LARGO - Largo's elected City Commission took charge Tuesday night and stopped the city administration - all hired hands - dead in its track on two key issues.
In a stunning upset of what was planned for the old library building, the commission, by consensus, agreed to tear down the building and put up a new one some time in the future.
Another subject - one seeking approval for a non-existent corporation to run an eatery and drinkery at the city golf course was turned down as the commission agreed, 6-0, to take it up when there was legitimate information available.
Citizens Curtis Holmes and John Atanasio assailed the idea of granting a contract for a restaurant at the golf course with an entity that no one knew anything about.
The city administration had submitted a plan that sought well more than $5 million to rehabilitate the old library building, a figure more than double what had originally been proposed.
Also doubled, in the administration's plan, was the cost of a memorial to Martin Luther King. In July, 2003, the commission earmarked $15,000 in tax funds for the memorial. On Tuesday, that figure had doubled to $30,000 and no one seemed to know why.
When it became known that the cost of rehabbing the old library building and the allocation for the King memorial had doubled, there was a visceral reaction throughout the city.
The proposal for this $5.3 million expenditure was revealed on the city web site Friday when the agenda and documentation for Tuesday night's meeting was posted.
Maybe an even greater shock came with the revelation of the reward of a possible contract to a vendor at the golf course who proposes to operate a snack bar, get a liquor license and be open to the general public, whether the folks have just ambled from the links after a round or tottered in for a preprandial cocktail.
This from the memo supporting the information on this request - "Staff recommends award of the (request for qualifications - a contract, in effect) to Lisa A. Enteprises, Inc. doing business as Golfview Café."
The problem with this is that as of Tuesday there was no such entity as "Lisa A. Enterprises, Inc.," raising the question of just whom the city was dealing with, as well as a welter of other questions.
Action on the matter was requested immediately, recalling the questionable dealing that led to the awarding of the coffee shop concession in the new library to the boyfriend of a former commissioner, as blatant an example of cronyism as ever has been seen in Largo.
The library coffee shop was done as a rush job, gottahaveitrightnow deal also.
If there is no such corporate entity, there is no one to deal with, corporations being a person under the law. This means no insurance as protection against liability, tax questions and general business principles.
There may also be the question of someone posing as a corporate principal in the negotiation of a contract which raises serious questions.
It would seem improper, expert observers say, for the city to deal with an entity that has not yet come into being or do any dealings on an "as if" basis.
The commission would not stand for the administration pulling this "fast one," and rejected it unanimously, 6-0 (Harriet Crozier was absent), in its present form.
The idea of spending more than $5 million on 40-year-old building seemed foolish when a new one could be built at about the same price.
Commissioner Andy Guyette led the way on that, pointing out that it would make sense to wait to see if Penny for Pinellas passes next spring and then get funds from that source for a brand new building.
Originally, the city put the cost of rehabbing the old library building at $2.3 million and it was on this predication that the commission approved the potential use as an arts center and senior facility.
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