Pinellas County Sheriff's Office moving out of building in Dunedin

Dunedin residents worry about response times
Posted at 8:12 PM, May 17, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-17 20:13:51-04

Packing up and moving out: the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office is moving out of its substation in Dunedin.

People who live nearby are sounding the alarm. They are worried it will take deputies longer to get to them in case of an emergency.  

The charm, the history, the beauty are all reasons people rave about Dunedin, but for J.D. Belanger there is a bigger reason he moved to the city.

“We feel very safe,” Belanger said.

The Pinellas County North District Station, which also services Oldsmar, Palm Harbor and Safety Harbor, is walking distance from Belanger's house.

“The convenience of them being in town is what makes this town,” Belanger added.

By Sept. 30, Belanger will  lose his favorite neighborhood sheriff's substation of 22 years.

Black mold inside the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office North substation building on Louden Avenue is so bad it’s making sheriff’s department employees who work there sick.

The well-being of the sheriff's office employees is an important factor.  

 “We have to get out of there," Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said. "Our employees are complaining about headaches and sore throats.”

Although sheriff's officials want to keep a substation in Dunedin, they haven’t found a space large enough to accommodate their needs. They need a building with at least 14,000 square feet of space.

The idea of the sheriff's office substation leaving Dunedin worries resident Anna Fields.

“Moving them further away is a little scary,” Fields said, referring to the sheriff's deputies. 

Fields has relied on knowing if she was ever in danger, deputies were right around the corner and able to get to her quickly.

A benefit for Dunedin residents has been the relatively light traffic in the city has made it easier for deputies to zip in and out of the substation.

The other locations the Sheriff’s Office is looking at are along busy roads like East Bay and Alternate U.S.-19.

Gualtieri insists moving the substation won’t add to response times.

“Deputies are on the streets, so when a citizen needs law enforcement, they are not coming from the north station," Gualtieri said. "They are coming from their patrol cars, which are on the street all the time, so nobody should see any difference in service.”

Fields said it makes a difference to her not having to worry about where the nearest deputy will be.

“I think everyone is used to having them, and I think it’s a nice safety blanket having them here in our little city," Fields said.

The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office hopes to make a final decision in the next month about where to move the north substation.