Hawthorne opts to shut down police department

Published: Friday, January 16, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 15, 2009 at 9:02 p.m.

Hawthorne, once again, is a city without its own police department.

A majority vote by city commissioners Wednesday night shut down the agency that started about two years ago.

Hawthorne Police Chief Jack Donadio's job had started in March 2007.

The reason for Wednesday's vote was funding, said Vice Mayor John Martin Thursday.

The city was looking at an estimated deficit of about $200,000 at the end of the fiscal year in September if it kept the agency.

The decision took effect immediately, Martin said, with the department's three full-time employees including the chief receiving a 30-day severance package as well as accrued sick and vacation time.

It's estimated the city will save about $143,000 without its own agency.

Martin said he was one of two votes against closing the department. He believed that the agency would have become "self-sufficient" if it operated 24 hours a day throughout the week.

The agency had been operating about 16 hours a day.

Residents needing law enforcement assistance should contact the Alachua County Sheriff's Office, Martin said.

When the city launched the new agency, officials had cited the need for increased policing in Hawthorne. But others at the time said they believed the city was looking to get money from writing traffic citations.

The city still faces funding issues. Martin said the city also is looking at the future of its fire department as well as rates for services such as water and sewage.

And, as part of the vote to disband the police department, Martin said it also was decided not to join the municipal service taxing unit or MSTU for county law enforcement.

Sheriff's Office spokesman Lt. Steve Maynard didn't address the funding issue but said the Hawthorne commission's decision doesn't change how deputies have been dealing with calls from Hawthorne. Even with the police department in place, deputies still handled 911 calls from the city.

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