The Coastal Star

Ocean Ridge: Public safety savings would come with loss of services

By Tim Pallesen
Ocean Ridge residents would lose quick response to burglar alarms and 24-hour access to Town Hall if the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office takes over town policing, a new analysis shows.
    A code enforcement officer also would need to be hired, and the town would turn over $300,000 worth of cars, guns and radios to the sheriff.
    The cost comparison analysis prepared by Town Manager Ken Schenck will be presented to the Town Council on Nov. 5.
    The sheriff has offered police protection to Ocean Ridge for $1.1 million a year, compared with the $1.9 million that the town pays for its own police force now.
    But Schenck said the town would lose $289,375 in revenue if it contracts with the sheriff, so the true cost would be $1.4 million.
    “The major plus in going with the sheriff would be saving half a million dollars a year,” Schenck said. “But people say they don’t mind spending a little bit more.”
    The recalculated tax savings if Ocean Ridge goes with the sheriff would be $369 a year for the owner of a home with $500,000 in taxable value.
    Schenck’s report details services that Ocean Ridge residents would give up by losing their own police department.
    “The savings need to be weighed against the services we would lose if we contracted with the sheriff,” Schenck wrote. “There are several services and benefits that the residents presently enjoy that would be changed.”
    Town Hall with no police dispatchers on site would be open only weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Residents now can go to Town Hall both at night and on weekends to speak with a town employee.
    Sheriff’s dispatchers wouldn’t perform extra duties — such as registering pets and giving resident vehicle decals — that town dispatchers perform now. Schenck said the town would need to hire a code enforcement officer at a cost of $50,000 to perform the building inspections that town police officers do now.
    Ocean Ridge homeowners now can pay to have town police respond immediately when their home burglar alarm sounds. The sheriff would require that an alarm company call dispatchers to request a response. “This will delay response time,” Schenck wrote.
    “Some people would say these are emotional issues that have no bearing. I would disagree,” Police Chief Chris Yannuzzi said.     
    “You shouldn’t just look at the financial comparison between $1.9 million and $1.1 million,” Yannuzzi said. “You would be going from a police department that’s fully functional to one where services would have to be reduced.”                                  

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