BRADENTON - The bridge to Holmes Beach is hardly a major crime area, Manatee County Sheriff Brad Steube said Tuesday, and he wanted to know why he wasn't invited to the discussion of the annexation of the Kingfish ramp.
He described how he had been asked to deputize the Holmes Beach police officers, but then described the consequences of that. "If I deputize these folks and actually go out and take some action, and they're sued through that, so am I," he said. "And then there is the lack of demand for services in that area."
Steube broke down the statistics for calls to Kingfish and the associated area, which he said showed the actual number of incidents and actual response times.
At bottom, he said, the average response time is six minutes for all 2009 calls. For the 21 calls, 17? minutes was the average time for a deputy to arrive.
"I heard that this is in response to vehicle burglaries. If you look in 2009, one, so I would also like to give you on the three vehicle accidents that we've responded to, and our average response time for those accidents," Steube said.
"One of them, it took us 17 minutes, one took us 20 minutes, and the third took us zero minutes. We were already there when the traffic accident occurred," he said. "We actually called it in.
"Here's my problem, if we're talking about one call for service every four days, and if you take out the deputy-initiated calls you're actually talking about one call for service every 12 days, I'm not sure that we have a crime problem here."
Accident on the bridge
He said he had a call from Commissioner Carol Whitmore about an accident on the bridge, in which the people said they waited for two hours.
"Here's my explanation for you: A call comes into 911, and they're going to tell you it's a traffic crash. They're asking where is it exactly so they can figure out the jurisdiction," Steube said.
The jurisdiction from Manatee Avenue to the bridge is the city of Bradenton. Then it's the Florida Highway Patrol until you get into the actual city limits of Holmes Beach, he noted.
"If there is an accident where it's apparent from how it's being reported that there are injuries and/or road blockage, 911 immediately calls the Highway Patrol if it's in the Highway Patrol's jurisdiction," he said. "Now they will call the Sheriff's Office if it has those other activities going on like the roadblocks and the injuries."
So the Sheriff's Office will respond and the deputy will look at the severity of the accident to see whether or not he can remove the vehicles, and get from the dispatcher an estimated time of arrival for the Highway Patrol. If it's going to be 30 minutes or more, and it's not a severe accident, the deputies can work the accident to get the people on their way.
"I looked at your DVD of your last meeting in regards to this, and a statement was made that if the vehicles were disabled and can't be moved, that they have to wait for the Highway Patrol to get there before they are moved, and that's not correct," he said. "If we get there and the vehicle needs a wrecker, we simply contact the Florida Highway Patrol's dispatcher and say there is no owner choice here and then FHP does a rotation list and they get the wrecker on its way."
Whitmore said the people in the four-car accident on the bridge may have pulled off. They said they called the sheriff, who called the FHP and they waited two hours.
"That's how long they told you they waited," Steube said. "These statistics do not show that."
The FHP's numbers
He said talked with a major at the FHP, and got his statistics. One of the longest response times was in September when it took FHP 46 minutes to arrive at an accident scene. The one below that in August was 38 minutes.
Average response time was the same because in each month there was only one crash.
Averages for the other months have been in the teens, with one or two in the 20s of minutes.
"I don't think that this is a long time to be waiting for the Florida Highway Patrol to come and investigate a crash," he said. "So I'm not sure where the information came from that 'it takes an hour,' 'it takes an hour and a half.' The last time I read in one of the other papers, two hours to respond. It's just not there. The facts don't show that."
It's normal to wait for the FHP because of their staffing issues. It's an issue for the Legislature.
"I come to you this morning because it is my responsibility, and I would have liked to have had the opportunity to come to you so that you could have the facts," he said.
"People say it's a public safety issue," he concluded. "I don't see that."
"If you move in the direction of annexation, I would suggest to you that you negotiate to have the city of Holmes Beach actually annex all the way across the bridge. Because by them annexing just Kingfish ramp and up to the foot of the bridge on the west side, you're not accomplishing anything based on what I perceive as the problem."
You'd still have jurisdiction up to the bridge with the city of Bradenton, the Florida Highway Patrol on the bridge, and the city of Holmes Beach from the foot of the west side to the city.
Whitmore replied that Steube's people came and said it wasn't their area, and the statistics are why the city wants the area.
"It's so screwed up for the public not knowing who to call," she said.
The interlocal agreement
The commissioners then picked up the Interlocal Service Boundary Agreement, in which they were to adopt a resolution responding to the resolution by the city of Holmes Beach.
Deputy County Attorney Maureen Sikora said that under the statute, the city says it wants to annex the property. "We're simply responding that we're interested," she said.
The county has 60 days to respond. "We do have some time," she said. "We actually do have almost another month before the 60-day period runs. However, I was told by their attorney that they want to try and move this forward to their legislative delegation for this session."
That's why they want it considered this month as opposed to next month, Sikora added.
Commissioner Ron Getman asked what would happen if the county denied the resolution. "Would Holmes Beach proceed?" he asked.
Sikora replied that the city would proceed with the annexation, but because the state is owned by the state and leased by the county, they'd have to go for a voluntary annexation or go to the Legislature for a special act. But the delegation might not go for that.
"Is it possible for them to annex across up to the city limits of Bradenton?" Getman asked.
Sikora said she didn't research that issue. "However, if it goes to the Legislature as a special act, the Legislature really has the authority to incorporate whatever territory it wants to into the city limits," she said. "If the county objects to it, then of course, they would not do that. But if the county has no objection, including the property across the bridge, then that could also be part of the proposed legal description in the special act, I'm not sure whether the city itself has considered that."
Getman said when Bradenton annexed the land to the east, it decided not to annex the bridge and annexed across the bottom lands. On the west side, he said, the sheriff made a good point that if they were going to do if for public safety's purpose, then he said he would support the annexation all the way to the Bradenton line.
Sikora suggested that the commission amend the map to show the property going out to meet the city limits of Bradenton and they could include that as part of the resolution.
Getman said he'd put that up as an amendment to the resolution.
Point of order
County Commissioner Joe McClash said he thought they were here to respond to Holmes Beach's request, but now it was expanding. "I don't think there's anything that prohibits the boundary agreement from coming back at a future time," he said. "To me, it's not right to include something that wasn't part of the original discussions, and I'm not sure if the police chief wants responsibility and the mayor out there."
He said something was being pushed onto the city.
Sikora said the sheet allows some latitude to identify additional areas for potential annexation. "You do have some flexibility under the statute," she said.
Whitmore said that she couldn't support pushing jurisdiction over more than what the city asked for. "All the city of Holmes Beach wants is what they thought they had jurisdiction over the last 50 years," she said. "They didn't ask for any more."
She added she didn't think it was fair to add that big an amendment without anyone from the city being present.
Another concern would be replacing the bridge, Whitmore said, and who would be responsible for it. Sikora replied that it was still a state road.
"This is a whole bigger can of worms, if you're thinking about that," she said. "I'm thinking about the Anna Maria Bridge that we've just gone through with everybody."
The vote on the amendment was 6-1, with McClash dissenting. The motion to adopt the resolution, involve the sheriff and amend the map passed 7-0.
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