BELLEAIR — A Belleair resident plans to present a petition to the town commission requiring that a referendum be held in the event there are any moves to reduce funding to or eliminate the police department.
The petition effort, launched by former deputy mayor Karla Rettstatt, seeks to change the town charter and require a referendum “if the condition should arise to dissolve or dilute the police department.”
Currently it requires a supermajority of the five-member commission to make such changes to the police department. A referendum is not required, but Rettstatt believes town residents should have a say over major issues affecting the department.
Rettstatt said the impetus for the petition was public input in the town’s strategic plan.
“One of the things that came out loudly and clearly was that safety was number one in residents’ minds and that they were very happy with the police department,” Rettstatt said.
She said that while about 400 signatures have already been gathered in the petition effort, she hopes more people will sign.
“I think town residents want to make sure that if such conditions should arise, they’ll be able to make the decision,” Rettstatt said. “I think it’s going to be very positive to require a referendum. I’m very confident residents will take part in this.”
The town’s police department has a staff of 12 full-time and eight part-time officers.
Rettstatt said she will present the petition to the commission at its next meeting on July 20.