Monday, May 23, 2011

Dear Deerfield Beach Mayor and Commissioners:

There is no doubt in my mind that if you decide to have BSO take over the fire/rescue department you must hold a referendum to approve their use of the city owned facilities. It is very clear in the Charter.

The Deerfield Beach Charter (Section 7.09.) covers a mandated referendum on public property worth more than $750,000 in the case of: “Sale, gift, trade, transfer or lease”. The wording in the charter that makes a vote necessary if BSO takes over the fire/rescue operations is: “Lease is defined as a contract for possession or use of real property.”
Just in case your thinking is “We’re going to do this anyway and let someone try to stop us.” I must say that is not a wise course of action. Very likely there will be a lawsuit brought if the city tries to allow BSO to use the facilities without following the Charter provision.

I assume that a suit will cost more to defend than an election which could be relatively inexpensive if done by mail. Costs aside, think of the results of entering into a contract with BSO, followed by the inevitable lawsuit. The city would undoubtedly lose the suit, forcing a referendum. Think of the mess if the voters refuse to allow the use after already having a signed contract with BSO.

You already have residents up in arms about the possibility of the Commission making this decision without public input, legally mandated or not. The last time the city was deliberating a move to BSO, following the direction of the charter, a referendum, asking if the voters favored allowing the city owned properties to be used by BSO, was voted down. The important impact of that vote was not just the yes or no vote, but that there was a vote at all. Clearly the legal opinion was that it was needed, as it is in the current case.

If the commission votes that they would like to switch to BSO, let the voters have the information that convinced you. Let’s have the pros and cons, spell out your reasons. And then let us vote. It’s the law, and even more important, it’s the right thing to do.

Bett Willett
Co-president, Original Save Our Beach Committee

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