Mayor issues letter, calls city's situation 'dire'

WAVELAND -- Mayor David Garcia has just released a letter explaining his thoughts behind a proposal for the Hancock County sheriff to act as police chief and control patrols in the city. Garcia calls the city's financial situation "dire." The text of the letter follows here:

"Dear Constituents: As you are all now aware, the City of Waveland is facing a significant budget shortfall, which is requiring the Board to take swift action. I have submitted to the Board for its consideration a budget proposal to address our financial situation. Unfortunately, because of the dire financial situation, that proposal includes drastic cuts to multiple departments. Included within those cuts is a proposal to the County Board of Supervisors for the Sheriff to act as police chief and control the patrol of the City. It should go without saying, I am not happy that the financial situation is forcing me to make such proposals. Regardless, in my opinion, which was formed with the assistance of numerous state and local financial and auditing agencies, the gravity of the situation requires those actions.

"While I would not, if the budget did not so require, want to or even consider making the cuts I propose, those are the cuts that best allow this City to function with the highest level of services possible. Also, the apparent public perception of the proposed temporary consolidation of the Waveland Police and Hancock County Sheriff’s office unduly minimizes the amount of patrol the City will have. The proposed agreement would have the Sheriff (also acting as police chief) provide two (2) full time officers, per shift, patrolling just the City of Waveland. This show of force equates to what we currently have. Also, those officers would have access to back-up forces the Sheriff has at his disposal. The Sheriff would also provide investigative services, and do these actions, should the Board of Supervisors accept this proposal, without administrative compensation from the City. In short, the Sheriff would perform those functions without additional salary. The effect on police patrol will be nil. The Sheriff has been gracious in his consideration of the City’s condition and with his willingness to help; for that, this City should be grateful. Likewise, the City should be grateful to the Board of Supervisors for any consideration they may give to this proposal (should our Board approve it). The County has demonstrated that we are truly a community. For that, I am grateful.

"My proposal to the Board was not tendered without careful thought. It was formed through meetings with my staff, the City’s private auditors, Mississippi State Auditors (sent by the State’s administration to help the City resolve its situation), and with MDA, MEMA and FEMA. Those entities and personnel shared their thoughts and recommendations with me and the Aldermen. My recommendations are based largely on recommendations offered during those meetings, all taking into account the need to continue to operate the City with services it can reasonably provide. This is what is needed to reduce the budget for the remainder of the FY 2010-2011, to the extent possible, and to move the City into the upcoming budget of FY 2011-2012.

"The process of creating this proposal entailed many man hours seeking a solution, and was deliberative. All of that time was spent looking for a solution, which, regardless of the outcome, was not an easy one to propose. The process of choosing among departments and personnel, when the only possible resolutions result in City employees’ livelihoods being affected, is not simple, easy and, thus, it is not lightly taken by me or this Board. Unfortunately, the gravity of the City’s finances mandates such decisions.

"My proposal is the only one I believe tenable. Law enforcement is the only service the City can readily contract out to another entity. The proposal would have those officers patrolling our streets in Waveland Police Cars. The only difference would be that they would be wearing a Hancock County Sheriff’s Deputy Uniform. They will be cross commissioned, and will enforce local Municipal laws and Ordinances as well as State Laws. This would under our proposal to the County Board of Supervisors allow those patrolmen the authority to run radar in Waveland. The City would continue to collect those proceeds, and its court system shall remain in operation. The officers would also use our current police station as a sub-station, giving a strong police presence here.

"I ask that you trust in what is being done. This Board is trying to correct and mend problems that were left behind by the previous Administration. I realize that many have hard feelings left by my predecessor; I can understand this. This Board’s concern is the financial well-being of this City and the future movement forward. The proposal would be effective for no more than 2 years. This is not a permanent plan of a reduction of the police department; rather, it is a temporary solution to our temporary budget situation. We will resolve this budget, and the City of Waveland will again be financial strong. However, the current financial situation calls for these drastic reductions."

Sincerely, David A. Garcia, Mayor