The Coastal Star

Ocean Ridge: Town weighs trading police for PBSO -10 deputies would replace 19 police staff, saving the town $700,000

Because of a reporting error, The Coastal Star incorrectly reported that Greenacres has a contract with the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office for police services. The error appeared in the April edition in a story about a Sheriff’s Office proposal to Ocean Ridge.

By Tim O’Meilia

    Ocean Ridge taxpayers could save nearly $700,000 next year by replacing their own police force with Palm Beach County sheriff’s deputies, based on a proposal made by the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office.
    Ten road patrol deputies would replace the 13 on-the-street Ocean Ridge police officers (the town added a position last month) but maintain the minimum of two officers in each of the town’s two patrol zones at all times, according to the sheriff’s offer.
    The town’s chief of police and lieutenant would be replaced by a sheriff’s lieutenant in command around the clock. The sheriff’s communications office would take the place of the town’s six dispatch positions, one of which is currently vacant.
    “Looking strictly at the dollars, it’s attractive,” said Town Manager Ken Schenck. “But there’s more than just dollars involved. All we’re trying to do is point out the pros and cons. It’s really up to the town residents and the Town Commission to decide.”
    The 10-year contract would cost the town $1,145,450 for each of the first two years, an even lower price than the sheriff offered neighboring Manalapan last month.
    Asked if he thought the sheriff was low-balling the town with the intent of hiking the cost substantially beginning in the third year, Schenck said, “They made the price so low you would really have to think about it.”
    This year’s police budget is $1,714,395. But Schenck anticipates a $122,000 budget increase next year to cover two new police cars and increases in health insurance and pension costs.
    The sheriff’s contract would shave this year’s budget by $569,000 if it were in effect now and cut next year’s anticipated costs by $691,000.
    “I think we need to look at this with an open mind. We need to make sure the level of service is not diminished,” said Commissioner Zoanne Hennigan, who has begun her own analysis of the finances.
    Even if the sheriff’s offer is unrealistically low the first two years and was increased later at twice the rate of Ocean Ridge’s current police budget increases, Hennigan calculated that it take 11 years before the cost of the sheriff’s office would match Ocean Ridge’s.
    “It’s the same officers, for the most part, just wearing a different uniform,” she said. She wants to interview officials in other towns who have switched to the sheriff’s office — such as Lake Worth, Wellington, Mangonia Park — to see if they are satisfied.
    Ocean Ridge Police Chief Chris Yannuzzi was skeptical of the proposed numbers, wondering how a proposal for eight deputies and a lieutenant in Manalapan costs $20,000 more than 10 deputies and a lieutenant in Ocean Ridge.
    He also noted there was no guarantee the town’s officers could shift to the sheriff’s office. Town officers who meet the sheriff’s standards would remain on duty in the town as sheriff’s deputies and operate from the town’s Police Department offices.  But no arrangements were made for the police chief, lieutenant or dispatchers.
    Most of the officers would earn more money if they were shifted to the sheriff’s office.
    The commission recently approved a 13th police position to move closer to having three officers on the street during every shift. The sheriff’s offer guarantees two.
    The town’s deputies would not answer calls at nearby county parks or county pockets, under the contract, except in “exigent circumstances.”
    But, Yannuzzi said, it seemed impractical for a deputy to drive from a Military Trail office to answer a call at Ocean Inlet Park when an Ocean Ridge deputy is much closer. He also said the cost of hiring deputies for special events and meetings would likely be higher than shuffling officers as Ocean Ridge does.
    “I think it’s premature and perhaps a little irresponsible to form an opinion now before we’ve even heard the proposal or asked any questions,” Commissioner Ed Brookes said. “The cart is way before the horse.”
    Town residents would lose the immediate response by town police to home alarms because the sheriff’s office does not offer that service.
    Schenck said that deputies would continue to make “dark house” checks, but that is not spelled out in the proposal and details of code enforcement would have to be worked out.
    During last summer’s budget hearings, former Mayor Ken Kaleel asked the sheriff’s office to make a proposal for commissioners to consider.
    Either party could cancel the contract by giving notice by June 30 for termination effective Oct. 1. The town would pay a $250,000 penalty for cancelling in the first year.
    As part of the fallout of Ocean Ridge hiring the sheriff’s department, nearby Briny Breezes would lose its $185,000 annual contract for police services from Ocean Ridge.                                   

PBSO presentations scheduled
Town of Manalapan
• 406 residents, 2.4 square miles
Manalapan commissioners scheduled a workshop session to discuss the sheriff’s $1.17 million proposal to provide police services for 10 a.m. April 23.

Town of Ocean Ridge
• 1,786 residents, 2 square miles
Ocean Ridge commissioners set a workshop session  for 6 p.m. May 8 to hear a presentation from the sheriff’s office and discuss the $1.15 million proposal.

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Comment by Lynn Anderson on April 9, 2012 at 9:58am

Be careful Ocean Ridge and Manalapan. You will lose total control of your public safety. Fighting the Unions and the PBSO will be a bigger hassle than you realize. You already pay for the Sheriff on your county advalorem. All the special services they provide you can already take advantage of them. And--it will be the same officers you now have. The only people this works out for are the officers and the PBSO, not you and your budget  in the long term. 

Comment by Dave Schiffour on April 9, 2012 at 6:33am

As a former police officer for Ocean Ridge back in the nineties, I never thought I would see the day where there was a possibility PBSO would be patrolling the town.  After reading this article, I am split down the middle.  Let me address Bob first.... Sir, this sounds like a win/win situation for the department members.  A raise, a take home car, the distinct title of Palm Beach County Sheriff's Deputy as opposed to Ocean Ridge Police Officer.  What's not to like right?  I guess my only thought is this..... the contract or proposal must be gone over with a fine tooth comb.  The officers that are patrolling the town now.....are they REALLY gonna be the same officers patrolling the town once they are in a green uniform?  What's not to say that a year from now some of the older deputies with more seniority come in and bump you guys from the area? Hey Ofc Bob....guess what?  We're gonna be moving you to Belle Glade or better yet, you'll be working afternoons in Riviera Beach. Yikes!!!!   On the other side of the coin.....I  am still friends with two outstanding Sergeants at the department who I think would be awesome in some of the specialized divisions PBSO has to offer.  Will they be afforded the opportunity to transfer if they wanted to?   The proposal should protect those who want to stay in the area and allow those who want to transfer to other opportunites to do so...... As for the dispatchers?  They need to be protected....PERIOD. 


To the residents/Comission: 

Alot of personalization will be lost when you are serviced by a larger organization, that's a given.  There will be no more calls to the police because Mrs. Fry's grass is one inch too tall.   No more calls about Mr. Smith's boat parked in his driveway overnight.  No more "traffic breaks" because you are an Ocean Ridge resident.  Back in the day when a commisioner called in a run, no matter what it was, it was handled as a priority one call...your calls will be handled just like everyone else's now.  And, I'm guessing as far as dispatch will eventually be calling into a communication center where the dispatcher may have never stepped foot in Ocean Ridge and doesn't know a thing about any of the resident's specific needs or idiosyncrasies.   But the $700,000 dollar question for you guys to figure out.  


As I said in the beginning......I am split down the middle. I want what's best for my former coworkers,  but I also still care a great deal about the fine residents I used to so proudly serve. 

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