ST. AUGUSTINE BEACH, Fla.-- Changes are coming to St. Augustine Beach. In a 3 to 2 vote, the City Commission voted to "blend" the Police Department with the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office.
Dozens packed City Hall for the special meeting called Monday night. The new plan will include a Police Chief, a Sargeant, an Administrator and 5 officers. Currently, there are 17. The move is expected to save $7.2 million over the coming decade...or about $720 a year.
When the public got their chance to speak, they let loose. Most stayed calm, but a few got rowdy...and argued public safety would be at risk if things changed.
"12% increase in tourism, but we're going to cut back on services?" one man asked.
"We've had some problems in our area. Break-ins in cars, in houses and the police came as soon as we called in. And, I hate to see them not be here anymore," Nina Genovese said.
The decision comes en lieu of a tumultuous time for the Police Department. A few months ago, 11 officers alleged ethical wrongdoing by the Chief. Ultimately, FDLE decided there was no bases for those claims...but the damage was already done. The Chief stepped down, and the City moved forward. Some homeowners believe the scaling back of officers is a conspiracy against those who spoke up.
A selection committe was formed to pick a new Chief. That decision will most likely be made in the next 90 days.