Budget proposal would cut entire police dispatch unit
ST. PETE BEACH The plan would route calls through the Sheriff's Office.
By NICOLE BARDO-COLON
Published July 29, 2007
The entire dispatch division in the St. Pete Beach Police Department could be on the chopping block if the city manager's proposed budget cuts are approved.
All five dispatchers and a records technician could lose their jobs along with some other city employees if the City Commission approves the budget cuts proposal.
Municipalities all over Florida have to roll back their budgets because of the reduction in property tax revenue.
If approved, the police dispatch would be contracted with the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office.
This means all calls would be routed through the sheriff's dispatch located on Ulmerton Road, approximately 14.5 miles from the St. Pete Beach Police Department.
However, St. Pete Beach would still provide its own law enforcement.
The department would not be able to use its holding cells after-hours.
But all those arrested would still be transported to the county jail.
"This is a logistic issue that has to be worked out," said Mike Bonfield, city manager for St. Pete Beach.
Dispatchers who qualify would be offered jobs with the Sheriff's Office, he said.
He added that there are some pros and cons to the proposed cut.
"We will save a lot of money," he said.
The biggest savings is the estimated $500,000 that won't have to be spent to replace the dispatch equipment and police computer software.
The records will be on the Sheriff's Office database, and they will immediately have access to the county's up-to-date systems.
But the personnel cuts could still be made.
"Nobody is happy about having to make these cuts," Bonfield said. "We are an employee-based organization. It has to be employees cut somewhere."
City Commissioner Harry Metz disagreed.
"First and foremost we need to save everyone's jobs," he said.
"We need to cut everywhere else first."
The finance review committee meets Tuesday to make suggestions and comments about the proposed budget, and the City Commission will review the budget Aug. 8, 9 and 13, said a spokesperson for the city.
The final decision must be made before Oct. 1 when the new fiscal year begins.
Nicole Bardo-Colon can be reached at 893-8779 or firstname.lastname@example.org
[Last modified July 28, 2007, 20:58:21]
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