Holly Davis hasn’t forgotten the “yahoos.”
A week after county commissioners declined Sheriff Mike Prendergast’s suggestion for additional law enforcement to patrol coastal areas popular with rowdy boaters, Commissioner Davis wants another shot.
“We bobbled that whole discussion,” Davis said. “I just flubbed it.”
Prendergast, responding to a county request for a plan to combat problem boaters in Homosassa’s Blue Waters, suggested at the board’s July 13 meeting that the county use American Recovery Plan funds to buy additional vessels and equipment, plus hire more deputies.
Although Commissioners Davis and Jeff Kinnard said they supported the sheriff’s plan, no one made a motion and there was no vote.
Since then, Homosassa residents sent emails to commissioners asking them to reconsider.
Davis said she reached out to the sheriff’s office and asked for specific alternatives to provide commissioners at the Tuesday, July 27 meeting. They are:
- Add three deputies to fill vacancies left by transfer of deputies to the special enforcement unit; add one law enforcement boat. Year one total: $561,562.
- Add four new deputies and two law enforcement boats. Year one total: $833,416
- Add six new deputies, two boats and one vehicle capable of towing a larger boat. Year one total: $1.2 million.
- The original proposal discussed by commissioners would have added five new deputies, two boats and one vehicle to tow a larger boat. Year one total: $1 million.
Recurring costs for year two and beyond are “substantially lower” than the first year cost, the sheriff’s proposal states.
And, while Blue Waters in the Homosassa River is getting plenty of attention, the marine unit isn’t central to the coast.
“These options are to address maritime issues on all of our lakes, rivers, estuaries and gulf area waterways,” the proposal states.
Davis, who referred to boating troublemakers as “yahoos” during the July 13 meeting, said the county needs to step up enforcement to protect boaters and residents.
“We have thousands and thousands and thousands of tourists coming in,” she said. “If we don’t get ahead of this, our residents will be harassed heavily.”
Davis said he spoke with Pendergrast who said the issues on the water are getting worse.
“He said last weekend was a zoo, and 70% of citations were out of towners,” she said. “These are not families coming in to see the manatees. They’re being chased out of other rivers and they’re coming to us.”
Davis said she thinks the county can provide additional marine patrols without increasing the property tax rate to pay for it.
“We need to make some smart investments,” she said. “One of them is to get ahead of law enforcement. We need to not always look to be the cheapest game in town. If we do that we’ll continue to attract people who have that same attitude.”