The move could save hundreds of thousands of dollars for the tiny Singer Island town but has some former town officials concerned about giving up local control over its police force.
PALM BEACH SHORES - Officials in Palm Beach Shores will soon decide whether to merge the town’s police department with the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office.
The measure will go to a vote Monday at the town’s next commission meeting. The potential merger was the focus of discussion at a budget workshop Aug. 5 at the town’s community center.
Mayor Myra Koutzen told residents attending the workshop the merger was one of the options discussed as the 1,300-person town at the southern tip of Singer Island faces a period of flat revenues and rising expenses.
The savings to Palm Beach Shores could be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to figures from the town and the sheriff’s department.
Palm Beach Shores’ operating budget for police officers and dispatch services for the 2018-2019 fiscal year is $1,947,695, not including capital investments in cars, computers, camera and other equipment, Koutzen said in an email to The Palm Beach Post.
The initial proposal from PBSO is $1,648,378, including all capital investments, she said. Palm Beach Shores has 11 full-time sworn officers, and PBSO has said all will remain if the merger is approved.
Some residents and former town officials oppose the merger. Others have asked that the vote be postponed so residents can have more time to review the proposal.
"In my opinion, PBSO is not a good fit for our town," former town commissioner Lisa Tropepe said. "We’re a small, quaint little coastal town. We take pride in having our own police department. We pay extra takes to have our own public safety department."
She noted similarities of Palm Beach Shores to other small coastal communities that still have their own police departments, including Juno Beach, North Palm Beach, Palm Beach and Manalapan.
Former Palm Beach Shores mayor Tom Mills said he was concerned about giving control of decisions affecting law enforcement in the community to county officials.
"We’ve never had a problem working with the sheriff’s office," he said. "It’s just that having our own police department, we don’t have (anyone) outside of the town that’s in command. Once we go into the sheriff’s office, then we’re getting into the political decisions of our county."
If the merger is approved, Palm Beach Shores would be the second municipality this year to merge its police force with the sheriff’s office.
In June, the barrier-island town of South Palm Beach voted to merge its eight-member police with the sheriff’s office effective Oct. 1. Prior to that, the last merger involving the sheriff’s office was in 2016, when the agency merged with the Greenacres Police Department.
The sheriff’s office currently handles police services for 10 Palm Beach County municipalities, with both South Palm Beach and the new city of Westlake to begin receiving PBSO services in October.