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The Villages
Sunday, April 14, 2024

The Villages to end police protection contract at Spanish Springs Town Square

Gary Lester
William Lawrence
William Lawrence

The Villages has decided to end its police protection contract at Spanish Springs Town Square.

The Villages has long held a contract with the Town of Lady Lake to provide for police protection at the original town square.

The Town of Lady Lake is in a 30-year agreement in which The Villages provides $100,000 annually to subsidize the Lady Lake Police Department. The contract runs through 2024. The agreement began in 1994, when The Villages was much smaller and before it began to dominate the Town of Lady Lake. Today, the cost to the Town of Lady Lake for the law enforcement service provided for The Villages is $185,000 per year.

Last year, new Town Manager William Lawrence, who has a background in law enforcement, discovered the town was upside down in the contract with The Villages. He met with The Villages Vice President for Community Relations Gary Lester in hopes of negotiating an increase. The meeting apparently did not go as planned.

Lawrence announced at Wednesday night’s Lady Lake Commission meeting that The Villages has decided not to continue the decades-old agreement.

“They do not want to renew the contract,” Lawrence said.

What next for Spanish Springs Town Square?

Spanish Springs Town Square has seen its share of crime through the years.

Austin Stevens

In 2016, 26-year-old Austin Stevens suffered a fatal skull fracture when he was knocked to the ground during a fight with two other young men in front of the former home of TooJay’s Gourmet Deli. He was kicked in the face by one of the assailants and flown to Ocala Regional Medical Center where he died.

There have been numerous battles of over seat-saving in the square, some resulting in arrests. A Village of Winifred woman was sentenced to anger management after she punched another woman on the dance floor.

Earlier this year, a snowbird escaped prosecution after attacking a police officer who investigated a complaint from a bartender that the intoxicated man had invaded the drink hut. A man from Spruce Creek was arrested in January after a brawl ignited by a gay slur.

Spanish Springs Town Square has a reputation for attracting “outsiders” due to its access to U.S. Hwy. 27/441. The same thing occurs at Brownwood Paddock Square due to its proximity to State Road 44. Lake Sumter Landing is the most insulated town square and attracts a higher-percentage of Villagers and their guests as opposed to “outsiders.”

Richard Hendricks, a Villager with a long history of arrests, speaks to a Lady Lake police officer in 2016 at Spanish Springs Town Square.

A likely alternative to the presence of Lady Lake police could be an increased presence of Community Watch at Spanish Springs. The Developer has been paying the $100,000 annual fee to the Town of Lady Lake. Community Watch is funded with amenity fees paid by residents. The cost of an increased presence of Community Watch at Spanish Springs Town Square would likely go before the Amenity Authority Committee.

Is this the end of entertainment at Spanish Springs Town Square?

With apartments on the horizon at Spanish Springs Town Square, the abandonment of Katie Belle’s and work stalled for years at the Rialto Theater, many have suspected that the Developer wants to pull the plug on entertainment at the square. If there is no nightlife, the need for a security service would be greatly reduced.

Share your thoughts on this topic in a Letter to the Editor at letters@villages-news.com

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