click any photo to view this story's photo gallery
published: Wednesday, July 18, 2012
APPD deadline looms
By CHRISTOPHER TUFFLEY
AVON PARK -- On June 11, the city council, in a 3-2 vote, directed city manager Julian Deleon to approach Highlands County Sheriff Susan Benton for an estimate of what it would cost the sheriff's office to provide law enforcement service for the city.
The final decision about whether to contract with the sheriff or continue with the local police department may be made as early as July 23. It absolutely has to be done by Aug. 4.
The primary issue is one of expense, triggered by the rising costs of the police department's dedicated benefit pension plan.
The majority of the council wanted to know which law enforcement service would be less costly to the city.
Both Micciche and Deleon praised the negotiating process and those taking part. They each said discussions were useful and courteous.
This is a change from complaints last week regarding alleged police intimidation during earlier city council meetings. According to Deleon some council members reported feeling so threatened that he formally requested four sheriff deputies be assigned to city council meetings to keep order in future discussions.
On June 26, the sheriff released a proposal providing for a force of 16 sworn officers and one civilian for an annual fee of $980,000.
Another $75,000 was later added as a contingency fund in the event of cost overruns, like unexpected overtime costs or emergency replacement of equipment. That money would return to the city if it was not used.
Generally speaking then, the sheriff's proposal rounds out to about $1.1 million.
The police department is proposing changes to make it financially competitive with the sheriff that would lower its costs to between $1.4 and $1.8 million.
Stephen Micciche is the chief negotiator for the local PBA. In a telephone interview with the News-Sun on Tuesday morning, he explained the PBA position.
Micciche said that, obviously, most police concerns had to do with job security, adding this is not the first time the idea of abolishing the police department has been raised.
"They have been living under the threat of a Damocles Sword for years," Micciche said. The department hopes one result of negotiations is that the subject is put to rest.
Police officers, however, said Micciche, recognize the need for compromise and concessions.
They are willing to reform their pension options, moving to a defined contribution plan and away from a defined benefit plan for all new hires and officers with fewer than five years of service.
This means the city can negotiate cap costs on police contributions. At the same time the officers will increase their personal payroll contribution to 8 percent, from 5 percent, saving the city 3 percent in pension contribution costs.
The sheriff's proposal called for a smaller force, fielding only 16 officers.
While concerned that reducing the force so much might leave coverage "at a dangerous level," Micciche said the union is willing to look at laying off up to four officers itself to bring its numbers closer to the sheriff's: 18 as opposed to 16 sworn officers.
Some of the sheriff's savings don't really the city money, Micciche said.
For example, in one proposed scenario, where the sheriff's office takes over law enforcement and three Avon Park senior officers remain on the payroll to oversee that service, the city would be responsible for those three officer's salaries and equipment, at an annual cost of approximately $361,000.
This, Micciche said, further diminishes the difference in cost between the sheriff's proposal and the department's contract.
Finally, it is not as if the city were in debt and financial trouble, Micciche said.
In fact, city council has voted to lower the city's millage, and has already budgeted $2 million for the department -- more than the police department believes it needs before the new proposed cuts are made.
The ultimate choice in choosing to contract with the sheriff or sign a contract with the existing department is up to the city council. Deleon told the News-sun he will bring each proposal before the city council for its deliberation and decision.
"Unfortunately," Deleon wrote in an e-mail, "the council is not able to formally discuss or consider the Sheriff's proposal until the Aug. 4th scheduled meeting."
He will present the police union's proposal at the July 23 regular city council meeting.
On July 23, Deleon said, "the city council has basically has three options. One, they can vote to ratify (the PBA contract), they vote to decline, or three, they can table (the question) until Aug. 4th. They may ask me to negotiate more.
"For clarification," Deleon stressed, "the sheriff's proposal is nothing more than a response to a city request."
APPD (by: super star - 7/23/2012)
The cost is to high , Any defence atty worth their salt will chalange any APPD arrest .To respond to these issues is costly. Sheriff Benton and her people are best for this job. Stop sending APFD to low priority MED calls , Lower GI bleed at the nursing home realy?
police Pensions (by: realist - 7/20/2012)
Just wondering if the police officers had not joined a union and demanded more in pay and pension than a small town can afford would there jobs be on the line. Unions kill more jobs than the help.
