INDIAN ROCKS BEACH -- What is amazing in next Tuesday's election in respect to the Pinellas Suncoast Fire & Rescue commission is that two of the three seats up for election are not being contested.
For a board that has come under intense fire as being incompetent, insensitive to the public and in the process of raising fees in the most heavy handed of ways there might have been an excpectation that anyone up for re-election would be challenged.
As it turns out only Bill Ripley, who represents Indian Rocks Beach, is facing a challenge and he has two opponents -- Patsy Muneio and John Todia.
Dan Madura, who represents the mainland, and Bob McEwen of Indian Shores, a professional candidate, have been in effect re-elected because they were not opposed.
Ripley's idea of the commission is that it should support and advise the fire district, two categories that are so bereft of any expertise that the district is heading toward a disaster.
It is not expected that the 17 cents a square foot proposal will be approved by voters in the district which is made up of Indian Rocks Beach, Bellair Beach, Belleair Shore, Indian Shores and the Oakhurst area on the mainland.
Ed Piniero of Indian Rocks Beach, a former member of the district fire commission who originally was a candidate this year until dropping out, asserts that the new proposed tax is not needed or justified.
He says that the proposed new tax is unfair -- that it is aimed only at single family residences and not at commercial property.
According to figures developed by Bill Ockunzzi, a member of the Indian Rocks Beach City Commission and a strong foe of the 17 cents a square foot fee (he is one of the plaintiffs in a legal action designed to derail the referendum), says that 82 percent of residences in the district will have their fees increased.
Those residents with 1,118 square feet or more will surpass the current $190 a year fee, approved in a referendum a year ago September, if the new schedule is approved.
For example, a 2,500 square foot residence, a typical size in the district, would pay $425 in the new scheme -- an increase of 123 percent.
Piniero says that the fire district is violating its own charter by having built an EMS facility out of the district to provide services to areas that pay no taxes to the district.
It is expected that fire fighters who are part of PSF&R will be out in force on election day lobbying for citizens to yes on the referendum. The firemen have often been involved in the political fray, and many question the appropriateness of this.
Return to Home Page
Return to Current Edition