Largo Center Loan Cuts Interest Cost, Saves City Money
By Leo Coughlin
LARGO - The City Commission put final approval Tuesday night on terms of the loan that will finance the building of the new Community Center. The loan agreement is probably as good as any deal that could be constructed.
A limit of $10 million is placed on the borrowing and there is an interest rate of 3.443 percent. The term of the loan is nine years (the first quarterly payment due next January, the last in October, 2019).
Basic arithmetic would indicate, based on those figures, an interest cost of $3,008,700.
But the actual cost over the life of the loan will be $1,745,902, a $1,262,798 difference that demonstrates some shrewd figuring and bargaining.
The reason for the diminished cost is because the loan will be taken in a "draw down" fashion. While all the funds are available, amounts will be taken only as needed over time.
In other developments in Largo, a letter from Henry Schubert, an assistant city manager, to Dale Rosko, president of the local of the fire fighters union, slammed the door on any further negotiations.
While some elements of the contract have been settled others have not and members of the union, voting in February, rejected the city's "best and final offer," which the city submitted December 18.
The union is seeking a three-year contract with a 2 percent pay increase in 2010, none in 2011 and negotiations for a raise of between 2 and 6 percent in 2012. Changes in total workweek hours are also being sought.
According to Schubert's March 10 letter, Rosko was requesting a return to the bargaining table, but Schubert reiterated the city's position of having declared an impasse, the first such move in 30 years, according to Schubert's letter.
The contract issue now goes to a special magistrate. If recommendations of the magistrate are not taken the matter goes to the City Commission for final resolution. At that point, it becomes highly political regardless of any protestations to the contrary.
Politics comes into play because the fire fighters union plays a role, unwisely many observers think, in "endorsing" candidates for elective office.
Two current members of the commission - Mary Black and Curtis Holmes - were not endorsed by the union in their respective successful election races.
This means the tried and true adage of "in politics one punishes one's enemies and rewards one's friends" could come into play.
While in the private sector unions always have the power of withholding their labor - a strike - this cannot be done by public employees.
In fact, the current fire fighters contract with the city (which ran out last September 30) specifically prohibits strikes, which only underlines what the law already establishes.
In other action Tuesday, the commission appointed Gay Gentry as a member of the Finance Advisory Board, demonstrating once again the revolving door aspect and what one observer called the incestuous nature of appointments in Largo.
Gentry is a former commissioner and prior to that she was a member of city boards. She was appointed to the City Commission in 2003 to replace Marty Shelby who challenged Bob Jackson that year for the mayor's seat. She was elected for one term after filling out the remainder of Shelby's term.
Gentry's appointment to the FAB was ratified routinely by the commission Tuesday night with no indication that others had applied or been considered for the position.
Chief Lester Aradi presented awards of Officer of the Year to Jorge Alameda, Civilian Employee of the Year to Debbie Anderson and to Ron Wallace as police volunteer of the year.
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