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Hollywood abandons request to have BSO take over policing

posted Dec 21, 2011, 9:14 AM by Freddy Suastegui   [ updated Dec 21, 2011, 9:14 AM ]
BY CARLI TEPROFF The Miami Herald

Hollywood will no longer consider handing over its police department to the Broward Sheriff’s Office, but it will continue to seek a proposal for fire services.

BY CARLI TEPROFF

cteproff@MiamiHerald.com

Hollywood police officers no longer will have to face the question of whether the department will be turned over to the Broward Sheriff’s Office.

City commissioners decided to withdraw their request for a merger, saying it is no longer necessary because of recent pension and benefit cuts.

“I think we need to get this off the table,” said Commissioner Heidi O’Sheehan.

But the commission will continue to seek a proposal for the fire department, at the request of the firefighters’ union.

“I think a lot us want to know,” said union president Bill Huddleston.

About seven months ago, the commission requested a proposal from BSO to see whether a switch would bring significant savings. BSO never gave a formal proposal, city leaders said Wednesday.

In May, staff discovered a $10.3 million deficit for 2010-2011 fiscal year and had predicted a $25 million gap for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1.

In June the city declared a financial urgency and laid off 18 employees, slashed employee salaries and fired the city manager.

As the budget process continued, staff realized there would be a $38 million gap.

In order to bridge the gap, commissioners put a referendum before voters to change employee pension benefits. Voters approved the changes, saving the city $8.5 million.

Interim City Manager Cathy Swanson-Rivenbark said she doesn’t believe switching to BSO would be worth “losing local control.”

Police Union president Jeff Marano said the police officers want to remain in Hollywood, and dismantling the department would be detrimental to the city and the officers.

“The PBA would definitely appreciate it,” Marano said to the commission about dropping the proposal.

Marano said there was a real fear by the department’s rank and file that the city’s department would be handed over to the BSO.

While Hollywood respects BSO, being in a municipal department fosters camaraderie, Marano said.

“We are tight,” he said. If there was a merger the officers would likely be scattered, he said.

Huddleston said after firefighters’ benefits and pension were cuts they want to know if BSO could provide better incentives.

Fire Chief Virgil Fernandez he doubts BSO could provide equal services for less money.

“If there is something out there, let us see it,” he said.

Swanson-Rivenbark said she would request that BSO submit a proposal within 30 days on the firefighters’ request.

Also at the meeting, the commission gave formal approval to spending about $150,000 on repairs related to a Nov. 16 sewer main break on Taft Street Swanson-Rivenbark said there will likely be more cost-related item on the commission’s January Agenda.



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