Sheriff to run Cooper City police, fire-rescue

By Thomas Monnay
Staff Writer
Posted January 14 2004

COOPER CITY Despite pleas from angry residents, commissioners agreed Tuesday night to proceed with a proposal to have the Broward Sheriff's Office take over police and fire-rescue services.

By a 5-0 vote, they authorized Mayor Suellen Fardelmann and City Manager Chris Farrell to execute a five-year contract with the Sheriff's Office, which will save the city a projected $1.5 million a year. The contract will become effective Feb. 15.


Both the police and fire unions voted last week to support the merger, which members say will enable Cooper City to provide upgraded services to residents.

"We're saving you money. ... Our people are going to be better off," Fardelmann said. "It's not a popular decision, but it's right."

With this merger, Cooper City becomes the 12th Broward County municipality to receive law enforcement services from the Sheriff's Office. The other cities are Lauderdale Lakes, Pembroke Park, Dania Beach, Tamarac, Deerfield Beach, Weston, Pompano Beach, Oakland Park, Southwest Ranches, Lauderdale-by-the-Sea and North Lauderdale.

The Sheriff's Office took over the county's fire-rescue system last October and provides fire-rescue services to Weston, Pembroke Park and most unincorporated areas.

A private study commissioned by Cooper City found the city could face a $430,598 deficit in its next fiscal budget, which would grow to $5.21 million over seven years. Police and fire-rescue services account for $11.51 million, or 58 percent, of the city's $20.03 million budget.

To avoid a deficit, city officials said they would have to raise the property tax rate until it reaches the state-mandated cap of $10 per $1,000 of appraised property values.

Hundreds of residents, however, said they would rather pay more taxes in return for customized police services. They voiced fears that a merger would eliminate the hometown interaction they have enjoyed with officers and firefighters. They said they were kept in the dark about the merger, which they say should have been decided by voters.

About 150 people attended the meeting, including police officers, firefighters and residents. People spoke both for and against the proposal.

"This is the worst example of not serving the people you were sworn to serve," said Angel Palank, a former Cooper City commissioner. She wanted her fellow residents to make the decision, not the commission.

The city held a town hall meeting on Jan. 6 to provide more information on the issue, but some residents were upset that commissioners left it to Sheriff Ken Jenne to answer questions.

"I'm extremely upset. The whole thing is wrong," said resident Mike Carvelli. "We are the ones who pay the taxes. I don't know why the entire commission is not listening to the people."

Cheryl Stopnick, a Sheriff's Office spokeswoman, said police officials would be required to attend civic association and homeowners association meetings to learn about problems and ways to improve services.

Thomas Monnay can be reached at tmonnay@sun-sentinel.com or 954-385-7924.