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Quincy nixes sheriff’s proposal

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City commissioners give chilly reception to plan for Gadsden County Sheriff’s Office, Quincy Police Department to share dispatch, build new facility

By Robert Allen

The future relationship between city and county law enforcement was one of the issues Quincy commissioners addressed April 22 during their regular meeting.

Other topics included the fate of bus services and collection dilemmas.

Walter McNeil, chief of the Quincy Police Department, spoke at the meeting, introducing a new idea and hearing commissioners’ reactions. McNeil told the commissioners he was approached by the Gadsden County Sherriff’s Office about possibly combining dispatch functions and later building a facility designed to house both agencies, further merging the two entities.

Both agencies currently maintain independent operations. They do, however, already share the county’s building, a facility rearranged for this dual duty about two years ago when the city police department moved from the older building on the southwest corner of Duval and West Jefferson streets. 

Commissioner Keith Dowdell said he couldn’t offer a position on the new consolidation ideas because he was not yet aware of the pros and cons. 

Other commissioners, however, were ready to state definite stances. 

“I’m totally against it,” said Commissioner Larry Edwards. “People call that number (for QPD) to get their lights turned back on. It’s used for a lot more than just 911. Some of it’s unnecessary — but they do a great job.”

Others agreed.

“I oppose this at every turn,” said Commissioner Andy Gay. “I think this would be a big loss for the city of Quincy.” 

Last week’s discussion concerning a new contract for bus services through Big Bend Transit remained a topic of consideration. The issue carries countywide implications because the city’s decision will help inform the BOCC’s decision to continue or stop bus services throughout the rest of Gadsden County. 

“I would be hard-pressed during budget season to fund this the way we’ve been funding it,” said Commissioner Derrick Elias. 

He wasn’t alone.

“We’ve got to find an alternative because it is cost prohibitive,” said Edwards. “It costs too much to provide this service.”

According to Mike Wade, interim city manager, last year the service cost $82,000. The city contributed $36,000 toward the service. The county contributed $36,000. And Big Bend Transit anticipated collecting $10,000 through fares. 

“I agree with the comments,” said Gay. “Somebody needs to start some dialogue, start a panel and research some alternatives.”

Collecting payment for long-standing delinquent utility accounts was another topic of discussion. The city has a number of customers who either chronically chose not or cannot pay all or part of their utility bills. The city has decided to hold these customers to their contracts — and begin shutting off utilities at the chronically delinquent addresses. 

“I will be holding these customers to the terms of their agreements,” said Ann Sherman, director of customer service. “Look forward to phone calls.”

No one objected to the announcement.

“I don’t mind the tightening of the belt,” said Elias. “I don’t mind the phone calls. I’ll sit back and wait for the phone calls. I’m sure they’ll come.”

The ensuing conversation revolved around the utilities customers who tell the city they are struggling. Sherman and the commissioners discussed what circumstances constitute an extenuating enough situation for the customer to be allowed an extensions—as well as how these circumstances could be objectively assessed, and who would apply this discretion. 

“Maybe they’ve got problems we don’t know about,” said Edwards. “That’s a tough decision for anybody to make.”

The meeting was Edward’s last. He is not seeking re-election. 

My hope for you all is that we can get this thing turned around,” said Edwards. “I think we’re heading in the right direction.”