By Tim O’Meilia
A year ago, Manalapan Mayor Basil Diamond claimed South Palm Beach could save a half million dollars a year — give or take $100,000 — by letting Manalapan provide police and dispatch service.
South Palm Beach Mayor Donald Clayman disputed the numbers and quickly shot down the idea. “This is not a good time to look at a reduced police presence in town. Our people like to see the police cars around,” Clayman said then.
Now South Palm Beach Councilwoman Stella Jordan wants to resurrect the offer from its neighbor. “Even if it’s half of $700,000, we need to discuss it. We owe to our taxpayers,” she said at the town’s May 22 meeting.
Town Attorney Brad Biggs advised the council to check to see if the June 2011 offer from Diamond was still valid or endorsed by the entire Manalapan commission.
Complicating matters is an offer from the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office to take over police services in Manalapan that would save the town $230,000 annually. After a four-hour session May 22, Manalapan commissioners decided to hold a workshop in June to further discuss options.
“We still have an open mind on trying to work with other communities on cost-saving measures, in addition to other options,” Diamond said. “I did mention at the meeting that we are still open to other options.”
South Palm Beach has budgeted $951,000 for police this year. Diamond’s offer said the town could save $730,000 by letting Manalapan extend its ocean patrol zone to include South Palm Beach. All policing, dispatching and investigating would be done by Manalapan.
Another option would save South Palm Beach more than $400,000 by creating a new South Palm Beach patrol zone and devoting an officer to patrol the town 24/7.
South Palm Beach typically has two officers on duty 18 hours a day, usually not including an administrator. Clayman said last year that Manalapan’s offer would reduce the level of police service.
“It’s a conceptual idea. I was giving two examples,” Diamond said. “Anything we do would have to be negotiated and it could be totally different than what I suggested.”
Diamond said savings would come largely through the reduction of administrative costs. “I don’t think it costs you anything to look at options,” he said.
During the meeting, Clayman asked that the issue be discussed at a workshop but Jordan insisted on placing it on the June council agenda.
In other business, the council voted unanimously to spend $23,600 for a new police car, a Dodge Charger to replace a 2005 Ford Crown Victoria, including trade-in. The council postponed the purchase in October and last month Jordan said the car, with 46,471 miles, was still useful.
Vice Mayor Joseph Flagello, appointed to investigate, said the engine miles on the car, including idle time, exceeded 254,000, the car was out of warranty and had maintenance problems.
The council also approved a town finance policy, urged by Jordan, which includes guidelines for capital expenses, recurring expenses and investments. Ú