INDIAN ROCKS BEACH -- A lawsuit has been readied and is ready for filing to obtain an injunction and stop a referendum by the Pinellas Suncoast Fire and Rescue District that would raise the fees paid by residents in four communities and the mainland.
The suit is a complaint for an injunction that will be filed ex parte asking for an immediate injunction. This kind of action is followed by a hearing in which the defendant, in this case the fire district, will have a chance to answer.
Injunctive relief is being sought on the basis that the language of the referendum is vague, ambiguous and does not define what is meant by "square footage," the basis on which the fee will be assessed.
Sixteen officials from Belleair Shore, Belleair Beach, Indian Rocks Beach and Indian Shores met Monday at Indian Rocks Beach to further plan strategy against the referendum. The group met August 28 to plan strategy.
The opposition is proceeding on a three-pronged front -- the legal action, a political action committee (already organized and working) and action by the municipalities involved.
A year ago the fire district won an increase in its yearly fee from $120 a household to $190 a household, an assessment that went into effect October 1.
In the spring, the district commissioners decided to go after more money and after much controversy came up with an assessment of 17 cents per square foot for residences.
Other entities receiving fire service are not facing an increase.
The key number is 1,118 -- that is, homes with more than that amount of square footage will pay more than $190 yearly. Most of the homes in the area are more than 1,118 square feet.
Tom McKeon, a mainland resident and former chairman of the PSF&R commission in 1997 and 1998, excoriated the commission at the meeting.
"It was malfeasance for the commission to come to the mayors in the first place (seeking help)," McKeon said, adding epithets in reference to the commissioners veracity and intelligence.
Paul Marino, the city attorney for Belleair Beach who serves as the treasurer for the PAC, said that PSF&R "is the worst managed fire district I have seen in 37 years of government associated work."
McKeon stressed that the mainland residents had to be mobilized because almost half of the fire district lives in the Oakhurst area.
Andy Salzman, the Indian Rocks Beach city attorney, first broached the idea of a lawsuit to keep the referendum off the ballot. He prepared the lawsuit that is about to be filed. But the suit is being filed in the name of individual citizens, not any city.
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