LARGO - Pending action by the Legislature on what it might do in regard to tax structure in the state shot down an arts center project in Largo at the City Commission's work session Tuesday night that was held at the Southwest Recreation center.
Another project, to spend $250,000 on a memorial in Central Park to honor Martin Luther King, was put on hold when Commissioner Gigi Arntzen proposed an alternate memorial that would go beyond honoring a single individual.
The pending tax situation also influenced the proposed King project.
Arntzen, continuing to show the good sense that has been her hallmark since she was elected to the commission in March, 2006, suggested that there be a memorial honoring "great Americans."
The city schools would be drawn into this with contests and essays proposing such people.
Arntzen's idea, of course, blew out of the water the pet project of Commissioner Rodney Woods, who nearly had a meltdown with his advocacy of a King memorial being sidetracked.
A tip off on the fate of the arts center was forecast in the supporting memo for the idea by Mac Craig, acting city manager, who put a crimp in the high-falutin' plans for an art center that would cost taxpayers about $230,000 in the first year.
And then, of course, the cost would continue over the coming years, with $82,000 currently estimated for personnel (and that cost will grow, bet on it) and $45,000 a year on top of that for operating expenses.
Counting the building costs ($68,000) and furniture, fixture and equipment ($33,200) it will cost the city more than $100,000 just to make a site ready.
So the first year outlay is about $230,000 with at least $130,000 annually after that.
For what? For studio art classes among other things. A question many ask, is why should the city be in the business of teaching art?
Besides, Largo already has the private Gulf Coast Museum of Art. How much more art, certainly a low priority item in these strained financial times, does the city need?
In the review and recommendation which was part of the backup memo on the project, Craig said, after noting that the Legislature is considering drastic tax changes, "The financial impact could be significant to the general fund. Therefore, it is recommended that the final decision on the (art center) be deferred until the Legislature makes a final decision (on taxes)."
The proposed site for the pie in the sky project is in a building along West Bay Drive between 5th and 6th Streets.
An earlier idea was to put the center at the vacated Winn-Dixie property on East Bay at Highland Avenue.
What consternates many observers is why the city wants to bother with the frivolous in a period of hard times brought about by rising taxes and the accompanying uncertainty and sky-rocketing insurance costs.
The King memorial that started out modestly a few years ago with the City Commission earmarking "no more than $15,000" to be paid by the city for some sort of arrangement in Central Park.
Then along came the idea of a "Martin Luther King tribute area" in the park that was included in the Capital Improvements Plan at a cost of $250,000.
That sent some temperatures soaring among citizens who wondered how a $15,000 cost ballooned 17 times over to a quarter of a million dollars for something that was at best doubtful to begin with.
As one top official pointed out, "We don't honor any of our early founders of Largo in that extravagant way."
What the City Commission heard Tuesday night was three design alternatives that would have cost, in descending order, $109,875, $99,875, and $83,875.
Among the amenities for this shrine would be a granite podium, waterfall, a reflecting pool and a bridge over the reflecting pool.
As one city watchdog said, "The big spenders around here go first class - the sky's the limit."