LARGO -- Largo's commissioners finally settled the controversy over re-naming Greenwood Avenue as Martin Luther King Avenue, which makes it consistent with Clearwater's renaming of the thoroughfare some time ago.
Tuesday night's action settled what had been a tempest in a teapot, but that tempest got somewhat heated Tuesday night after one of Largo's leading divines, the Rev. J. Arnold Johnson, showed a distinct lack of faith and trust in the commission, fearing that the re-naming of the street would wipe out the existing plans for another memorial to King.
That doubt and uncertainty about the memorial to King was echoed later by J.B. Butler, who bloviates on any and all subjects. In this case, Butler intoned his concern with the greatest of faux gravity.
Mayor Bob Jackson said he resented the doubts thrown on a King Memorial and reiterated that the intent of the street naming had nothing to do with the King memorial.
Commissioner Pat Gerard was even sharper, zeroing right in on Johnson and Butler who were sitting together in the audience.
"I'm tired of hearing that we are abandoning the memorial plans. This keeps coming up," she said, obviously perturbed.
Both said that because they were tired of the nit-picking on the issue and would vote against re-naming Greenwood.
When the vote did come, they changed, with only Jean Halvorsen and Gay Gentry voting against. Greenwood in Largo is now Martin Luther King Avenue.
Another hot potato issue was raises for the mayor and commission. It was approved on a 4-3 vote with, surprisingly, Jackson voting against, although he favors raises. He said that he would recoup outlays he makes as mayor by filing expense accounts.
He was joined in his nay vote by Charlie Harper and Gay Gentry.
With approval of the 3 percent across-the-board raises, the mayor's salary now goes to $18,202.84 a year while commissioners will get $12,135.22.
In the first go-round on the pay raise question on September 7, only Harper and Gay Gentry voted against. At that time, Jackson and Commissioners Pat Burke, Harriet Crozier, Jean Halvorsen and Gay Gentry. Gerard was absent for that vote.
Only Gentry brought up -- without mentioning the figure -- the key item of benefits that the mayor and commissioner gets. This is an item not generally known to the public.
That key item has to do with part of the compensation the mayor and commissioners receive, namely $6,671 in "carousel" benefits.
These are points -- each point worth a dollar -- that can be designated for health insurance as to medical or dental. In the case of any commissioner not taking such a benefit in that fashion because they already have coverage, the value is rolled into an account that is credited to them.
So taxpayers can add a minimum of $6,671 to the compensation paid to their elected officials.
The health benefit gravy represents a 36.6 percent addition to the mayor's salary and a 55 percent addition to the compensation of commissioners under the new wages approved Tuesday.
Put that in perspective, and if you are a taxpayer/wage earner in Largo earning say, $40,000 a year, your health insurance package would be worth about $22,000 a year in additional compensation -- that's more than $1,800 a month in health benefits. It is doubtful that many employers are shelling out that kind of benefit.
The compensation package now for Largo's elected officials is mayor -- $24,873.84 and commissioners -- $18,806.22.
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