BELLEAIR BLUFFS – Belleair Shore’s commission put to rest at its meeting November 16 the long-standing problem with Belleair Beach over rebates for sewer charges.
This was one of three “hot” issues the commission either discussed or dealt with.
Up until Belleair Beach raised its sewer rates exorbitantly several years ago, Belleair Shore had paid the bills for its residents.
When the cost got out of hand, bill payment devolved on the individual households. But the town’s commission continued to represent its citizens in negotiations over securing rebates from Belleair Beach.
The issue has gone back and forth for many months. Mayor John Robertson did the negotiating and on November 16 presented what appeared to be a final scenario.
His colleagues took it that way. Although not fully happy with the settlements that went to residents, the consensus was that a situation that was as good as could be expected had been reached.
The prospect of any legal action, talked of in the past, was abandoned. For one thing, there is a question of “standing,” the ability to go to court because of the overlap between the town and its citizens as to any grievance.
Another vital issue concerns the Pinellas Suncoast Fire & Rescue District, which is still pushing for an increase in its fees, but has been stymied in its efforts.
The latest suggestion came from one of the members of the fire district commission, John Todia, who represents Indian Rocks Beach.
Todia suggested an increase from the present $190 annually per household to $245, a 28.9 percent increase.
Robertson, who led the discussion, did not flatly recommend opposing the idea, but, instead, suggested doing nothing for the time being.
Fire district officials have importuned the legislative delegation to take up their cause, but so far this has lagged. The fire district is a creature of the Legislature. To get any legislation in Tallahassee, the district would need a sponsor for any bill and this political hot potato is being avoided by legislators.
The district had the idea of getting the Legislature to change its charter, opening the way for it to increase its fees or tax the district on a millage basis.
Belleair Shore, Belleair Beach, Indian Rocks Beach, Indian Shores and the mainland under county jurisdiction comprise the district.
The suggested fee of $245 would be a bargain for Belleair Shore. A millage imposition would be heavy on the expensive homes there. For example, a home assessed at $1 million (not uncommon) would get hit with a $2,200 fire assessment with 2.2 mills. Even a half a mill would cost a property owner in Belleair Shore $500.
On the problem of short term rentals which the town wants to halt, legal problems could crop up that would complicate greatly the question.
A long discussion with all the ramifications produced a consensus that it was a knotty problem and John Elias, the town’s lawyer, will research the question before the commission comes up with any rules or regulations.
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