LARGO -- The tip-off of what was really going on regarding the issue of Pinch-A-Penny being part of the "super block" at the Largo City Commission meeting August 2 came when Fred Thomas told the commission and City Manager Steve Stanton that he was going to win.
And win he did.
"You're a great adversary," Thomas said, addressing Stanton. Thomas is the founder of his family owned Pinch-A-Penny company which has been part of Largo for about 30 years, provides 400 jobs and wants to remain part of the community.
When the redevelopment of the former Crossroads Mall area came up, Pinch-A-Penny wanted to be part of what was taking place there. A change in land use was needed because of the nature of Pinch-A-Penny's swimming pool supply business.
Earlier, the company was knocking heads with Bob Schmidt's Boulder Venture company which plans to build a multi-use town center on the Crossroads site, which it owns.
After presentations by both companies at a City Commission meeting a couple of months ago, it appeared they were locked at loggerheads and it looked as though the commission would have to make a choice between the two this month.
However, the two companies came to an accord and agreed that they could co-exist at the site, at the southeast corner of East Bay Drive and U.S. 19.
That obviously did not settle the issue, as proceedings at the August 2 meeting revealed. It also revealed the underlying war that continues between Stanton and Mayor Bob Jackson.
Going back some years, Jackson promoted the idea of Thomas's operation being part of the Crossroads redevelopment, also called "super block."
Even with the contending parties having settled any disagreement on being neighbors on the site, Stanton continued his opposition to Pinch-A-Penny and this was the contest Thomas was referring to.
A parade of folks came to the public microphone to extoll the virtues of Pinch-A-Penny. They included employees of the company as well as representatives from civic programs that have benefited from Thomas's charitable largesse over the years.
Often seen as irascible, there is no doubt about Thomas's community record in "giving back" and supporting community functions.
When it came to the voting, it appeared that Thomas had lost on one key vote. But Commissioner Andrew Guyette, obviously re-thinking his position, moved for reconsideration. Having voted on the prevailing side on the first vote he was able to do this.
Reconsideration was agreed to and the vote went this way -- Jackson, Guyette, Jean Halvorsen and Mary Black supporting Thomas, with Pat Gerard, Gay Gentry and Harriet Crozier opposing.
That lineup proclaims where Stanton's support is. To some it was inconceivable that those opposed would remain so even in the face of the accord reached by Pinch-A-Penny and Boulder Venture.
That there was opposition is testimony to the political war raging behind the scenes at city hall.
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