By Steve Plunkett
Former Mayor Ken Kaleel, who first suggested asking how much the sheriff would charge to patrol the town, will analyze exactly what police services Ocean Ridge should demand.
Town leaders chose Kaleel to report on what the town needs and what alternatives it might have after Commissioner Zoanne Hennigan said she did not think the town manager or its police chief could gather the information in a comprehensive and unbiased fashion.
“Many of you thought that this was just a financial issue. It’s far more than that,” Hennigan said. “From what I’ve seen there’s serious relationship issues between the officers and the chief, between the chief and the town manager and between some of the commissioners and residents with the town manager.”
The decision to continue discussions with the Sheriff’s Office came June 4 after commissioners heard nearly two hours of comments from the public.
“To throw out the proposal completely and stop doing anything to me is a little, is a lot shortsighted,” Mayor Geoff Pugh said.
The Sheriff’s Office offers to put two deputies on patrol 24 hours a day and a third deputy from 3 to 11 p.m., or a total of 10 officers, for $1.15 million for each of the first two years. Chief Chris Yannuzzi would become the supervising lieutenant; dispatchers would have to apply for vacancies in the sheriff’s communications center.
Town Manager Ken Schenck has said the proposal equals a $544,000 savings for Ocean Ridge taxpayers.
The town’s Police Department now has eight officers on the road, four sergeants, a lieutenant and the chief. Commissioners told Yannuzzi to go ahead and hire an additional officer they authorized in March as well as fill a vacant dispatch position.
Schenck said this year’s negotiations with the police union would begin June 20.
Under the Sheriff’s Office proposal, officers would receive higher salaries, cheaper medical insurance and a take-home car.