Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Paying for Police to Get Costlier; MSD Trustees Have Been Given Just Two Options to Keep Their Extra Officers

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Paying for Police to Get Costlier; MSD Trustees Have Been Given Just Two Options to Keep Their Extra Officers

Article excerpt

Byline: SHAKAYA ANDRES

PONTE VEDRA BEACH - Maintaining extra police protection in the Municipal Service District will cost 5 percent more than the current annual $250,064.

Either that or hire a private security firm.

Those were the options the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office's chief financial officer put before MSD trustees this week.

Trustees held off on a decision, with some saying they haven't gotten what the sheriff promised them.

Financial officer Mark Simpson said that because of increasing costs for police uniforms, insurance, pension plans and budget cuts, the Sheriff's Office needs 5 percent more to keep patrolling Ponte Vedra Beach's coastal area around the clock with extra deputies.

The MSD's annual contract with the Sheriff's Office is unique in the county. Five county deputies patrol the area in shifts, logging a total of 168 hours a week. The MSD extends from Florida A1A on the west to the ocean on the east and from the Duval County line south to Guana Reserve.

"This is a difficult reality," Simpson said. "Everybody is feeling the budget crunch. My intention is to raise the contract 5 percent each year. If you're worried about the cost, you should explore private security." Simpson oversees budget requests, prepares the annual operating budget and monitors and approves the Sheriff's Office's day-to-day expenditures.

Before the renewed agreement began under Sheriff David Shoar, MSD Chairman Gary Jurenovich said residents overwhelmingly voiced support for additional officers in the area because they didn't want to see yellow flashing lights or a contracted security firm.

"Several years ago, we polled the residents," he said. "They want to see a deputy."

The MSD's $250,064 a year for extra protection is its top expense, Jurenovich said. With the increase, the service district would pay $262,567 for the upcoming year, $275,695 the following year and 5 percent more each additional year.

Some trustees said the cost would rise drastically in the coming years and they want to be sure officers will be on the job. The MSD board said they want to see MSD-marked police cars so residents will see what they're paying for. …

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