Sunday morning at 7 a.m., St. Pete Beach will possess a very unusual and quite vacant asset. That's when a contract for law enforcement services with the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office kicks in, and the St. Pete Beach Police Department ceases to exist.
Their former work place will become a real estate riddle.
"Our main concern right now is getting the transition through, working with all the people," Mayor Steve McFarlin said. "We've kind of set the issue of the building off."
McFarlin said 30 of the department's 33 employees have been hired by the sheriff's office, while the remaining three are retiring.
That includes David Romine, the beach town's police chief the past decade.
Friday, he gave one last tour of the facility before handing over the keys to his car and vacating his office. He laughed at the question posed on the chalk board in the roll call room: "Who will take the last call, arrest?"
While some of the three-story structure is typical office and storage space, much of it is not.
"This is dispatch," Romine said, pointing out the communications room. "This is the heart of the PD."
There are also holding cells, a sally port and a secure ground-level parking garage. The building won architectural awards when it was built in 1995. It is able to withstand a Category 5 hurricane.
"This building had been hardened. It was just hardened last year," Romine pointed out.
The structure is also right on the Intracoastal Waterway, but it is wedged between St. Pete Beach's recreational center and its public works facility. The mayor predicted city commissioners will consider what to do with the building in the near future, but he ruled out demolition.
"No, no, no, not at all, no," McFarlin declared. "I'm sure we can find a use for it."
The sheriff's office said it only needed a couple of offices for deputies assigned to the town, and that space was easily found in the city hall because of previous staff reductions.
The mayor sees the left-over police station as evidence of a newer business model.
"When you have your own, you want to have everything, and consolidation like this just proves you don't need it," he said.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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