News-Sun photo by KATARA SIMMONS Avon Park Police Department officer Orlando Esquibel patrols along Main Street on Thursday morning in Avon Park. Officer Esquibel said he is concerned about losing his job if the sheriff takes over APPD.
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published: Friday, June 29, 2012
Sheriff: APPD takeover would be 'win-win'
By CHRISTOPHER TUFFLEY
AVON PARK -- At the request of the council during its regular meeting June 11, city manager Julian Deleon approached Sheriff Susan Benton for a proposal to provide law enforcement services for the city.
On Monday, the sheriff submitted that proposal.
Before listing the advantages she felt contracting with HCSO would offer, she said she was committed to "ensuring those members of the Avon Park Police Department, who wish to continue to serve our community, will be given first opportunity to become a member of the Highlands County Sheriff's Office."
She then listed the advantages.
The sheriff's office and detention services are both accredited, Benton said. "There are 250 required standards just within the law enforcement discipline that we have met. Our general orders are reviewed and approved annually."
The HCSO develops and maintains a strategic plan that is "highly accountable and forecasts planning for three years. This plan is community driven ... and directly connected to our budget."
The HCSO has additional resources that will be available to the city on a full-time basis, she said. Those resources include a special victims unit -- to deal with investigations of child and elder abuse -- a crime scene unit with a laboratory and fingerprint analysis equipment.
According to the sheriff, the cost for providing law enforcement services would be $983,280. The city currently budgets $2 million for the police department.
"This amount is for personnel costs," said Benton, "and $80,000 -- $5,000 per deputy -- in operating costs such as uniforms ... fuel, vehicle maintenance, radio maintenance and the operating costs.
"All equipment, including the current police department fleet, radios, mobile computers, firearms, Tasers, and other law enforcement equipment will be transferred to the sheriff's office inventory," she added.
Generally speaking, the sheriff said, Avon Park would become a "specific cost center within our budget where all costs will be tracked ... you will have a complete accounting of all costs for services and we will reconcile at the end of each financial year ... any fund balance is redistributed accordingly."
The sheriff's proposal does not address the issue of who would be responsible for cost overruns should they occur.
The sheriff said she felt the proposal provided a "win-win" for everyone, particularly the city's police officers. For example, she said, they will have access to more diverse training and experience and more opportunities for advancement.
In presenting the proposal to the public, Deleon made it clear there would be extended discussions regarding the proposal, including special meetings with the local police union and the general public. In addition he will be meeting with the cities of Frostproof, Eagle Lake, Dundee and Fort Meade for feed back from other municipalities "regarding their experience in contracting services with the Polk County sheriff's office. We want to hear the good and the bad," he said.
The steep differences in costs for services are primarily attributed to differing models between the HCSO and Avon Park police operations, Deleon said. "The sheriff's office has an existing administrative infrastructure of operations and supervision to absorb these additional responsibilities."
The sheriff would replace the city's current 22 sworn officers and three civilians with 16 sworn officers and one civilian, said Deleon. Avon Park would become a "hub" for the north county and city operations. The police department building would house the deputies and detectives assigned to the North County region.
Despite the proposed savings, Deleon added, the city "will continue with legacy pension obligations. These obligations will be presented at a planned special council meeting on July 11th, at 5 p.m."
Deleon said he had also invited the Florida League of Cities to a planned council meeting to present a proposal for the administration of the city's pension systems. He has invited the city's pension board of trustees to attend the meeting.
"The League currently manages over 100 pensions state wide with over $360 million in assets," Deleon said.
He added that during union negotiations the city will remain open to any viable options proposed by the police department, which will be publicly presented to the city council. Negotiations have been scheduled for July 11th and 16th.
"We will work closely with our local police union to explore available options to restructure operations," he said.
The 30-day negotiation and feedback period for the police union will be completed on July 26, Deleon said. At that time he will bring all available alternatives by the sheriff, the city and the union to the city council for formal discussion, consideration and further community input.
"This is a complicated decision that will not be taken lightly," Deleon said. "All required due diligence will be performed in preparation to discuss all viable options to the city. The positives and the negatives, advantages and disadvantages ... we will make every effort to communicate with our residents and employees."
Ultimately, Deleon said, the final decision rests with the city council.
"It would be premature for me to make any formal comment at this time," Public Safety Director John King said Thursday. "Officers and union representatives are actively working to come up with a long-term solution to the rising pension costs." He added they will also be reviewing the figures regarding projected savings to the city for accuracy.
