For the fifth year in a row, a contract of just under $2.6 million has been presented to the City Council to pay the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office to provide 22 law enforcement officers to patrol the streets of Palm Coast.
City Manager Jim Landon, who recently met with Sheriff Jim Manfre about the contract “to tweak it and improve it,” said, “I consider this to be good news … five years, no increase.”
In October, the annual cost will increase by 0.9%, to $2,623,433. Subsequent years will increase by no more than 3%.
Sheriff services are a county function, so Palm Coast residents already pay for the equivalent of 16 officers through their county taxes, making a total of 38 officers in the city. If needed, the officers assist on calls outside the city, and vice versa.
The contract was presented at a Jan. 28 workshop and was viewed favorably by the City Council. A formal approval will likely come at the next meeting, Tuesday, Feb. 4.
The city also agreed to pay for one of the six school resource officers serving Flagler County schools, as it has in the past.
Although the contract remains mostly the same, there are a few “tweaks”:
The Sheriff’s Office and city agreed to coordinate their call centers.
The Sheriff’s Office agreed to provide assistance at the city’s special events and to respond directly to security alarms at city offices at no additional cost.
In the event of a vacancy, the sheriff will also allow the city to participate in interviewing a “palm coast coordinator,” a position currently held by Capt. Mark Carman.
Mayor Jon Netts said he believes the $2.6 million is a good deal for the taxpayers. He said that when the city was incorporated 14 years ago, an expert analyzed the cost of forming a Palm Coast Police Department. The startup cost was estimated to be about $16 million, with an annual cost of between $4 million and $6 million. Instead, Netts said, the city contracts for extra officers through the Sheriff’s Office, thereby avoiding any jurisdictional disputes that could arise with two agencies serving the same area.
What if the state outlaws red light cameras?
During the law enforcement discussion, City Councilman Bill McGuire asked how the city would respond to potential changes to state laws government red light cameras.
“If the state Legislature declares red light cameras to be illegal, do we have a contingency plan?” McGuire asked.
City Manager Jim Landon responded: “If the state makes red light cameras go away, you have a couple of options. One is to put more emphasis on having a deputy sit at every light periodically and write tickets for red-light runners. Or the other option would be to add to your $2.5 million and have additional officers focus on the intersections.
“If the red light cameras go away, you could always discuss with the sheriff, and I know from talking to (Capt. Mark Carman) and the sheriff, if the city says this is where our focus want to be, they’ve been very accommodating.”
Carman said officers issued about 3,800 moving violations in Palm Coast last year.
McGuire said traffic complaints were the impetus for the city to consider installing red light cameras in the first place, so he didn’t want traffic enforcement to suffer in the event that red light cameras are outlawed. And he said that appeared to be likely.
“People in Tallahassee are telling me that it’s going,” McGuire said. “It’s almost a done deal.”