Brooksville City Council clarifies stance on law enforcement services

By Kim Leoffler, Reporter
Last Updated: Monday, December 04, 2017, 10:08 PM EST

The fate of the Brooksville Police Department has been a heated topic of discussion within the city for months, as council members look to save costs.

During a Brooksville City Council meeting Monday night, several residents addressed the council with concerns that they were looking to disband the police department.

However, council members clarified no decision has been made. They stress all cost saving options for the city are on the table, not only the police department.

This discussion began in October when council member Natalie Kahler proposed the city look at the pros and cons of asking the county commission to enter into a Municipal Services Taxing Unit, or MSTU. If commissioners decided to begin an MSTU, and the city agreed to stay out of it, then residents would not have to pay for Sheriff's services within the city.

On Monday, Kahler said she proposed the MSTU because she wanted to make sure residents were only paying for the services they were receiving.

The council was drafting a letter to ask county commissioners to enter into the MSTU, but last week the council voted 4-1 not to send the letter, with Kalher as the only positive vote. The council members who voted against sending the letter said the MSTU would not have been as cost effective to the city as first thought. They were also concerned about any unknown costs that could come to the city.

Many residents were upset by this decision, some even signing petitions to recall council members who voted against sending the letter to commissioners about the MSTU, concerned that the Brooksville Police Department was then at risk. 

During Monday's meeting, Kahler says residents made that assumption because it had been stated that the council could not continue to ask residents to pay for both. However, most of the council members stressed they never said it had to be one or the other.

Council member William Kemerer did say he may have said both departments were too costly, although other council members did say they never heard anyone say it had to be one or the other. 

Several residents did speak to the council at the beginning of Monday's meeting in support of the Brooksville Police Department.

"I am not against the Brooksville Police Department," Kemerer told residents, and stressed they want to find the highest level of service in a cost effective manner.

He did clarify that they are looking at several ways to reduce the city's costs, which does include looking at the costs of the Brooksville Police Department as well as the cost the Sheriff would charge for the same services.

He also said that the feelings of the community are important to the city council, and they wouldn't pursue something the citizen's did not want.

Council member Joe Bernardini also stressed that they are looking at what each department individually would cost the city. He said at that point they would have a better idea of what they have.

He also stressed that no decision has been made and no option is off the table.

"I never once stated that I wanted to disband the police department," Vice Mayor Betty Erhard told residents. She also told residents that she values their comments to be a better service to the community and encouraged them to continue reach out to the council members.

Mayor Robert Battista also spoke at the meeting, assuring residents that the city would not sacrifice quality of services.

"We would never give up the quality of services we receive," Battista said. "There are some problems and they are financial. We are at extremes when it comes to money." 

He also stressed that no vote about the police department or any other city services would be made unless it was on the agenda.

The status of Brooksville Police Department was not on Monday night's agenda, so no further action was taken.