ROYAL PALM BEACH, Fla. — Stuck at the entrance gate in their own community, that's what some first responders in Royal Palm Beach say they are dealing with when they come home in their patrol cars.
In the Palm Beach Plantation Community entrance off Lyons Road, there's a gate for residents which means you need to have a sticker transponder to get in and there's a gate for guests where drivers insert their license into a machine and have a guard ask them questions over a speaker.
First responders who live in the community and take their work vehicles home say they are having to wait in the guest line.
One night, one first responder who does not want to be identified to protect their job, said the line stretched out to the main road on nights when there are events in the neighborhood.
"The line was all the way out to Southern Boulevard, it took me an hour to get home," said the first responder.
The homeowner said it wasn't always like this. She used to have an access card that would get her through the residential entrance, but a few months ago property management deactivated hers along with other first responders' cards.
"We were told that we are no different than guests and we can wait in the guest line and that they will not be issuing us any other law enforcement cards," said the first responder.
The issue is causing greater concern for others who live there. Bill Damelio said he had to let two deputies in a few months ago when they were trying to respond to a call.
"They were standing there just frustrated," said Damelio. "I ripped off my transponder, it's a sticker that's on my car. I ripped it of, I ran up and I let them in and they were like thank you, thank you this happens all the time."
WPTV reached out to First Service Residental, the company that manages the property, but did not hear back. On social media, they have responded to some of these concerns by saying they are looking into it and reviewing policy, but first responders we spoke with say they've been complaining for months.
"You're penalized because you're in a take-home vehicle responding to emergencies for your work," said another first responder who said he used to have a clicker that was transferable to other vehicles, but it was deactivated.
"If for any reason, it's my family that's making a call, I want to make sure that they are here within seconds," added Damelio.
First Service Residential later sent WPTV the following statement:
“Palm Beach Plantation is home to many members of law enforcement, emergency management and first responder agencies. We are deeply appreciative for the service they provide and the sacrifices they make for our community. It has been brought to our attention that a small but vocal number of residents have made false allegations about Palm Beach Plantation management, specifically regarding the community’s access entry for law enforcement and first responders who live in our community. We take this seriously given our support and gratitude for those in the first responder community. Our priority is to communicate all the facts correctly and directly to our residents to set the record straight.”