APPD (by: just me! - 7/20/2012)
AVON PARK, is not the only small town who is trying to save money by getting rid of there police dept.Many of those cities have taken back there police department because what was promised did not happen and response times were horrable. you will not get deputies assigned just to AP, the city will be considered as part of the north end and will be handled by north end units, so if there is a need for leo, you may have to wait for a Deputy to come from Sun N Lakes area or Avon Lakes area, or even sebring if the others are busy on calls.also every city mgr. has a take home car this is not new, or special to JULIAN. LEO take there cars home, some AP officers live in Sebring, so whats the the big deal.stop blaming Julion for everything, he has put alot of money back in the bank for AP. and as far as Rowan, HE BROKE THE LAW PEOPLE!!! he is not above the law just because he became chief. GET over it!!!.the thugs are just waiting for this transaction to take place, because it will be open season in our town for crime!, one more thing APPD has had no more drama than HCSO or SPD, but News people grab on to APPD because it sells papers, and people love to read Crap!.
Enough is Enough (by: Wife of a boy in blue - 7/20/2012)
I stand corrected! Its a Grand Cherokee! I understand that the Police officers have their own vehicle provided by the city, and the gas they put in these vehicles are also paid by the city. However, they are driving around the city to PROTECT the citizens, not to threaten and exploit them for reasons unknown. I would gladly pay for a vehicle and gas, to know that my family is being looked out for. In regards to the bad reputation that APPD has had... I agree that it has been a struggle in the past, but i think that King has cleaned up this department and had created a brotherhood/team that is above par. If AAPD still has a bad rep, its due to the ignorance of others and not being able to let go of the past and focus on the here and now. I have no doubt that the SO has great officers, but this is not the issue at hand. The issue is with less officers in the area, we are going to have less protection for our families, and the officers will be open to a greater risk without backup. DeLeon is in my opinion, a manipulator, who will do everything in his power to shut down Avon Park. Even if it means calling the paper to do an expose' on how he was verbally assaulted by another officer, and felt intimidated. As a witness to the events that took place after the council meeting, i can promise you, he is being anything but truthful in the matter. I feel, if he has to stoop down to this level of lying to the community for which he is supposed to serve, we need to get someone else in there who is actually concerned about the people instead of publicity.
Sticking together (by: deuce - 7/19/2012)
Sticking together is a wonderful concept. But it doesnt work in the real world when you have a family first to support. I think confusing pride with principle is a very dangerous mind game. Once you seperate the two, you wise up and realize that pride gets you nowhere and principle is in the eyes of the beholder. Its all a mind game. Move On.
APPD (by: Sick&Tired - 7/19/2012)
The City as a whole reeks of corruption, including the termination of Michael Rowan. This act by Barrack Deleon should further reiterate to "we the tax payers" the un-transparent deals that are occurring behind closed doors. I say we clean house, keep the good cops and start over. Shame on the Police Administration for not exercising their constitutional duties to protect their employers (Tax Payers) and the fellow officers interests at hand. Though it seems if you try to stand up to the council and their unethical ways, you get fired and thrown under the bus! I hope Rowan exposes the truth through a jury of his peers in Federal Court and removes the corruption and deceitful ones who rule the City of HELL!
Deleon (by: mathman - 7/19/2012)
I dont get why everyone is concerned about what he drives when every city manager has had a car before him. Last time I looked, every cop drives a car to and from work too with gas paid for by the tax payers. Avon park has been a joke for so long and most of it because of their own police force. Every headline in the last ten years has been over something some cop in Avon Park did.
Wife of a boy in green (by: My family not yours - 7/19/2012)
I worry that my husband in green will end up in Avon Park and have nothing but harrassment from anyone related to an officer from Avon Park. He has made really good relationships all over the county and pretty much everyone tells him that Avon Park is as closed minded as they come. I hope that if this ends up with Benton, that the locals from AP dont make the work of those that get stuck with Avon Park more difficult than it has to be.
