BELLEAIR BEACH – Government officials from the cities served by the Pinellas Suncoast Fire and Rescue District met here October 12 in a final strategy session for their meeting with the legislative delegation next week.
Mayors and other elected officials from Indian Shores, Indian Rocks Beach, Belleair Beach and Belleair Shore will ask legislators to hold up on the request of PSF&R directors seeking authority to control how it charges for its services.
The fire district is the creature of and is ultimately controlled by the Legislature.
PSF&R historically has been financed by a flat fee from each household and a commercial fee schedule. The district raised the fee to $190 yearly from $120 after a referendum a couple of years ago. Within a year it was requesting another increase which, in turn, has set off a controversy that has continued since.
In response, the cities and the portion of the district on the mainland that is under county jurisdiction formed an oversight group which has hired a consultant to do a study.
Officials from the cities want the oversight study to be completed and go to the Legislature before any action is taken.
The cities question the expenditures of the fire district administration and contend that PSF&R has extended its service unlawfully outside the district.
Along with that, the officials say that while they are willing to work with the district and confer on problems, the fire commission does not answer questions, has been imperious and refuses to discuss problems.
“They are resisting working with the oversight process,” Mayor Bill Ockunzzi said. He said the cities are opposed to any changes in the district’s charter.
When officials meet with area legislators who are preparing for the upcoming 2006 session they will review the general situation, measure the financial impact on citizens of changes in district fees, review the recent past history of the district and urge that no action be taken until the oversight review is submitted.
Those making up the joint governmental committee are Mayor Rudy Davis, Marvin Behm and Lynn Rives of Belleair Beach, Mayor John Robertson of Belleair Shore, Mayor Bill Ockunzzi and R.B. Johnson of Indian Rocks Beach, and Mayor Don Taber and Bill Smith of Indian Shores. Mike Cooksey represents Pinellas County.
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