Remember that old Hank Williams' song, that lament, "When your house catch a-fire, they ain't no water around."
Yeah, that's the way they talk in Alabama, or used to.
Think of how the folks at Pinellas Suncoast Fire & Rescue District feel.
If you live in any of the communities served by the PSFRD, those firefighters may not come because their money bucket's got a hole in it.
Folks living in Belleair Shore, Belleair Beach, Indian Rocks Beach, Indian Shores and on the mainland south of Walsingham and west of 131st Street voted last week against giving PSFRD the money the district says it needs to continue.
Remarkably, the leaders - the elected honchos - of those communities for the most part backed the $70 a year increase the fire district was seeking.
The money problem has been going on now for a couple of years and a lot of words and invective have been spilled. Accusations of mismanagement, the district operating beyond its bounds, heavy handed and often insulting response from the elected commissioners of the district.
It surely has been a mess. No kidding.
One of the big problems about the Pinellas Suncoast Fire & Rescue District is that it really is not under local control.
Oh, sure, folks in the communities elect commissioners that sit on a board that immediately governs the operational and financial activities of the district.
But the real power is about 200 miles away, in Tallahassee, that country town that has just growed like Topsy over the past 50 years, due largely to the industry of government and a college that used to have a stellar football team.
It would be tiresome, tedious, boring and distracting to review here now all the ups and downs of the money situation over the past couple years.
Suffice to say that the district says it does not have enough and now that voters turned down a $70 annual increase November 7, jeroboams of red ink loom as early as a year from now.
The price householders are paying right now for fire service is $190 annually. It would seem that what breaks down into jump change on a weekly basis isn't that big a burden. After all, the aforementioned communities aren't exactly populated by the poorest among us.
So to boost the yearly fee by $70 to a grand total of $260 - or five bucks a week - doesn't seem to be in the category of lighting up cigars with hundred dollar bills.
Fact is, that's pretty skimpy money.
Think of the alternative.
And the alternative is to levy a millage fee for fire service in the district.
As things now stand, if you are living in the lowest valued piece of property in the district or the most posh quarters in Belleair Shore or Belleair Beach you are paying the same amount of money for fire service.
Millage puts payment on an altogether different footing. Those with higher valued properties pay more, and probably a lot more than the proposed $260 that went down to defeat.
What is surprising is the margin of defeat - less than 37 percent of the voters said, "Heck, yeah, that's a reasonable increase." It went overwhelmingly the other way.
When push comes to shove - that is, when the district reaches floods of red ink and then cannot operate, expect the boys and girls from Tallahassee to step in.
If and when that happens folks around here may look back on November 7, 2006 as a day when a bad choice was made.
As an election footnote to the fire district affairs, voters decided to keep Tom Hafner on the commission, turning down a bid by Caroline Sofer.
And that may tell you more about the voters than you want to know.
Return to Home Page
Return to Current Edition