Surfside eliminates Public Safety Director

Surfside Beach, SC - By Alisha Laventure

SURFSIDE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Surfside Beach will no longer have a public safety director on July 1.

The town council voted last night to eliminate the position.  Mayor Allen Deaton says the decision is an effort to limit city spending and improve overall efficiency. He and the council are planning to divide the fire and police departments into two distinct units, which makes them eligible for more federal funding.

"We're starting from the ground up and we have an opportunity to create two departments that are lean and mean and just efficient," Deaton said.

The mayor says the split is also in response to the growth and development of the city.

Andy Christensen presently serves as both public safety director and police chief, but he may soon find himself unemployed.  The two positions are one in the same, as outlined by Surfside's city ordinance.

Christensen says he has not yet been informed that his position will soon cease to exist as of next month. Deaton denies allegations that the elimination of public safety director was made for political reasons.

"I don't perceive any attack anywhere," Deaton said.  "This is not a witch hunt. It's not an attempt to take anyone down or anything like that.  These are policy making decisions and that's what we do as a body."

Christensen has served as public safety director since 2007 and he has served on the Surfside police force for 23 years.

The termination of his position occurs just two years before he is eligible for retirement with benefits.

Deaton says traditionally, the police department has received nearly three times more city funding than the fire department has received. As a separate entity, the fire department will qualify for federal funding, allowing the city to save money.

The mayor assures the restructuring of the two departments will not jeopardize Surfside residents in any way.

The position for of police chief will open next month with the termination of public safety director.  Christensen will have to apply for the job if he intends to continue serving as police chief.

Council will meet next Tuesday to discuss filling that position.

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