The Coastal Star

PBSO Marine unit moves office from Boynton Inlet

By Nirvi Shah


The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Marine Patrol unit no longer uses the Boynton Inlet
as its headquarters and the area will also lose the deputies that patrol Ocean
Inlet Park.


The Marine Unit moved because of its cramped quarters and because its south county
location meant it was sometimes inefficient to patrol some of the northern
coastline, sheriff’s spokeswoman Teri Barbera said.


The 12 deputies, two sergeants, a lieutenant, two mechanics and other staff simply
didn’t fit anymore in their offices at Boynton Inlet. They have moved into
bigger digs at Phil Foster Park in Riviera Beach.


Barbera said there will always be some members of the Marine Unit working at Boynton
Inlet, though she couldn’t say exactly how many because of homeland security
rules.


She said although there will be fewer deputies and their patrol boats at Boynton
Inlet, the area will be no less protected.


“The coverage will be the same, but we are saving money,’’ Barbera said. “”It took
us an hour to get to Jupiter. We’re definitely more centralized.”


Local police agencies said they liked having the Marine Unit close by, but they
understand the need to become more efficient in times of tight budgets.


“Those more personal relationships where our officers know their officers, if you need
us call — we’ll miss that, which makes for a good working relationship,’’
Manalapan Police Chief Clay Walker said. “I still think they’ll be here when we
need them.”


The Sheriff’s Marine Unit helps with immigrants coming ashore, boat fires and other
distress calls from troubled boaters.


Amy Tolderland at SeaTow said she can’t see the harm in a change in the unit’s
office headquarters.


“As long as they’re out there in the water, where they have their office is
irrelevant,” she said. “Our whole thing is what goes on away from the dock.”


Still, though they will still be patrolling the waters near the inlet, Capt. John
Allen of Loggerhead Dive Charters said Boynton Inlet needs the Marine Unit to
be close at hand.


“You can read the sign: It’s a nonnavigable inlet designed for drainage,” Allen
said. “It’s so narrow. The current is so fast going in and out. There’s a
sandbar out in front of the inlet.


“We’re going to miss them,” he said. “They’re able to respond to pretty much
anything.”

County park officers cut


At the same time the Marine Unit’s presence may diminish, the sheriff’s office is
cutting the 52-member parks enforcement staff to save about $7 million — part
of a larger budget-cutting undertaking. The deputies will be reassigned to
other duties, and the county’s Parks and Recreation Department will have to
take on some of their responsibilities, said Eric Call, assistant director of
the department.


“It’s a pretty significant hit,” Call said. County parks have had a dedicated law
enforcement unit for more than 30 years. The downsizing isn’t supposed to go
into effect until Oct. 1, but Call said most deputies have already been
reassigned to other jobs away from the county’s 81 parks, including at Ocean
Inlet Park at Boynton Inlet and Gulfstream Park near Gulf Stream.


The county has about 17 park rangers who will remain at work. Maintenance staff
will take over the duties of opening and closing parks. Sheriff’s deputies on
road patrol duty will be called in when needed — but it’s not the same, Call
said.


“It’s certainly a greater deterrent seeing a green and white vehicle driving through
the parks,” he said. “It’s going to be a tough one.”

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