More Going on in Largo Than the Honchos Know
By Leo Coughlin
LARGO - One amusing sidelight of byplay at the City Commission meeting last week - commission meetings can be the best entertainment in town - also suggested the idea of "does anyone around here know what's going on?"
When Commissioner Curtis Holmes produced a publication called the "Largo Lantern" and started raising questions about it - including the advertising of gambling trips and jaunts to restaurants out of the immediate area - he interrupted himself to ask Mayor Pat Gerard and Norton Craig, the city manager, "Am I interrupting you?"
Gerard and Craig were in a flustered conversation, sotto voce, while Holmes brandished the "Largo Lantern."
The reason for the furtive conversation between the two quickly became obvious.
"Who publishes that?" Gerard asked.
"Why the city itself," Holmes said, deliciously.
So, once again, an activity of the city was unknown to the mayor and top management.
Largo, it seems has the predilection of having this or that thing creep in, which thing then takes on a life of its own and then presto! seems to "have growed" just like Topsy.
Another is the Largo Central Railroad which is a private group but somehow or other has taken on the patina of a city activity and even, at last look, had its liability paid for by the city.
How many other private organizations in Largo have this benefit, some observers are wondering.
"It's a wonder the people who work at City Hall have any time for city business," one former commission member said.
There are some items of pressing concern. One is the problem with the fire fighters contract and then there is the furor over the architectural firm chosen to design the re-do of the Highland Recreation Center.
A special magistrate hearing was held at the city hall last Thursday as a result of the impasse declared by the city in negotiations with the fire fighters union.
The contract expired last September 30 and work has continued on an extension of that contract.
Robert McHenry, the special magistrate, is expected to issue recommendations by June 4. If the city and union continue to disagree then the issue will go to the City Commission for resolution, which will be effective until the end of September.
Henry Schubert, an assistant city manager, who is representing the city, said that the main issue is the city's desire to replace the current step pay plan for firemen with a range pay plan, similar to what other city employees have.
A parallel problem seems to have arisen on pension matters with a share plan.
An exchange of communications in the last several weeks resulted in a memo last Friday from Kim Adams, the city's finance director, to the City Commission explaining that a share plan ordinance is being prepared for presentation to the commission at its meeting next week.
In the memo, Adams said the administration "had been waiting for a legal opinion from the Pension Board's" lawyer regarding changes made the plan in 2000 and 2004 and that the opinion was received May 17.
According to the memo, there was some confusion over elements of the plan that have now been cleared up.
Another controversy, created when an architectural firm, Wannemacher Jensen, contended that a rival firm, Gould Evans, which had been selected to create the design for work at the Highland Recreation Center, had not been honest in its presentation to the City Commission is in the hands of the city administration for review.
Gould Evans answered the charge last week and said the allegations were untrue. The firm said that it had not misrepresented anything and gave a detailed, point-by-point, response to the Wannemacher Jensen contentions.
And then the first clarion call of the election season was sounded with petition cards for candidates becoming available yesterday. Qualifying itself doesn't begin until July 12, but anyone planning to run for the two seats on the commission can get their petition cards now.
Terms end for Commissioners Harriet Crozier and Woody Brown in November. Neither has officially thrown a hat in the ring, but the betting is that both will seek re-election.
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