Cooper City, Florida Looks To Merge Police, Fire-Rescue Services With Broward

Cooper City officials are looking at contracting with the Broward Sheriff's Office for police and fire-rescue services, a move that could save taxpayers money.

Commissioner Debby Eisinger said city administrators and Sheriff's Office officials have been talking for months. In addition, several commissioners, including Eisinger, met individually with Sheriff Ken Jenne.

She said Jenne would meet today in Cooper City with police and fire-rescue officials to further discuss the proposal.

"It's certainly not a done deal, just a dialogue," Eisinger said. "Pension and benefits have increased over the past years. [This] may be the proper time to consider."

Commissioners recently increased the property tax rate by 8 percent to $6.69 per $1,000 of assessed value, to balance the city's budget. About $900,000 went into the police and fire pension funds to compensate for significant investment losses.

City officials have said the cost for employee benefits and insurance also has skyrocketed, making it more difficult to provide services.

Neither City Manager Chris Farrell, finance director Horacio Montes de Oca nor police union president Sgt. Matt Buschman were available for comment.

Cheryl Stopnick, a Sheriff's Office spokeswoman, said Cooper City "approached us, seeking information to see if a merger would make sense. But it's still preliminary; it's way too premature."

The Sheriff's Office currently provides services to several Broward municipalities, including Pembroke Park, Dania Beach, Southwest Ranches, Weston, Pompano Beach, Lauderdale Lakes, Lauderdale by the Sea, North Lauderdale and Oakland Park.

Regardless of the potential savings for Cooper City, some civic leaders say they like things as they are.

On Tuesday, the Embassy Lakes master homeowners association wrote to Eisinger to warn her against any merger. Some leaders are preparing flyers urging residents citywide to mobilize.

"We don't want them to crunch the numbers. It's not a viable option," said Stephen Marhee, the association's president.

Former commissioner Angelica Palank said many residents like the customized municipal services and any changes should be made through a voter referendum.

"I don't believe for a minute we would get better services," she said. "We always could get cheaper services. So, why now?"

Eisinger said commissioners would seek resident input would before making any decision, and she would consult with cities using the Broward Sheriff's Office's services.

Commissioner Bob Webster said it's worth listening to the Sheriff's Office as long as it makes sense financially. He said Jenne told him that in a merger, the city's police personnel would remain the same.

"We discussed the possibilities and what the benefits would be," Webster said. "I haven't seen any dollar figure on anything."