INDIAN SHORES – The town’s police department’s costs are increasing because of moves designed to provide better service and protection.

Police Chief Terry Hughes told city commissioners March 6 his department has been diligent in its efforts to keep costs down.

Due to the unforeseen circumstances of several officers leaving, the department was forced to hire officers at overtime rates to maintain the status quo of police officers covering shifts, putting a tremendous strain on the budget.

The increase in the proposed fiscal year 2018-2019 budget in personnel costs is reflected with the hiring of an additional officer and salary increases to obtain and maintain qualified police personnel.

“One of the biggest challenges for any small agency in the United States is to obtain and maintain qualified people,” Hughes said.

Hughes said the proposed budget for fiscal year 2018-2019 is up $74,850 or 5.8 percent over the current fiscal year’s budget.

He said the police department now has increased the number of officers working the streets from eight to 10 by eliminating a detective’s position. Officers will handle their own cases unless they get too involved for them.

“I have tried to keep the costs down in the last several years,” Hughes said.

Commissioners agreed.

Councilor Bill Smith noted that the police department’s costs were $792,841 in fiscal year 2013-2014 and $826,031 for the fiscal year 2018-2019

“That is a 4.2 percent increase over five years,” he said. “That’s a great job over the years of keeping the costs down.”

The proposed police department budget for fiscal year 2018-2019 is about $1.29 million. Redington Shores’ proposed share is $451,287 or 35 percent.

The commission unanimously approved the police budget.

In other council matters

• Smith said the Legislature approved $63 million for beach renourishment, an allocation that doesn’t include this year’s ensuing projects.

“That’s good news. Now if we could only solve the other problems in regard to renourishment, the easement issue – the easements we know we are going to have to get. No. 2 would be keeping the offshore drillers away,” he said.

A meeting will be held at the Town Center on Wednesday, March 28, 6 p.m., on the status of the renourishment projects. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and county officials will conduct the meeting.

Officials will provide an overview of the upcoming Sand Key and Treasure Island beach renourishment project scheduled to begin mid-April. Sand placement will begin on Treasure Island beaches, and then move north to Sand Key at North Redington Beach and continue along the beaches to Clearwater. A brief presentation will be followed by a question and answer period.

Mayor Patrick Soranno suggested that Indian Rocks Beach Mayor R.B. Johnson, who is leaving office, write a paper on renourishment “because there is a lot of history there that I’m wondering about.” He praised Johnson for his knowledge of the topic.

Some other mayors are stepping down and the beach communities are losing their “historical perspective,” Soranno said.

“We need some kind of document that gives that whole history, and what happened, when it happened, why it happened, so going forward we can be smarter about it,” Soranno said.

• Lawrence Schear, who is on the board of the Pinellas Suncoast Fire and Rescue District, announced the members of the district’s new task force.

They are Kelly Cisarik, Indian Rocks Beach; John Yackowski, Indian Shores; Lynn Rives, city manager, Belleair Beach; Ray Piscitelli, Belleair Shore city commissioner; Bridgett Cerce and Mike Murray, unicorporated Oakhurst; Matthew Loder Sr., owner of Crabby Bills; Katrena Hale, Sand Glo Villas and Jeremy Sidlaukas, Pinellas Suncoast firefighter.

The task force will strive to identify any additional opportunities for operational efficiencies, explore current and future funding concerns and discuss other issues involving the fire district.

Tom Germond is executive editor of Tampa Bay Newspapers. He can be reached at 727-397-5563, ext. 330, or by an email at tgermond@TBNweekly.com.