The good ol days (by: Dixie - 7/2/2012)
If everyone really stopped to think about it, we all want the same thing. We want personalized service although the vast majority will never need it. We want people to stay employed although not everyone is entitled to that priviledge. We want safe neighborhoods for our kids, but we all know that no one is really safe in any place, no matter how ritzy the city. We want have our cake and eat it too. I have yet to see any industry, business, mom 'n pop joint that has the choice to blow a million dollars just to keep a sacred cow.
Ray Napper (Part 2) (by: This is Pat - 7/2/2012)
I was unable to finish my last post due to hitting the character limit. My next move if I was Sheriff would be re-writing the policies to make sure the hard working Deputies can do their jobs without having to second guess themselves because of restrictive policies. I would also not punish members of the department if they supported another candidate during the Sheriff election (This has happened under the current administration as well as the old administration). As for people who have just been discharged from jail making charges against local Law Enforcement, I agree with you 100%. I am nowhere close to that category. Tonight while you are sleeping peacefully I will be out patrolling the streets making sure everyone is safe.
Ray Napper (Part 1) (by: This is Pat - 7/2/2012)
You always come up with smart alec answers. If anything I defended the Deputies at HCSO. I said that the policies under the current HCSO Administration are so restrictive the Deputies can't effectively do their jobs. If I was Sheriff, I would do away with the Accreditation process. Accreditation is a joke and a waste of money. It empowers another organazation to tell you how to run the agency. It also adds more useless policies and bureaucracy that prevent Deputies from effectively doing their jobs. I would rather spend the money getting the Deputies better equipment or hiring more Deputies. I would also reduce the size of the the Administration at HCSO. For example, they currently have a Captain over the "Communications Division" and the "Court Related Services" Division. This is unnecessary and could be merged into one supervisor position or even done by a civillian. There are other positions like that at HCSO that could be merged to cut down on Administration.
lets be real (by: wake up - 7/2/2012)
The cost savings being sought, ate necessary, to pay for five ongoing lawsuits, 4 of which the city is going to lose. When the taxpayer finally figures out what is going on here, they will wish they had a PD to cart off they government officials that squandered the money. This is not about saving money for the citizens, its about having enough money for the government of AP to cover their a...
Avon Park PD (by: Concerned in AP. - 7/1/2012)
Susan Benton just wants to control the whole county, I love the APPD, they have a much better response time than the HCSO. My house was being broken into last year and because I live in AP lakes it was the HCSO that needed to respond. It took them 11 minutes to get to my house and 90 seconds for the APPD. If there is a petition I can sign to keep the APPD I'm there. If there isn't I'm signing one ASAP.
hcso (by: taxpayer - 7/1/2012)
Aren't we all paying county taxes as well as city taxes the sherriff receives money froam all city residents now why and additional million to do what we are already paying for!!
Stinkie (by: Malcolm - 6/30/2012)
I heard HCSO only took 3 Dispatchers from APPD when they consolidated. I think 2 of them are still with HCSO and 1 is at Polk County Dispatch (I think). I am not sure what some of the others are doing but I know 2 of their former Dispatchers are now Police Officer's in a neighboring county.
I could have sworn... (by: Ray Napper - 6/30/2012)
...that the HCSO deputies were from Highlands County. You act like they are the scum of the Earth. Tell you what you want APPD then pass and extra assessment to pay for them. It really is just that simple. Then let's see where the support is or isn't. While a few may post here in support, the ballot box always tells a different story. I suspect if you tell the people it will save them a few dollars they want the deal.
A P Police (by: Bluekid - 6/30/2012)
Accredidation! (by: Brother in Blue - 6/30/2012)
Accredidation is nothing more than a fancy title that gives the SO stickers to place on the cars. Does it make the Deputies better? No way!! Accredidation is a leach on taxpayers so an agency can say "Look at what I created!" Look up the annual costs and the preliminary costs. Then, see what the county residents got for that money.
Choices (by: Sam Schultz - 6/30/2012)
Where else in this country do people have a choice to jump on an opportunity to KEEP THEIR JOB? Why on earth would the residents of AP want to pay taxes for two law enforcement agancies? Consolidation is good when it comes to merging phone companies; merging hospitals and what not. Why is it any different for a police department?
Avon Park Takeover (by: Concerned Citizen - 6/30/2012)
Wake up call APPD. You have a chance to stay in the ball game but you are going to have to dump the union attitude, learn to humble yourselves a little and be grateful to just have a job (even a less than perfect one) in these times, and become more visibly more valuable to your community than anyone else. If all you are is "more for me," your days are numbered. It's going to take leadership from within, not from the ones wearing the rank.
