Largo Okays Clock Tower Project Costing $300,000 Sight Unseen
by Leo Coughlin
LARGO - The City Commission on October 2 approved almost $300,000 for a project sight unseen without any discussion whatsoever and a project that could be loaded with problems.
There was an award of a contract amounting to $295,950 to Tampa Contracting Services, Inc. for a fountain at the Clock Tower at the intersection of Bay Drive and Seminole Boulevard.
This appeared on the "Consent Agenda" and the item was approved with eight other items. There was no discussion, no plans, drawings, or specifications were presented, no questions asked.
"Spending this kind of money just shows contempt for the public," one highly placed observer said. "It also is testimony to the fact that the commission spends money carelessly apparently on the idea of 'plenty more where that came from'."
One of the problems inherent in a water fountain available to the public is that it often attracts less fortunate members of society.
For example, a similar fountain at Clearwater Beach became a gathering place for some people who used it as a bathing area and toilet. That is one of the reasons it was torn down.
Observers who faithfully keep track of actions by the Largo commissions racked their brains trying to remember if the project was ever discussed by the commission.
"Once again, commissioners just relied totally on whatever the staff members presented," a former commission member said.
The Clock Tower, symbol of the city which appears on the city seal and on its stationery, was constructed in 1995.
City officials now claim that the sub-surface lighting system and the surrounding paver system needs fixing. For something only 12 years old, this speaks volumes of the apparent inadequacy of the original work.
What guarantees exist that there won't be another raid into taxpayers' pockets in a dozen years for the current proposed project are unknown.
According to the city staff's own memorandum on the proposed project that will cost almost one-third of a million dollars of the people's money, the Clock Tower now suffers from a poor lighting system, servicing is difficult, there is deterioration to the lighting fixtures, the paving tiles have buckled, much repairing has gone on and "further maintenance attempts would not be cost effective."
Only one conclusion can be made from that description of the memorandum prepared by Brian Usher, the city's Director of Public Works, and John Hamilton, a supervisor - All the inadequacies are built in (that is, not caused by outside factors) and raise the question of how carefully the original planning and work on the existing Clock Tower was carried out.
As usual, the city manager, assistant city managers, director of recreation, parks and art, public works director, among others, signed off on the proposal to spend almost $300,000 without submitting any plans or drawings.
In fact, in citing the "budgetary impact" of this latest boondoggle, the claim is made (like pulling a plum out of a pudding) that while $300,000 was earmarked, "$4,050 will go back to the general fund."
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