holloway a captain's position," commented the Sheriff.
He also pointed out that each of his supervisors are responsible for more men than the Clearwater Police supervisors, but that he would supply for Clearwater the same number of patrol officers now on the beat.
Commenting that his discussions with the Clearwater Council, and the Clearwater Police Department had been, "a more civilized process than any of this sort I have ever experienced. These sort of negotiations are difficult for everyone," he added.
After the decision by the City Council not to move to the Sheriff's Department, it was decreed that Sheriff Coats and Chief Holloway would, nevertheless, hold meetings to see how much money merging some of the operations could save.
Following Sheriff Coats presentation, the SKCA Board approved a resolution which reads, "SKCA encourages the City of Clearwater to contract with the County of Pinellas sheriff's department for the continuation of a similar level of law enforcement services as to what Clearwater's residents experience today in order to continue the protection of its residents while significantly reducing Clearwater's law enforcement budget costs for 2010, and into the future, or to obtain similar savings from the current police department."
Also, having listened to a debate last month on the merits of voting for or against, Amendment 4 to the Florida Constitution in November, the SKCA Board approved a resolution on the proposal, which is known as the Florida Home Town Democracy initiative. This initiative, which will be on the ballot in November, gives citizens the right to vote on changes to the Comprehensive Plans of their municipalities. The resolution pointed out "existing laws do not provide citizens an adequate opportunity to review decisions which could produce adverse changes in the quality of life on Sand Key." So the Sand Key Association recommends support and passage of Amendment 4, in order to "protect and preserve the unique character of our community."
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