Crystal River and Citrus County Sheriff’s Office officials will get into the nitty-gritty of a new contract for city law enforcement during talks later this week.
At their Monday meeting, city council members agreed to have City Manager Ken Frink and Councilman Robert Holmes meet Thursday with Sheriff Mike Prendergast and his command staff to discuss the terms for the 2019/20 fiscal year.
Prendergast had already proposed a $878,442 contract to provide six deputies, a community resource officer and other support staff. The amount is $17,603 more than the city’s current contract for similar services.
Frink said he plans to return to council at its next meeting July 8 with a conceptual agreement.
With a pair of sheriff’s captains in attendance Monday, council expressed concerns that the city wasn't getting enough for its money.
“The only thing I’m required to do is report from the citizens of Crystal River to get our bang for our buck,” Holmes said.
Mayor Joe Meek told Frink and Holmes their priority should not be negotiating a lower cost for the city, but making sure the level of service the city receives is commensurate with its costs.
“My goal is not to make this contract the least expensive contract we can get,” he said.
In addition to wanting increased water patrols and enforcement of city ordinances — sentiments shared by council members — Meek said he’d like to see the uniforms and patrol cars of city deputies redesigned to make them more distinguished.
Councilman Pat Fitzpatrick said some city residents have been sharing ideas about how they want their city to be policed, and Fitzpatrick suggested bringing in a citizen advisory group to continue advising council.
Councilman Ken Brown said he was worried CCSO was pulling city-assigned deputies away from their local duties, or did not replace a deputy’s shift if they called out sick or went on vacation.
Brown said the sheriff’s office should either reimburse the city when it moves personnel around, or readjust how many deputies are going to be within city limits.
“Not to be cold, but that’s not our problem,” he said. “We’re paying for X number of officers, and that’s what we should have.”
CCSO Captain Ryan Glaze assured council his agency was not short-staffing the city.
“Crystal River has always gotten a lot more than the contractual number of officers,” he said. “Once you attend the meeting with us ... I think all these allegations out there ... we can put to rest."
CITY TO SEND LETTER TO SWFWMD OPPOSING WATER-WITHDRAWAL BID
Council members voted unanimously to send a letter to the Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD) criticizing a private company’s request to draw more water from its well within the city.
To meet the expected demands of buyers, Heatherwood Investments LLC is requesting that SWFWMD allow it to withdraw up to 254,000 gallons per day (gpd) from its well off of Northeast 11th Street, an increase from the 177,300 gpd it's currently permitted for.
SWFWMD is still reviewing Heatherwood’s application, which was submitted in February, but Crystal River and Citrus County have been pleading in respective letters for the district to deny it.
In its letter, the city claims the water increase is not justified because well owners are not subject to the same strict water-use standards residents and other businesses are, and that Heatherwood’s clients don’t have signed contracts noting specific water demands.
Officials’ biggest concern is the proximity of the well to the southern border of an area that previously showed high arsenic levels in 25 percent of the wells tested. That area, which is 3,143 feet from Heatherwood's site, was attached to a central water system in 2016.
Crystal River’s letter states that SWFWMD must do soil and water tests at Heatherwood’s site before issuing a permit to drink more water from that well.
“Citrus County has spent ... money to take sites offline due to underground arsenic contamination. City residents are safe in that area except for this one well,” Frink said Monday. “(SWFWMD) needs to take a better look at this.”