AP/sheriff reports smooth transition
Marc Valero | Highlands TodayAVON PARK - It's been almost two months since the Highlands County Sheriff's Office started patrolling and answering service calls in the City of Charm.
Published: December 1, 2012
Published: December 1, 2012
The city's police force was downsized from 22 officers to only three handling primarily code enforcement and community policing duties.
City council members and City Manager Julian Deleon say they have not heard of any complaints and Sheriff Susan Benton said the transition is going well.
Deleon said, "this has been a massive undertaking and I am happy we haven't had any major issues, but I am sure we are still in a transition phase."
Benton reported no major problems or complaints since the change over.
"It has been a huge transition, but since Oct. 3 we have been answering every call for service in the city and it seems to be working well," she said.
Every now and then there is a little "hiccup" on some things like code enforcement or a city noise ordinance and who is going to address that, Benton said. The bottom line is some law enforcement officer is going to show up and take care of the citizens' requests.
"The feedback that I am getting is that community members seem pleased," she said. The former Avon Park police officers who are now deputy sheriffs seem very satisfied with the transition.
The sheriff's office hired 15 Avon Park police officers.
"It is still in the transitional agreement; we are actually working now on negotiating on the more permanent contract that will be for a four-year period with an annual budget review," Benton said.
Avon Park has been active in expanding its boundaries through annexation, how does that affect your contract with the city?
At budget time the sheriff's office will look for any significant increase in calls for service and look at increases in population and geography to determine if more staff is needed, Benton said. Then the budget would be appropriately adjusted.
She is keeping the taxpayers in mind and the level of service that those taxpayers require, Benton stressed.
Councilman Terry Heston believes it has been a win-win situation for the sheriff's office and the citizens of Avon Park.
"I am very pleased; I think they are doing an excellent job," he said. "I haven't had any complaints at all."
Mayor Sharon Schuler said, "I haven't heard any complaints from any of the citizens so that is good."
Deputy Mayor Brenda Gray said, "As far as I know everything has been going fine; I haven't heard any complaints."
In August, City Manager Julian Deleon estimated the savings of switching from the city's police department to the sheriff's office for primary law enforcement coverage for the next four years at $584,695, $626,669, $749,437 and $747,437.
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