LARGO -- City Manager Steve Stanton's letter to County Administrator Steve Spratt following a meeting at Shiloh Baptist Church November 8 where the two jurisdictions met with Greater Ridgecrest residents clearly hints at a double cross on the county's part.
Stanton's language is not that direct but when the dots are connected in his November 8 letter to Spratt it is pretty clear that a betrayal took place -- at least from Stanton's view.
The county does not like annexations by cities. Every annexation chews another piece of the county's jurisdiction away and the highly paid elective and appointed officials in the county obviously hate to see their empire being eroded.
Stanton's letter makes a couple of points. Denying the idea that the city only wants to annex high scale areas where tax income benefits are highest for Largo is one. Another is a reiteration of annexation policy established almost five years ago.
But the most telling of Stanton's points is the county's conduct in preparation for and at the Ridgecrest meeting.
Ridgecrest geographically is surrounded by Largo. Historical reasons and more lately choice by the residents there have kept it out of the city and an unincorporated entity in the county.
Stanton says in his letter, "In our discussions (prior to the November 8 meeting), both you and county staff members indicated a desire to simply respond to questions and not act as a proponent of either annexing into the city of Largo or retaining their status as an unincorporated community with the city of Largo's planning service area."
The planning service areas are defined portions where residents receive services although not in the city. It applies throughout the county in neighborhoods adjacent to cities but lying in the county.
Despite that understanding by Stanton, he points out later in his letter that the county prepared a "very professional" information pamphlet which listed the extensive effort that the county has made in the past 10 years to service the needs of Greater Ridgecrest residents.
"There is also information regarding the comparison of estimated taxes, fees and charges for living in the county as opposed to being annexed into Largo," Stanton writes.
Even more self-laudatory information was pumped into Ridgecrest, Stanton says in the letter, including a letter signed jointly by County Commissioners Karen Seel and Calvin Harris clearly soliciting the Ridgecrest residents.
At the meeting itself, Stanton points out, the county had set up displays and provided all kinds of brochures and written material promoting the county.
Then Stanton reminds Spratt that the county leader was a strong proponent of Ridgecrest staying in the county, speaking as a strong advocate for the area not to leave the county.
Largo's elected officials and its staff, operating in good faith on the pre-meeting declaration that there would not be a "selling job," were clearly blindsided and sandbagged by the county.
Not surprising given the county's policies in other areas of denying any responsibility for what clearly seems to be its obligations and for abandoning responsibility by acts of its agents.
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