By Steve Plunkett
Proposals to have sheriff’s deputies patrol Manalapan and Ocean Ridge crept ahead in June while a similar offer in Boynton Beach screeched to a halt.
Boynton Beach commissioners directed city staff June 19 to not move forward with a plan by the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office to provide police services. The proposal would have meant a $5 million savings in each of the first two years while cutting almost a third of the city’s 165 police positions.
“I want my Police Department, period. I don’t want any sheriffs, I don’t want any outsiders into my boundaries,” said Herb Suss, one of a handful of residents who spoke, all in support of keeping the city’s officers.
Commissioners embraced the citizens’ point of view.
“My position on it has not changed since day one — I don’t want to go with PBSO,” Mayor Woodrow Hay said.
Boynton Beach’s city manager is still working on a proposal to patrol Ocean Ridge and Briny Breezes.
In Ocean Ridge, former Mayor Ken Kaleel is analyzing what services the town should demand from the Sheriff’s Office. Kaleel was the one who first suggested asking how much the sheriff would charge to patrol Ocean Ridge.
Town leaders chose him to report on what the town needs and what alternatives it might have after Commissioner Zoanne Hennigan said she did not think Town Manager Ken Schenck or Police Chief Chris Yannuzzi could gather the information comprehensively and without bias.
“Many of you thought that this was just a financial issue. It’s far more than that,” Hennigan said. “From what I’ve seen there’s serious relationship issues between the officers and the chief, between the chief and the town manager and between some of the commissioners and residents with the town manager.”
The decision to continue discussions with the Sheriff’s Office came June 4 after commissioners heard nearly two hours of comments from the public.
“To throw out the proposal completely and stop doing anything to me is a little, is a lot shortsighted,” Mayor Geoff Pugh said.
The sheriff offers to put two deputies on patrol 24 hours a day and a third deputy from 3 to 11 p.m., or a total of 10 officers, for $1.15 million for each of the first two years. Yannuzzi would become the supervising lieutenant; dispatchers would have to apply for vacancies in the sheriff’s communications center.
Schenck said the proposal means a $544,000 savings for Ocean Ridge taxpayers, about $410 a year for a $500,000 home.
“It’s not worth a couple of hundred bucks on my tax bill,” former Commissioner Terry Brown said.
The town’s Police Department now has eight officers on the road, four sergeants, a lieutenant and the chief. Commissioners told Yannuzzi to go ahead and hire an additional officer they authorized in March as well as fill a vacant dispatch position.
The sheriff’s proposal would give Ocean Ridge officers higher salaries, cheaper medical insurance and a take-home car. Their union reopened contract negotiations with the town June 20.
Kaleel said he would report back in August or September. He has gathered input from eight or nine other citizens so far, he said.
Manalapan commissioners, meanwhile, held a workshop on its sheriff’s proposal June 25, only to schedule another one for 9 a.m. July 18. Town Manager Linda Stumpf is to develop a comparison of enhancements Manalapan could make to its Police Department vs. possible partnerships with other agencies vs. the sheriff’s offer.
Mayor Basil Diamond lamented the waves of letters and emails circulating through town in which residents “cherry-pick facts” to back up their positions.
“This has to be an objective decision. It should not be swayed by emotion,” Diamond said.
Commissior David Cheifetz said he researched surveillance drones and found cameras could be mounted on affordable balloons, mini-blimps and even tiny helicopters.
“You can have an air force,” he told Police Chief Carmen Mattox.
The town hired one full-time officer and one part-timer, Stumpf reported.“It will help us a lot with overtime. It will help us [patrol] on the beach,” she said.