Highlands County (by: Truthful Tony - 6/30/2012)
The whole city of Avon Park needs to be taken over NOW. This place has gone down the drain and it's dried up. It used to be a charming place that was safe to raise kids in. Now there is nothing for kids to do, no activities, no where to have fun, no entertainment. You want to brag about all of the drug arrests in Avon Park? Does this mean you are improving our quality of life? NO. Busting teenagers smoking marijuana is about the easiest thing in the world to do. How about cleaning out the prostitution, meth & cocaine rings? The police look the other way and allow gang members to take over the town. APPD is either stupid, naive, or both. Wake up. This whole place is ridden with dishonest, selfish, trashy human beings who moved here because they knew the cops are not knowledgeable enough to figure them out. There is no reason for anyone decent to want to visit here, much less live here. I'm about ready to abandoned my home and let the bank have it so I can move to a better city.
APPD (by: Honest Abe - 6/30/2012)
Great idea-they need to go through the application process all over again, not automatically be retained. Sheriff, please weed out the ones who are substandard! There are only a few good police officers in Avon Park. The majority have no sense and are corrupt criminals themselves. EVERYONE KNOWS WHO YOU ARE. I welcome the take over by the county. Hopefully, there will be more oversight and they will get rid of the bad apples. Hallelujah, Amen.
HCSO Takeover (by: This is Pat - 6/30/2012)
Riiiiiiiiiight. APPD has had their bumps in the road but currently has the right man for the job (John King). I understand APPD has a history but what department has not had problems? I feel bad for some of the Officer's that will lose their jobs if this happens. They have house payments, car payments, families, kids, ect. The job climate for Law Enforcement is terrible in Florida right now. They would have to start all over in applying to different places if HCSO does not hire them. I don't trust Sheriff Benton saying APPD's Officer's will be given first opportunity to apply. Sheriff Benton is a politician before anything. Not to mention HCSO is a joke under her and her staff's leadership. The politics and bureaucracy at HCSO is so terrible with extreme policies and procedures that prevents the Deputies from effectively doing their jobs. God Bless APPD!
HCSO better for AP (by: AP Resident - 6/30/2012)
Sheriff Benton says APPD officers will be given first opportunity to become a member, and that is great, but it does not mean they should automatically be made deputies. OF COURSE THEY SHOULD GO THROUGH THE APPLICATION PROCESS, "Brother in Blue." They will be held to even higher standards. At least that is what one would hope. Would you want ALL the officers who have been with the APPD in the last few years automatically given a post with the sheriff's office? I sure wouldn't. I would like them all to have the opportunity FIRST and then see if they are fit.
APPD TAKEOVER (by: Stinkie - 6/29/2012)
Check out how many dispatchers from Avon Park and Sebring are employed at HCSO after that part of the dispatch center takeover. . . . and who cares if you have a pretty policy book approved for accreditation by some guy from some other department getting paid and put up at a hotel at HC taxpayers hidden costs. It's about paying people to serve the public, not a full-time staff of three in house to write policies. Anyone could have a pretty policy book with that much taxpayer dollars invested into it. Come on John King. Quit being Deleon's puppet and stand up for your people.
HCSO vs APPD (by: AP voter and taxpayer - 6/29/2012)
All in all I ask myself if my family, friend or I was a vicitim of a true or even brutal crime WHO would I want to be there HCSO or APPD.. at the end of the day the Sheriff's Office due to a higher level of training and manpower But now I am forced now to use APPD who has been found incompetent so many times..It should be voted on by the towns people of Avon Park we will be the customer of either Department and should have a voice...
HCSO APPD (by: Brother in Blue - 6/29/2012)
All the things she claims will be available to the citizens of AP are already available. APPD works with HCSO when necessary.
HCSO Takeover (by: Law enforcement retiree - 6/29/2012)
Please residents and taxpayers in Avon Park step up and be counted. Has anyone talked to Sun N Lake folks about Julian deLeon's time there? Dig deep folks and do not take things at face value. Personal agendas are alive and well in Avon Park. Don't let Avon Park become strictly a zip code in Highland County. The public safety director and officers do not deserve this attack and ongoing threats hanging over their heads. Let them do the good jobs they have been doing. Bad rep in the old days, probably, but NOT NOW. Wake up Avon Park before it is too late. What next Fire Department?
Avon Park Police (by: MR. WONDERFUL - 6/29/2012)
This would be a excellent idea...Avon Park Police has a very tainted past, saves lots of money, more protection with modern technology and Avon Park could use the extra money to invest in new projects for roads and businesses. I think this should of taken place a few years back.
HCSO Takeover (by: Brother in Blue - 6/29/2012)
Sheriff Benton says the APPD officers will be given first opportunity to become a member of the Highlands County Sheriff's Office. That is political talk. She will make them go through a application process and weed them out. DO NOT FALL FOR THIS SCAM AVON PARK!!
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