A 'Done Deal' Comes To Fruition in Largo, With Prudence Abandoned
by Leo Coughlin
LARGO- When minds are made up, they are impervious to any sensible persuasion or rational argument to the contrary.
So the City Commission Tuesday night gave the administration a green light to proceed with seeking a loan of $10 million to construct a new Community Center.
Money figures were being hurled around at Tuesday night's commission meeting as those were merely words, totally heedless to the actual dollars that were being talked about.
It turns out that while the loan supposedly is "not to exceed $10 million," lots more money has to come from some place because in the plans are some $2.5 million for a connector road from the planned center to the nearby Highland Rec site, and the expense of the loan itself. These are add-on amounts.
Because no loan application or negotiation has taken place, the interest rate is not known, but under persistent questioning from Commissioner Curtis Holmes, Kim Adams, the city's financial director, supposed that the interest rate could range from 3.75 to 4.5 percent.
And then Adams mentioned a money figure - "two hundred thousand dollars" - which further confused matters.
"That would be two hundred thousand dollars a year?" Holmes asked.
"So two million dollars over the ten years of the loan," Holmes offered.
But if the interest rate is 3.75 to 4.5 where does the figure of $200,000 a year come from, which would represent a rate of 2 percent?
Perhaps that is involved in the arcane manipulations of financial gurus that might be part of a diminishing balance loan where interest is paid on a steadily amortized amount.
The conversation ranged by Holmes into what projects the city is committed to that involve financing from the Local Options Sales Tax (Penny for Pinellas).
Adams was all at sea with that and after a lot of fumbling and ruminating came up with a figure of $24 million that included, he said, $12 million for the Community Center (which earlier was tabbed at $10 million).
If the scenario is confusing to those who know and are at it on a daily basis, how bewildering it must be to Bob and Janet Taxpayer who ultimately foot the bills.
When Commissioner Mary Black went seeking more information involving LOST funds, Commissioner Harriet Crozier upbraided her saying, "We're not here to talk about the LOST fund."
That may be something Crozier will be talking about and perhaps explaining as election time next November approaches and she will be undoubtedly bent on keeping her seat.
Black was still smarting, obviously, from how the city administration was blind-sided the commission by never revealing that it had to borrow money to finance the Community Center.
That big secret was uncovered last week by none other than Holmes, a newcomer to the commission.
John Atanasio, a citizen, implored the commission to think about what it was doing in borrowing such an immense amount of money in these parlous times for a project was not needed.
Bob Jackson, a former mayor who lost his chance to run for mayor in November because of a bureaucratic foul-up, was incensed at Citizen Comments by the city's cavalier attitude taken toward his situation.
He said city officials consider it "minor," but it was of the utmost importance and that the City Clerk who failed to do her job properly went unpunished while "the lowest ranking employee" got a three-day suspension.
Jackson has been around Largo a long time, but he still hasn't caught on to what so many observers already know - Largo, pound for pound, is probably the most corrupt city in America.
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