Sheriff's plan would slash AP's policing costs
Marc Valero | Highlands TodayAVON PARK - Based on big cost savings, City Manager Julian Deleon said "serious consideration" will be given to Highlands County Sheriff Susan Benton's proposal to provide law enforcement services for the city.
Published: June 28, 2012
Published: June 28, 2012
On June 11, the Avon Park City Council voted 3-2 to ask the sheriff's office to make a proposal to provide the city with law enforcement.
Councilman Paul Miller and Council President Sharon Schuler cast the dissenting votes.
In a June 26 letter to the council, Benton proposed a total annual cost of $983,280 for law enforcement services for the city.
The city's proposed budget for 2013 includes about $2 million to operate the Avon Park Police Department, which includes one new police vehicle and some minor facility improvements, Deleon noted in a press release responding to Benton's proposal.
These steep differences in costs for services are primarily attributed to differing operating models between the sheriff's office and the Avon Park police operations, he said. The sheriff's office has an existing administrative infrastructure of operations and supervision to absorb these additional responsibilities.
Deleon has scheduled meetings to visit the municipalities of Frostproof, Eagle Lake, Dundee and Fort Meade to receive feedback from other local administrators and elected officials regarding their experience in contracting of services with the Polk County Sheriff's Office.
"Where possible, I have invited individual council members to attend these meetings for informational purposes," Deleon said. "We want to hear the good and the bad."
Benton proposes a reorganization of the sheriff's office and the creation of a north and south division with the north division based at Avon Park's current police department building.
"We would provide command presence by assigning a north division captain who would also act as liaison with the city manager," Benton noted.
Benton proposes 16 new law enforcement positions including: 10 patrol deputies, two school resource deputies, three detectives and one crime scene detective.
Avon Park currently employs 22 sworn officers.
Benton noted that members of the Avon Park Police Department will be given first opportunity to become a member of the sheriff's office.
Deleon said although there are some steep savings between the two proposals, the city will continue with legacy pension obligations. These obligations will be presented at a planned special council meeting at 5 p.m., July 11.
"I have invited the city's pension board of trustees to this planned council meeting for a presentation from the Florida League of Cities to provide a proposal for the administration of the city's pension systems," he said. "The proposal from the League could provide a 'turnkey' solution and immediate savings when compared to our current administrative fees paid to manage the plans."
Benton said, she feels strongly that this proposal is a win-win for all residents, both the city and the county, but particularly for Avon Park's police officers.
Your officers will have much more opportunity for diverse training and experience and the ability to compete for promotion and request transfers to other division or units within the sheriff's office, she said.
Miller said he is waiting to get all the facts until he makes a decision.
"Right now it's all hearsay and a lot of static going around town and a lot of truths and untruths," he said. "I am just going to wait and get it all together and then I will make up my mind."
Councilwoman Brenda Gray said she was going to meet Thursday afternoon with Benton.
"I haven't seen the proposal; I have only heard about it," she said.
Councilman Parke Sutherland also said he had not yet reviewed the proposal, but he plans to meet with Benton to discuss it.
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