At the Loxahatchee Groves Town Council meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 3, Councilwoman Phillis Maniglia called for the review of the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office contract with the goal of finding possible cost savings.
Maniglia pulled an addendum to the law enforcement agreement from the consent agenda to discuss the contract.
Town Manager Jamie Titcomb said the item for approval was the annual renewal, and the PBSO was not seeking any changes or increases to the 10-year contract that ends in 2027.
Maniglia said she was not happy with the cost of the contract.
“We give the sheriff $622,200 every year,” she said. “We’re having a little difficulty getting all of our roads paved and getting our drainage in. I hear complaints that [the PBSO] is not very visible.”
Maniglia added that the town pays about $1.2 million to Palm Beach County, which also gives a portion of that to the PBSO.
“I’m saying they’re probably getting $1.3 million from Loxahatchee Groves,” she said. “I’ve been trying to get someone to renegotiate, and it’s not happening so far to my knowledge. We are, in my opinion, entitled to emergency services, 911 calls, etc… I would like to see that money every year, the $650,000, go toward roads and drainage projects.”
Vice Mayor Laura Danowski agreed that the town should have renegotiation discussions with the PBSO.
“Phillis, I hear you,” Danowski said. “It was maybe four months ago, each one of the council members got to sit with the attorney and management, and part of the discussion in my session was a possible renegotiation to a 12-hour shift versus a 24-hour shift. I feel like it never was pursued. I realize this is a very soft-shoe dance between the town and the sheriff’s office.”
Danowski also noted the town charter’s requirement of having to use either the PBSO or an adjacent municipality for law enforcement services. All adjacent municipalities are contracted with the PBSO.
“We’re kind of stuck in that respect, or we jump off the financial cliff and create our own law enforcement division,” she said. “This is one of those things that we really need to look at.”
Councilwoman Marianne Miles agreed that the PBSO contract is expensive but was reluctant to change it.
“There are some things that I can equate, and one of the things I can equate with this sheriff’s contract is a life insurance contract,” Miles said. “Some people have it, some people don’t. Some people feel the need, some people want it but don’t want to pay for it, but they want the availability in the event that a family member dies.”
Miles added that she hears a lot of complaints that the PBSO is not patrolling their area.
“If we go on a 12-hour shift, what shift do we do?” she asked. “Do we do 8 o’clock in the morning to 8 o’clock at night? I don’t know if that’s going to work because we have accidents all the time.”
Miles was also critical of the town starting its own police department.
“We have a rapport with the sheriff,” she said. “We know what we are going to pay right now. Everything costs money. It doesn’t matter what it is. Our roads cost money, the sheriff costs money. If we did do shifts and leave the nighttime blank, the people robbing during the night are going to love that. If we leave it blank during the day, the people robbing during the day are going to love that. I like the sheriff. I think it’s a necessity.”
Councilwoman Marge Herzog said she was open to exploring the options.
“I don’t know whether Jamie has met with the sheriff’s department and tried to negotiate anything one way or another, but just like any other situation in life, if you can negotiate a cheaper way to go, then I think we should do it, as long as our health, safety and so forth is not put in danger,” Herzog said.
Mayor Robert Shorr said he felt that the PBSO has the best resources anywhere.
“I feel lucky that we have those resources, but if you never use them, you don’t even know they’re there,” he said. “If you have one of those situations where you need those resources, it’s great to have them there. I appreciate that there is no increase. I think we should approve this, but at the same time I think we should give staff direction to set up some meetings and talk.”
Danowski made a motion to renew the PBSO contract with instructions for the town attorney to see what can be done to negotiate a better rate. The motion carried 3-2 with Maniglia and Herzog dissenting.