By Tim O’Meilia
Imagine unmanned drones patrolling the Manalapan shoreline or helium-filled balloons surveilling the beach or infra-red cameras spying north and south after dark along the oceanfront. However fantastic and unlikely — except perhaps the cameras — those are some of the solutions town commissioners learned could be used to combat beach-going trespassers.
    Town commissioners will consider those and more mundane and practical solutions, such as weekend marine and beach patrols, during an Aug. 27 budget workshop.
    Commissioners all but vetoed the idea of contracting police services with the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office during a July 18 workshop.
    Although they didn’t take an official vote, five of six commissioners said they would rather stick with their own police force even if it means spending more to protect against beach-going trespassers.
     Mayor Basil Diamond said the issue should be reconsidered periodically and noted the town made an unsuccessful effort at joint cooperation on policing with other coastal towns.
The sheriff’s office has offered a two-year contract at $1.17 million, compared with the town police force cost next year of $1.3 million.
    Police Chief Carmen Mattox and Town Manager Linda Stumpf have proposed hiring two part-time police officers for a Friday-Sunday daytime beach patrol and contracting with Lantana or the sheriff’s office for Saturday and Sunday marine patrol.
    In addition, they would restore a police support services position to help with administrative duties and increase police liability insurance to $5 million. The police budget would increase to $1.52 million.
    Adding similar marine and beach patrol duties to the sheriff’s contract would raise it to $1.28 million, making the difference about $240,000 annually.  
    “It’s got to be demonstrated to me there is significant difference in cost,” said Commissioner David Cheifetz. “We’re not going to save much money and we’re not going to get any more coverage. I’m at the point that the PBSO should be taken off the table.”
    All but Commissioner Donald Brennan agreed. “The (cost) gap is significant. To manage outsourced vendors and patch it together and fill up the gaps is the wrong way to go,” he said. “We ought to continue to pursue a full-service operation.”
    Commissioners refused to slam the door on talks with the sheriff’s office, defeating Commissioner John Murphy’s motion to end any negotiations by a 4-3 vote with Diamond casting the deciding ballot.
    “The quotes in the sheriff’s office offer aren’t worth the paper it’s written on,” Murphy said.
    With the sheriff’s offer all but dead, commissioners said they would resume contract negotiations with the police union.
    Commissioners spent several minutes examining a photograph of weekend beachgoers north of the sand transfer plant, trying to determine where the mean high water mark fell (which delineates public and private property) and which beachgoers would have to move their blankets.
    “The amount of illicit sex — mostly homosexual — taking place in heavy sea grapes is unacceptable,” Brennan said of his encounters with beach lovers who he said dug foxhole-like love nests on his seaside property.
    Commissioner Louis DeStefano, a 22-year oceanfront owner, said the solution is not confronting beachgoers. ‘‘I don’t say a word to anyone and no one bothers me,” he said.
    Mattox said a series of steps has been taken to discourage beachgoers from treading on the property of Manalapan homeowners.
    A beach access sign at the Boynton Inlet will be removed and the gate closed after 8 p.m. The roped pathway to the beach will direct beachgoers to the inlet beach and green signs emphasizing Manalapan’s ordinances will be erected.  
    In other business:
    Commissioners set a tentative tax rate for next year at $3.35 per $1,000 of taxable property value although all indicated the rate would be reduced before the September budget hearings. The current rate is $2.78. Commissioners said they wanted flexibility to deal with the possibility of increased costs for upgrading the police force. DeStefano opposed the rate.
    Commissioners also agreed to place a term limit question on the March 2013 ballot. If approved, commissioner and the mayor would be limited to three consecutive two-year terms in each office or four terms in combination.    

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