The battle has gone on for a long time now, but the tediousness of it and the gnawing problem of how to get money persists.
But this has not worn down John Leahy.
He is the chief of the Pinellas Suncoast Fire and Rescue District.
Leahy is like a bulldog.
In his 70s, years have not eroded the strength that his blocky, thick body evinces. The face is resolute, but quick to smile. He looks like a guy who will not be worn down quickly.
He is one of those guys who seem ageless. He probably looks as he does now when he was younger.
The heavy round head sits neckless on strong shoulders and the sense is that the body is always coiled, ready for action.
John Leahy's life has always been about saving lives. That makes a man a serious fellow.
PSF&RD is unlike other fire districts who garner their money through the tax collection system, usually on an ad valorem basis. That is, a millage rate is assess for the service.
But not with Pinellas Suncoast.
First of all, it is a creature of the Florida Legislature. It is governed by commissioners elected from Belleair Beach-Belleair Shore, Indian Rocks Beach, Indian Shores and two from the mainlaind where its responsibility extends.
Pinellas Suncoast is not financed by taxes as such but by fees.
When financial forecasts a couple of years ago showed the district heading into trouble, a referendum was held in September 2003 in the areas served and residents approved a 58 percent increase to $190.
It had been $120 for 11 years.
That increase, it turned out, was not enough.
So the PSF&RD commission sought another increase. And then the war started.
As meetings were held by the commission, tempers frayed. The commission did not always act in a way to ameliorate the local elected officials that were raising cain about another increase.
Leahy, as the fire chief, is a hired hand. But he went to the forefront on the controversy, carrying the ball for increased funds to support his district.
Officials from Indian Rocks Beach, Indian Shores, Belleair Beach and Belleair Shore were in high dudgeon about paying any of the innovative ways to raise money.
And they zeroed in on what they called inappropriate expenditure of money. Nothing dishonest, mind you, just what they claimed were faults in judgment.
These officials importuned the county to get involved, but typically (the county takes responsibility for nothing), county officials ducked any involvement.
The pressure was kept on and the argument that more than half the fire district was in unincorporated territory, that is, county jurisdiction, finally persuaded the county get involved.
A committee was formed, a consultant will be hired, findings will be made, information will go to Tallahassee and some kind of decision, one supposes, will be made.
But the bulldog-like man behind the desk on the second floor of Pinellas Suncoast headquarters in Indian Rocks Beach is implacable.
He looks unruffled in the clean and fresh white shirt of his uniform.
Leahy wonders why people are unwilling to pay a fair price for fire suppression service and human life saving service.
"Other jurisdictions have ad valorem taxes," he said. "Think of a 3.5 mills assessment on some of the expensive properties in our district," he says.
That is what Clearwater charges for fire service. At that rate, there are properties in the Pinellas Suncoast district that would pay in the area of $6,000 a year.
Leahy wants a yearly fee far less than that. But still there is opposition to any increase at all, it seems.
That opposition is very dug in.
So is Leahy.
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