BELLEAIR BLUFFS -- A few years ago, when Belleair Bluffs was struggling politically and financially to build a city hall, one of the selling points was that the place would be a place for community events, weddings, bar mitzvahs, bean suppers, hair cutting contests -- the works.
Now, it turns out, the citizenry can barely use it at all, according to Pat Arbutine, a city resident, who was a proponent of the new building.
This is because, Arbutine told the City Commission at its workshop meeting Wednesday night, a $500 insurance rider to cover liability is required. "Who can afford that?" she asked.
"This auditorium was meant to be used by the citizens. Their money paid for it -- not just as taxpayers, but in contributions. This was paid for by the people," Arbutine said.
She urged the commission to look at its policy, including the rental agreement, and make the city hall more accessible to the citizenry.
In its discussion of the situation, commissioners seemed to hold to the idea that "non-profits" are poor (although that is most likely the case with any like that around Belleair Bluffs).
That is not necessarily the case. "Non-profit" is a status issued by the Internal Revenue Service to a corporation that is educational or charitable and forgives them from paying taxes. Non-profit means that there is no distribution of dividends. Many non-profits are extremely wealthy.
One hot topic Monday night was a review of the refuse service now being done by Waste Management. Commissioner Robert Russo wanted to make a change from the company that has served the city for about 20 years.
Most of the comments about Waste Management extolled the company's virtues. Mayor Chris Arubine was a strong advocate for keeping the company. Commissioner Dave Shimkus wanted to see what other companies would cost.
A former member of the commission, Wallace Witham, who is a city watchdog, attending just about every meeting, pointed out how Waste Management had been very helpful in critical situations over the years.
John Tabor, another citizen watchdog and also a former commissioner, had questions about the fire budget.
Commissioner Hunt Brand, who is the liaison member for the fire department, which is administered by Largo's fire chief, Caroll Williams, accommodate Tabor with a post-meeting session.
Tabor's point was that the budget seemed to be "fat" on certain line items. Brand promised to look into all of Tabor's concerns.
Witham also pointed out that the charter review commission of which he was a member very dedicatedly did due diligence in its mission, which ended eight months and wondered when the commission would take action on its recommendations.
"Are you going to do due diligence in following up on this," Witham asked.
Richard Alexander, the city attorney, said he would return with a report at the city's regular commission meeting next Monday.
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