LARGO – Mayor Bob Jackson has rebutted what he described as erroneous information by Steve Spratt, the county administrator, in a letter to Alan Bomstein, chairman of the County Charter Review Commission.
Jackson, in a public comment a few days after the commission’s September 19 meeting, called it the worst experience he had had in years.
He was present at that meeting and was subjected to what amounted to propaganda by Spratt in his presentation to the charter review group.
Much of the contention centers around the annexations that Largo has pursued.
Jackson said that Spratt had wrongfully characterized some of Largo’s annexation procedures as unlawful or improper.
The idea of municipalities like Largo and Seminole digging into county territory and annexing areas that have been unincorporated is obviously seen by county authorities as a threat.
Spratt came here from Miami-Dade which has produced, over recent years, a combined city and county government, one subsumed into the other similar to what happened with Jacksonville and Duval County years ago when the two entities virtually became one.
Many observers feel that Spratt’s long-range mission here could be similar. Already there is serious talk of bringing all fire departments in Pinellas County under one umbrella.
There has been talk from time to time to convert the Sheriff’s Office into a county police force. Some jurisdictions now contract for their police service with the sheriff, a method that seems to be very workable.
Battling between Largo and the county administration in particular is strong and vicious although a patina of politeness is put on it.
But Spratt evidently went too far on September 19 to suit Jackson who called the county administrator’s presentation “very one sided.”
He took umbrage at that and sent his letter, dated September 23, to Bomstein to counter whatever impression Spratt might have made on the review commission members.
“It would be my hope with this additional information, as well as having a more formal presentation from Pinellas Planning Council Director Dave Healey . . . the Charter Review Commission will have a more balanced understanding of the complexities of annexation. . .,” Jackson wrote.
The intent of his three-page letter was to restore some balance to the lop-sided view presented by Spratt.
City Manager Steve Stanton also weighed in on the Spratt performance September 19. He said that while the presentation was “well done . . . it was exceptionally one sided and lacked all the necessary information for a fully informed decision to be made.”
Stanton referred to Spratt’s contention that “annexation is out of control and the county needs to control it.”
This would certainly run counter to those jurisdictions who seek to annex territory legally, particularly under the terms of Ordinance 2000-63 which Spratt seems to want to discard.
The county lawyer, Susan Churuti, has joined in the idea of giving the county authority over all annexations.
Political considerations will rule in the final analysis. County commissioners will make the determination and the catch is that much of their possible constituencies come from the cities that are a little hot under the collar currently.
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