Additional police presence, incorporation discussed by MSD
By Anthony Richards
The Ponte Vedra Beach MSD board has met for the first time since being informed that the sheriff’s office chose to decline his proposed contract for additional police presence in the area.
The board discussed their options for finding the best way to ensure that an additional police presence still exists in the MSD at its October 11 meeting.
Using a private security force, drafting a contract to use deputies from the sheriff’s office on leave, or creating their own police force were the three options discussed.
Board chairman Brad Wester explained that the ability to use assistants on 24-hour, rotational or on-call leave could be something to explore.
He said the additional contracts are not new to MSD and are the way they go about securing various other areas, such as public works services.
“An out-of-service contract gives the opportunity to have even more responsibility,” Wester said.
Vice President Al Hollan said he opposes the use of private safety equipment due to a lack of authority outside a gated community.
Wester said he would meet with the sheriff’s office to see what it would take to potentially close an out-of-service contract.
Administrator John Cellucci has said he would be okay with using the off-duty option, as a transition period while they consider possibly creating their own police department.
Treasurer Gary Jurenovich agreed with Cellucci’s idea that the “way forward” is to look at the formation of the MSD’s own police department.
“Shame on us and the leadership of this board for letting it (situation with the sheriff’s office contract) happen until October,” Jurenovich said. “I think for $ 435,000 we can easily have our own police force.”
According to Jurenovich, if they can afford to staff an after-hours presence, why can’t they just go ahead and staff their own department?
“I think if you dig deeper, the root cause of all of this is Nocatee,” Jurenovich said. “The animal we need to prepare for is on the west side of the intracoastal.”
“The resources of this community are moving to Nocatee, our county commissioner lives in Nocatee, the money and votes are coming from Nocatee,” Jurenovich said. “It’s only a matter of time before Nocatee becomes a town and says goodbye to MSD. We have to prepare for it and we have to start thinking about the incorporation. “
Wester said he objected to Jurenovich’s statement that the board and its executives let the contract with the sheriff’s office come so late in the process.
He said it was Jurenovich’s dialogue with the ministry that created friction and reluctance to continue with the contract.
“We had negotiated it at least four months in advance,” Wester said of the proposed contract timeline. “Let’s stay focused to move forward. “
According to Hollan, the board has the power to create its own police force, but he said it should be careful with that route due to the liability that comes into play.
Jurenovich said he doesn’t think accountability is something that can’t be figured out for it to work.
Wester expects to have firm numbers regarding police presence options to present to the board and the public at its next meeting on November 8.