The city of Fort Myers has completed an analysis of a possible take-over of the police department by the Lee co. sheriff's office. It concludes: the consolidation would cost and extra 925-thousand dollars the first year alone, in a budget that totals about 33-million dollars, including pensions.
The city is facing a referendum in Nov. in which voters could change the city charter and demand that the city contract with the sheriff for police protection and services. Supporters of that move have claimed it would save millions of dollars a year in duplicated services.
"This analysis shows, what I have believed: that consolidation would cost more money and would not be financially wise. To say otherwise is not factual, and it is disturbing that people have promoted this issue by saying it would save money. That is not true," says Ft. Myer police chief Doug Baker.
"I believe this study is disingenuous, it clearly is designed to prove the position the city has already taken: to oppose the consolidation. That's why they produce these numbers," counters Raimond Aulen, a business owner and supporter of the referendum. "The assumptions they make in the study are not right. They assume that all 247 full time employees of the police, would be immediately incorporated into the sheriff's office. I do not see that, because of duplication of services. That's what we've been saying: let's stop the duplicating of services and save money for the taxpayer," says Aulen.
Lee Sheriff Mike Scott also issued a statement, saying that it is flawed thinking to assume that his office would take in all 247 full time police department positions. Otherwise, the sheriff says he is neutral in this contentious issue, and has great respect for the work of the police and Chief Baker.
The Police Benevolent Association, representing Fort Myers officers, will begin a concerted effort this weekend to defeat the referendum. The union president says the PBA will begin a door-to-door campaign to talk with citizens, and try to convince them to vote no on the charter change.