BELLEAIR BLUFFS - The City Commission and those present at Monday night's meeting were subjected to a 15 minutes or so harangue by Wally Witham, loser in March for a commission seat.
Witham trotted out a list of dissatisfactions and other bones stuck in his craw in a performance that was no doubt triggered by the fact that voters had wisely awarded Bob Russo and Troy Krotz with re-election and spurned him.
Witham, long active in the city and a former member of the commission, ran last in the election and the time factor prevented him from being a candidate in next Tuesday's election.
That balloting Tuesday is to fill the seat left vacant by Brett Nelson who moved from the city. Hunt Brand, former mayor and commissioner, was appointed to the seat until the election. He will be a candidate Tuesday and will be opposed by Joseph Barkley.
Nelson came under criticism as Witham accused the former commissioner, now far away in another state, of missing some meetings when he was in office with the commission doing nothing about it.
Citizen comments, under which procedure Witham was holding forth like a windbag of old, is normally limited to three minutes.
But Witham, with a long record of involvement in the city, successfully prevailed on the good nature of Mayor Chris Arbutine to gain more time. "How much time does 25 years (of service) buy?" Witham plaintively asked at the outset.
So Arbutine, in the spirit of good fellowship let him go, and ole Wally was off and running, so to speak, and kept one and all entranced (and surreptitiously glancing at their watches) for the next quarter of an hour.
Witham also pounced on Commissioner Dave Shimkus who, along with his wife, has sought temporary living quarters outside the city while his home is being worked on.
Witham thought that this was intolerable, and demonstrated an alarming lack of knowledge of what the term "resident" means. For his own elucidation he could check the learned holdings to be found, inter alia, in Willenbrook v. Rogers, 255 F.2d 236, Fuller v. Hofferbert, 204 F.2d 592 or more exactly perhaps in U.S. v. Calhoun, 566 F.2d 969.
Once Witham's fascinating ruminations were out of the way, the commission settled down to the business of the people which involved the speedy dispatch by approving votes of a couple of ordinances and a resolution, and the announcement by Arbutine that a change in the fire department was probably looming.
Arbutine said that in the process of renewing the agreement wherein Largo provided administration services, Steve Stanton, now departed as Largo's city manager, had given Belleair Bluffs a take it or leave it proposition - Belleair Bluffs becomes a mere branch of the Largo Fire and Rescue outfit or no deal.
Arbutine has no interest in making his city a branch of Largo (although the land now called Belleair Bluffs was once part of the neighboring city) so he has held discussions with the county and further talks will be held by the commission next month to see exactly what the future will look like.
Belleair, joined at the hip with Belleair Bluffs in the fire fighting department, has been informed of developments Arbutine said and will be part of the discussions.
One of the ordinances passed by the commission Monday night grants an additional homestead exemption of $25,000, bringing the total to $50,000 for senior citizens over the age of 65 who have less than $24,000 yearly income.
Also, Arbutine reported, Sheriff Jim Coats has offered to "partner" with the city in the beautifying fountain to be built at West Bay and Indian Rocks Road because the project would provide landscaping work and experience in a program Coats has for prisoners serving sentences.
Ongoing maintenance would be provided by those in the work program and there would be no cost to the city.