The Belleview City Commission included the armed security provision at the last minute. During the meeting, they also approved for water and sewer rates to go up 5 percent.
The Belleview City Commission will require operators of internet cafes within the city limits to hire licensed armed security guards or off-duty law enforcement officers after it passed one of the toughest ordinances of its kind in the county.
The armed security provision was a last-minute addition after Richard Santerre, a Summerfield resident, suggested it during the public comments portion of the commission meeting on Tuesday night. Santerre, who claimed affiliation with internet cafes and a security service, but said he had no ties with any of the 11 Belleview internet cafe operations, asked commissioners to consider requiring operators to contract with a security service to provide armed security.
“I one hundred percent agree that if they had licensed, professional security, then crime would probably be nonexistent there. The great majority of the calls we have had are in the parking lot for burglary of vehicles and theft of people coming in and out,” said Belleview Police Chief Terry Holland.
Commissioners, however, stopped short of requiring operators to hire a security service. Commissioner Michael Goldman suggested the inclusion of off-duty law enforcement officers.
Marion County’s internet cafe ordinance does not require licensed, armed security.
While the ordinance came up several times during public meetings, no representatives from the local cafes ever attended.
Before Tuesday, Belleview had few rules governing the cafes. Some operated 24 hours a day and served alcohol. Police responded to more than 100 calls to the cafes since January, including for armed robberies and a shooting.
The new law limits the hours of operations from 8 a.m. to 2 a.m.; bans alcohol sales and possession of alcohol; restricts cafes near churches, schools and daycare centers; bans minors on the property; requires security cameras inside and out; and limits the number of machines per facility, based on the number of available parking spots.
The commission voted 4-1 to approve the law. Commissioner Robert “Bo” Smith voted against the measure, not because he disagreed with the restrictions, but because he felt existing cafes should have to comply with all the new rules. While the hours of operation and alcohol ban would apply to all the cafes, other restrictions, such as the proximity to churches and schools, and parking space requirements, would not.
Internet cafes offer games that tiptoe around the legal definition of gambling, which is illegal in Florida except in limited instances. By using certain technology, operators claim their games are games of skill, rather than chance, which are illegal. While they stay open, their legality is in question. In June, five internet cafes in Marion County got raided and shut down, accused of illegal gambling. Those cases are pending.
Water and sewer rates increase
On Tuesday, commissioners also reluctantly voted to increase the water and sewer fees it charges its customers by 5 percent this year and then another 5 percent next year.
For city residents, that translates to a 55 cent increase to the monthly base rate for water and 11 cents to the monthly base rate for sewer. Monthly base rates for customers outside the city will go up by 82 cents for water and $1.67 for sewer. There are additional charges for the amount of water used and those also increase by 5 percent.
“I just hate increases,” Smith said.
Without the increases, the city would not raise enough money to maintain the infrastructure of the water and sewer systems, according to a study commissioned by the city.
“You can’t run in the red, man. You just can’t do it,” Goldman said.
The measure passed unanimously.
The increases take effect Nov. 1 and again Oct. 1, 2019.
Contact Carlos Medina at 867-4157 or firstname.lastname@example.org.