published: Friday, August 03, 2012
APPD decision to be made Saturday
By CHRISTOPHER TUFFLEY
AVON PARK -- Saturday, the city council is holding a special meeting to vote between two choices for law enforcement service on Saturday. The meeting begins at 8 a.m. in the Community Center at Museum Avenue and Main Street.
On the one hand, the council could vote to keep the local police force.
On the other, it could approve a four-year contract with the Highlands County Sheriff's Office.
Supporters of retaining the police department say keeping a neighborhood force has many advantages. They point to local control; civic pride; the fact that officers have intimate knowledge of the city and its people; are familiar with the urban environment; and that the officers have made significant concessions regarding their wage and benefit package.
While they acknowledge keeping a local force is more expensive, they say the city is doing so well financially that the city manager was able to set $2 million aside to pay for a local force in 2012-2013, and still lower the city's millage rate, making it now the lowest municipal rate in the county.
Supporters of the Sheriff's Office, however, point that the contract with the Sheriff will save the city more than $2.45 million over its life, ranging from a $519,695 savings the first year of the contract to $682,692 in the final year, assuming that the APPD would have to hire a another full-time officer in order to become accredited. The HCSO is already accredited.
A complete breakdown of the numbers is available on the city's website at www.avonpark.cc/.
Proponents of bringing in the SO say the city stands to gain extra benefit by becoming the hub of a county Northern District, meaning the police department building would become the district's headquarters. A captain, lieutenant and several sergeants would provide oversight. Detectives and a variety of support personnel would also be assigned, all at the county's expense. These deputies and specialists would be in addition to the 16 street patrol deputies and one civilian assigned to the city proper per the contract.
Supporters say city deputies will have access to many more resources and that the SO is already an accredited agency.
City Manager Julian Deleon will recommend that the council choose the HCSO contract.
While there has been acrimony during the debate, the city manager and union negotiators both praise each other for the civilized, productive conversation that led to a tentative PBA contract.
In that contract police officers agreed to bypass a raise; convert their retirement plan for all new hires and officers with fewer than five years of service to a dedicated contribution plan from a dedicated benefit plan; and increase the number of steps in the wage scale from eight to 15. Officers vested in the dedicated benefit program agreed to contribute another 3 percent of their payroll towards administrative costs.
Following the special meeting a budget workshop will be held.
APPD (by: Patti - AP Citizen - 8/3/2012)
I hope that we will make the right decision and keep the APPD here in the city. I would hate to see if move this job to the Sebring Sheriff Department. Think about what is best for our city, Employees that live here pay taxes here and have jobs here let's not phase out their jobs. KEEP APPD in AP
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