By Steve Plunkett
The green uniforms and patrol cars of the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office may one day replace the Manalapan Police Department’s familiar blue trappings.
The Sheriff’s Office is offering to provide law enforcement to Manalapan for $1.17 million a year the first two years, an almost 17 percent savings from the $1.4 million the town plans to spend this year.
Commissioner Donald Brennan, who asked his colleagues to hear the proposal Feb. 28 while Manalapan’s winter residents are still in town, said personal security should be the goal of any discussions of law enforcement.
“I’m one of the few people in this community that had a very major burglary,” said Brennan, who was not in house at the time, “I don’t want to have that experience at 3 o’clock in the morning. I don’t want to live in what has been described as an upscale community... and have a loaded gun at my head.”
Sheriff’s Maj. Dan Smith said the town’s acting police chief, Carmen Mattox, would become a sheriff’s lieutenant and his eight officers would become deputies.
“The uniforms change, but the law enforcement staff is going to stay the same,” he said.
Manalapan’s one part-time and three full-time dispatchers would be “encouraged” to apply for vacant positions with the Sheriff’s Office, Smith said.
The possible merger would give Manalapan residents “greatly enhanced” security and safety and use human, financial and capital resources more efficiently, the proposal said.
“Citizens want to feel connected with their community and its services,” the proposal said. “The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office prides itself on our ability to partner with citizens to resolve issues.”
The Sheriff’s Office would provide many services the town police do not, including marine enforcement, forensic biology and its SWAT team.
But deputies would not perform code enforcement, the proposal notes. Mayor Basil Diamond said the town would also have to spend $61,000 to $182,000 a year for a security guard at the Point’s gatehouse if dispatchers were no longer there.
Manalapan would keep its “sense of ownership” over the force because the same officers would patrol the town, the sheriff’s proposal says. “No local control is lost because the Sheriff’s Office staff understands the concept of customer service,” it says.
Police Officer Paul Williams, who is also the department’s union representative, said his colleagues would be rewarded with pay raises, a more generous pension plan and take -home squad cars. A sheriff’s deputy with three years’ experience earns $63,000 a year, Williams said, while the average Manalapan police salary is $43,000.
The Sheriff’s Office currently contracts services to Lake Worth, Mangonia Park, Lake Park, Wellington, Royal Palm Beach, South Bay, Pahokee and Belle Glade.
Manalapan residents who reacted to the Feb. 28 presentation mostly opposed any switch.
“The proposal says we’re not giving up any local control. We certainly are giving up local control... I don’t buy that for a minute,” resident Bill Gerrish said.
“A $200,000 difference does not affect this community,” said Sylvia Rogers. “Financially we can afford it.”
Town commissioners agreed more meetings are needed.
“I see this as the beginning of a dialog,” Brennan said.
“I think there are a lot of questions that weren’t totally anticipated beforehand,” Diamond said.
Commissioners decided to hold a workshop in April to discuss the idea further. The Sheriff’s proposal will be posted on Manalapan’s website for residents to study.
By Steve Plunkett