Deleonmobile (by: Brother in Blue - 7/19/2012)
Mother of boy in blue- Deleon drives a Jeep Grand Cherokee, an even more expensive ride than the Liberty. And you are correct, why does a city manager need a Jeep GRAND CHEROKEE to drive from AP to LP? Why does a city manager need a take home car when they wont allow most police officers? OH, there I go again...Thinking about the police officers and their need to possibly respond quickly.
Budget (by: Voter - 7/19/2012)
Budget (by: Voter - 7/19/2012)
APPD was already in an approved budget for 2013. Why the rush? Oh yeah. The sheriff dictated the rules. It's this year or never. Way to cave. Can't wait to read about the turn out in the next election.
Tax Payers (by: Taxpayer - 7/19/2012)
Standard contract deal. Bid super low, get the contract, and bid whatever you want when the contract is up. Avon Park will be over the falls in a barrel as the next Sheriff writes the next deal in four years (this Sheriff will have retired in a couple years and leave with a slap on the back). The council won't care because they probably won't be there and the "kick the can down the road" mentality will continue. good luck tax payers.
APPD (by: greener - 7/19/2012)
To those who want the APPD gone. Be careful what you wish for. In this case the grass is definitely no greener on the other side. A separate switch board will be needed to handle the complaints.
Handshake incident (by: No shake - 7/19/2012)
I do not know what meeting Mr. Deleon was attending. I have been at all the meetings and what I will refer to as the handshake meeting did not happen as he stated. We gathered before the meeting for support and many of our children were there. When the meeting was about to start all the signs were packed up we entered the room. There was no screaming or loud confrontations outside or inside at any time. As a matter of fact the only time that anyone raised a voice was when Deleon turned around to a civilian visitor and told them to take the conversation outside as it was vital that I explain what I need to get across to the council. He became frustrated and louder as the council seemed to question his presentation. Deleon was saying how the council MUST understand what he was saying, "You need to be quiet and concentrate on what I am saying". After a while he returned to his seat and as the meeting was ending Councilman Paul Miller asked why Public Safety Director John King had not been
Enough is Enough (by: Wife of a Boy in Blue - 7/19/2012)
How many times will the city of Avon Park try to cut costs by attempting to shut down APPD?! It hasen't worked the last 2 times, why do they keep entertaining this idea? If they are trying to cut costs, why don't they look into taking DeLeon's brand new Jeep Liberty and give him a Geo,? Or possibly make him pay for his own gas for this vehicle? Why dont they tell him to stop threats against officers so they won't have to pay for his attorney fees? All I'm seeing here is that they care more about the dollar then they do about the people in the comunity and the brave officers that protect it. To me, they are placing a price tag on life. If your officer is without backup on an armed robbery call, both the officer and the citizens involved are at risk. But in their eyes, its gonna be fine, these boys can handle it! I'm sure when the time comes, they will show their support by drving to funeral's in brand new Jeep liberty's paid for by the citizens they neglected. Awesome thought process guys. Keep on making zero sense, election period is coming up soon!
Fed Up (by: South Florida LEO - 7/19/2012)
I'm an Officer at a small agency not far from here. Have you ever worn the badge and seen what "Brother in Blue and I have seen? Probably not. Having the "Every man for himself" attitude as a LEO is reckless and selfish. We work at different agencies, wear different uniforms, some of us wear a shield, some of us wear a star however it does not matter. At the end of the day, we are on the same team. I realize APPD has had their moments but most other agencies have to. I have friends at APPD that absolutely love their job and would never do anything illegal, immoral, or unethical. Regarding the previous Police Chief, it is now up to the court system. I think that topic has been beat to death. Plus, the pervious Police Chief has nothing to do with the current situation. Good luck APPD! I stand by you 100%.
Fed up (by: Brother in Blue - 7/19/2012)
That, my friend is why you are probably a lonely person. With an "Everyman for himself attitude" you get nowhere. Police officers are like family; they stick together. You are out of your mind.
Move On!!! (by: fed up - 7/18/2012)
The police has had problems for many years. I believe they may have some decent people in ther but over time their reputation has been ruined. Their last chief was no angel. To bad its come to this but if I were a police I would get on with my life and stop working as a group when I know the end is near. Every man for himself.
Small Banner Ads