INDIAN ROCKS BEACH - Ideas were a-flying at the meeting March 22 of the Oversight Committee looking into solutions for problems with the Pinellas Suncoast Fire & Rescue District.
Members of the committee, made up of elected officials from Belleair Beach, Belleair Shore, Indian Rocks Beach, Indian Shores along with county officials who represent residents on the mainland who are part of the district, reviewed the report submitted by Matrix Consulting.
The consultant company began its work last July and issued a draft report some weeks ago. At last Wedneday's meeting, members of the Oversight Committee went through the report with Matrix's Travis Miller, who was on the phone.
Asking questions and trying to create a discussion was difficult by phone, but members tossed some ideas around, chief among which were propositions to re-align the fire district bringing in the Redingtons and eliminating the mainland or expanding the present district to include the Redingtons.
If the mainland were eliminated from PSF&R, the area - from 131st Street West and Walsingham Road south - would be covered by Seminole and/or Largo.
The district has a station off 137th Street that is less than a mile from a Seminole Fire Department facility.
Controversy over what PSF&R wants to charge residents of the district as well as the district extending EMS services to the Redingtons which the city officials claim is beyond the mission of the district is what triggered the formation of the Oversight Committee a year or so ago.
City officials are in the role of representing their citizens in the controversy. The cities themselves do not pay the fees assessed by the district which is under the authority of the Florida Legislature.
Any action to be taken regarding the fire district must be done by the Legislature.
When the report by Matrix is put in final form, it will be presented to the Legislature with recommendations from the oversight group.
Members of the group will meet with Rep. Everett Rice and Sen. Dennis Jones for introduction of the report to the Legislature.
The draft report confirms some of the criticisms Oversight Committee members had about the fiscal management of the district. The report also backed up the group's contention that tax funds were being inappropriately spent outside the district.
"The district appears to be providing services outside its district in a manner which is contrary to the requirements of the Charter," the report said.
The draft report was countered with a rebuttal by John Leahy, PSF&R chief. While there has been contention between the parties, there have also been glimmers of bright cooperation, particularly from John Todia, a member of the PSF&R commission, and Russell Livernow, an assistant fire chief.
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