WINTER HAVEN — A good early chunk of Wednesday night’s workshop was used to talk about a recent accomplishment of the Winter Haven Police Department.
For the 15th year in a row, the agency received accreditation from the Commission for Florida Law Enforcement Accreditation. The accreditation ensures that the department adheres to and meets specific competency criteria.
“It speaks volumes,” Chief Charlie Bird said. “We have an excellent team and an excellent department, but we didn’t do this on our own.”
Bird said part of the evaluation process involves community feedback in which residents send emails and make calls to the accreditation agency’s auditors. Bird credited the city’s human resources and information technology departments for helping earn the accreditation as well as Carla Neal, the department’s accreditation manager, who joined the agency after previously working for the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.
“When we lost our previous accreditation manager, we started to panic a little bit,” Bird said. “We were fortunate enough to find her and we’ve hit the ground running.”
Because the department earned the accreditation for the 15th year in a row, it received “Excelsior” status on its certificate. The accreditation was awarded to the department last week in Westin.
“That accreditation says we’re doing things right,” Mayor Steven Hunnicutt said. “It’s not a small thing. Hats off to you guys, because I know it wasn’t an easy process. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it.”
Commissioner Nat Birdsong offered similar sentiments.
“I’m elated,” Birdsong said. “It’s a really great accomplishment. I am extremely proud of our Police Department, what you’re accomplishing and how you carry out your duties.”
MEDICAL MARIJUANA DISPENSARIES
Medical marijuana dispensaries were among the hot topics of Wednesday. With voters approving medical marijuana for Florida last year, state lawmakers gave municipalities the option of banning dispensaries in their cities or treating them as they would pharmacies.
Merle Bishop, the city’s growth management director, said when it came to pharmacies, there is no special use designation, but they were allowed in certain commercial districts. Bishop said the commission could elect to ban the dispensaries, allow them in commercial districts where pharmacies are already permitted or make them a special use, which requires approval from the Planning Commission.
“We have 17 pharmacies in the city,” Bishop said. “We’re not going to get anywhere near that with medical marijuana. We might get one, maybe two.”
Commissioner Brad Dantzler was absent Wednesday night, but Hunnicutt said he would be in favor of the ban. Commissioners Birdsong, Pete Chichetto and William Twyford all said they would prefer to see it as a special use for C-1 and C-2 zones, which include downtown and neighborhood commercial districts.
ALSO OF NOTE
Commissioners said they were in favor of canceling meetings for Nov. 27 and Dec. 25 because of their proximity to the holidays. They also consented to cancel the Dec. 6 workshop because multiple commissioners and city staff members will be at a Florida League of Cities event.
City Attorney John Murphy announced that there would be a recount for one of the amendments that failed Tuesday night. Amendment 8, which pertained to police and firefighter salaries, failed by just 10 votes. According to Tuesday’s count, 1,566 voted against it and 1,556 voted for it.
Commissioners will meet to vote on the items discussed during Wednesday’s workshop at 6:30 p.m. on Monday. The meeting will take place in the Fuller Auditorium at City Hall, 451 Third St., NW.
Mike Ferguson can be reached at Mike.Ferguson@directgates.com or 863-401-6981. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeWFerguson.