BELLEAIR BLUFFS -- The hostile sensitivity between John Hubbard, the city attorney, and the city's firefighters, engendered over years of union contract negotiations, does not exist very far under the surface.
The acrimony flared at Monday night's work session meeting of the City Commission which, among other things, discussed long and earnestly matters brought up by Paul Kuykendall of the Fire Pension Board.
As part of that discussion, veteran firefighters, officers in the department that is run administratively by the Largo fire chief, argued for the recommended increase in the "multiplier" made by Kuykendall.
At one point, Lt. Steve Langere of the fire department was discussing how actuarial figures can vary and this apparently hit Hubbard's hot button.
"They are not lies," Hubbard said, evidently referring to the differences that actuaries (from the union side and the city side) come up with.
"Don't say that, or even imply it," Hubbard said heatedly, even though, in fact, those words were not uttered by Langere.
Mayor Chris Arbutine, playing firefighter himself, quickly extinguished the flare-up and Langere did not press the issue.
Arbutine wants the issue of the pension multiplier included in negotiations with the fire union which are currently in progress.
Commissioner Dave Shimkus renewed his attack on Waste Management which, he contends, overcharged the city in the clean-up of debris after the recent storms. He pressed for the city to look at other vendors, but Arbutine was equally adamant in trying to squelch the idea.
Commissioner Bob Russo joined Shimkus and suggested a definitive up or down vote on whether to see a request for proposal on trash pickup.
Arbutine, joined by Commissioners Hunt Brand and Brett Nelson, voted no and killed the issue.
Continuing to use the municipal government as a money tree, department heads managed to wangle a $650 "holiday" bonus for themselves and $375 for city employees.
In pushing for it, an eight percent increase was mentioned. Neither the mayor nor commissioners suggested that bonuses were an act of grace and not necessarily subject to yearly percentage increases. Many of the taxpayers footing the bill for the bonuses that will amount to $5,000 or so and are not budgeted probably will have no bonuses this year.
With elections looming in March, Brand announced that he will not be a candidate for re- election. Arbutine said he would seek a third term as mayor and Russo said he would also seek re-election.
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