ANNA MARIA ISLAND -- The Manatee County Sheriff's Office bill for 2013-14 services to Anna Maria Island has arrived and AMI commissioners aren't yet ready to pay.
Commissioner Eugene Aubry proposed Thursday at the Anna Maria City Commission meeting the group explore a partnership with Holmes Beach Police Department.
The other four commissioners agreed getting the most for the money was important, but some were concerned about losing quality of service.
"This is a lot of money for a police force," Aubry said of the sheriff office's proposal of $615,543 for the period of Oct. 1, 2013 to Sept. 30, 2014.
The proposal, about $55,000 less than the current contract because younger deputies this year make less money, calls for seven law officers.
Sgt. Paul Davis, whose proposed 2013-14 yearly salary
is listed as $70,980, would be the highest paid law officer and in charge of the AMI substation, according to Anna Maria commission documents.
"We are a stone's throw from Holmes Beach and their police force seems enormous," Aubry said. "This is a new day and we should not keep our head in the sand regarding a possible consolidation."
Anna Maria Mayor SueLynn told the audience, which included about a half dozen residents, she and Holmes Beach Mayor Carmel Monti discussed the matter in light of the new Holmes Beach police chief.
"In the past we have discovered there was no cost savings," said Commissioner Chuck Webb. "Also, the sheriff's office is large and, generally speaking, sheriff's offices across the state are the top law enforcement agencies. But let's look into it. As you said, Gene, it's a new day and it is a lot of money."
"I don't see any downside to looking into it," said Commissioner Doug Copeland.
Commissioner Nancy Yetter questioned if Anna Maria will get the same level of service from HMPD.
"But we have to look into it," Yetter said.
In other action, after last Saturday's drowning death of a 14-year-old boy on an Anna Maria beach, commissioners agreed Thursday to place the issue of lifeguards and towers on the 6 p.m. July 25 commission agenda.
Resident Joe Paulk told commissioners Anna Maria has other pressing quality-of-life issues.
"I don't have a problem saving lives," Paulk said. "But I do have a problem with paying for lifeguards right now if we don't have money for other things we need."
City attorney James Dye said commissioners could legally erect lifeguard towers with a state permit. Dye, with the city since the early 1990s, said most lifeguards are found at public beaches where there are snack bars, parking and bathroom facilities.
"Anna Maria has little pockets of beaches, but they are informal," Dye said.
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-748-0411, Ext. 6686