By Tim O’Meilia
The South Palm Beach Town Council may soon be negotiating with its small police force over pay and benefits.
The Palm Beach County Police Benevolent Association has filed with the state’s Public
Employee Relations Commission to represent the town’s six rank-and-file
In response, the Town Council
voted 4-0 on April 27 to hire labor attorney Jeffrey Pheterson should the
police vote to join the union. Police in neighboring Manalapan recently voted
unanimously to join the PBA.
Under state law, the officers will vote whether to unionize in the next three months.
The police chief, captain and lieutenant would not be included in the
Mayor Martin Millar, who said he was a former member of the PBA before he retired,
endorsed the officers’ action. “I don’t see a problem with them signing up with
the PBA. It’s a benefit for them,” he said.
He said a union could provide lawyers to defend the police in civil suits, offer educational benefits and insurance policies for family members of police.
“I wish them the best,” said Police Chief Roger Crane, making no comment on the move.
Both Millar and council member Stella Jordan said
that a union was no guarantee the police would receive raises. The police
received no merit raises or cost of living increases in this year’s budget.
“That does not mean the town is held captive,” Jordan said.
“We have the right to say to them, ‘Officers, we don’t have the money,’ ” the mayor said.
In other business, the council said it would consider Jordan’s suggestion to
develop a “cost recovery policy,” such as charging for fire inspections, legal
notices and other government services.
The town faces a budget shortfall for the second consecutive year. Preliminary
figures show the town’s property values have dropped 20 percent. Town Manager
Rex Taylor estimated the town could lose $230,000 in property tax revenue. The
town, which has a single commercial entity, depends largely on property taxes
to meets its expenses.
An informational meeting for residents on a proposed erosion-preventing breakwater
was set for 4:30 p.m.
May 27 at the Town Hall.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will explain how the project would work if money
is found for the job.
The state has no money in its budget to pay its 50 percent share. The town would pay 20 percent and Palm Beach County 30 percent.
Planning Board Chairman Michael Nevard was reappointed to
a three-year term on the Planning Commission by a 3-2 vote, with Millar and Councilman Brian Merbler opposed.
Hotel owner Pjeter Paloka filed an ethics complaint against Nevard in February.