Lantana: Lantana declines invitation to bid on policing South Palm

Related Story: South Palm Beach: Sheriff’s unscheduled presentation to council brings objections

By Dan Moffett

Lantana Town Council members are very pleased with the state of their Police Department.
So pleased, in fact, that most of them don’t even want to consider expanding it into another community.
It took the council less than 15 minutes during the May 13 town meeting to turn down an invitation from South Palm Beach to take a look at providing police services for the town.
The vote was 3-2 against exploring the expansion. Councilmen Lynn Moorhouse, Ed Shropshire and Phil Aridas voted no. Mayor Dave Stewart and Vice Mayor Malcolm Balfour voted yes, believing the idea was at least worth examining.
“It adds depth of service, and that’s the whole thing about adding more employees,” Stewart said of a potential expansion. “It actually costs our town no additional money — just like we do with Hypoluxo. I personally would like to see us go forward, but the consensus is to not even give them a proposal.”
With 33 sworn officers, Lantana’s department also provides police services for the 2,800 residents of neighboring Hypoluxo. But Moorhouse said he was “very neutral” on expanding further outside the town limits, without support for the idea from Police Chief Sean Scheller.
“If there’s any hesitation from our Police Department,” Moorhouse said, “I don’t want to go into this. I respect them 100 percent. They’re doing a great job. If they’re happy where they are right now, I don’t want this.”
Scheller, who has been chief for seven years, said his department is in a good place right now, though he took neither side in the debate.
“I am perfectly content with the Police Department that we have,” Scheller said. “There are pros and cons to expanding. If you want to explore it we can, but I like the level of service that we provide to our residents.”
Aridas said he was concerned that South Palm Beach officers had been outspoken in expressing their desire to merge with the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office — not Lantana.
“Why would we want to take disgruntled employees into our grips?” Aridas asked. “To make an employee happy is hard enough. To bring them in when they’re not happy is twice the battle.”
Town Manager Deborah Manzo said she believed the call from South Palm Beach was worth considering because it offered the town a rare chance to add an asset for the long run.
“I think you want to look long-term because this opportunity is not going to come up too often,” Manzo told the council. “And it could be something that in the future might be good for the town.”
In other business, the town got a clean bill of financial health from its auditing firm, Grau & Associates of Boca Raton. The auditors’ annual report found no deficiencies, made no recommendations for changes and commended the town’s staff for high levels of professionalism and cooperation, Grau partner Racquel McIntosh told the council.

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