Belt Tightening Seems Like a Foreign Notion in IRB Budget
by Leo Coughlin
INDIAN ROCKS BEACH - The City Commission managed to do some trimming of its 2008 outlays as final completion neared with a budget hearing last night.
Still alive in spending plans are schemes that seem imprudent in these belt-tightening times (a concept apparently lacking in IRB) like forging ahead with plans for an unnecessary library and providing an art center for county residents paid for by IRB taxpayers alone.
Sheriff Jim Coats showed up last week to help in discussing some cost-cutting measures that resulted in a near-consensus to a plan that will save $52,000 and still provide adequate police protection.
The exception to the plan was Mayor-commissioner Bill Ockunzzi who wanted to do without the savings and go with two deputies per shift (that's six deputies a day, seven days a week).
It would seem, according to some who have carefully reviewed the situation, that with neighboring Belleair Beach and nearby Belleair Shore being policed by the sheriff, sufficient deputies would be immediately on hand for any exigency.
Plus, there is enough sheriff's presence in the nearby county to bring in enough deputies on short notice for any situation.
What is perplexing to some is that Indian Rocks Beach taxpayers should bear the bulk of the cost of the Beach Art Center, the use of which is predominantly by people who do not live in Indian Rocks Beach.
The commission managed to agree at one point to reduce the amount given the center to $18,000 but enough lobbying was done to get it back up to $25,000, but Ockunzzi wanted even more than this, voting for $32,000. The commission settled on $25,000.
One innovation that may become reality is making commission meetings available to the public by television.
Brighthouse gave a grant of $6,000 to the city for this purpose a couple years ago and the money has never been used and is still available to defray set-up costs.
City Manager Steve Cottrell outlined three plans that ranged from the very simple method used in Belleair Beach that has a modest cost of $12,500 to begin with and would cost $1,200 a year to a highly sophisticated system costing $118,000 initially and $50,000 a year.
The commission voted to go with the least costly system. Taping meetings so that residents could view them on the channel Brighthouse makes available has been urged by Commissioner Jose Coppen since he was elected in March, 2006.
But during the regime of City Manager Al Grieshaber it never got done through various dilatory tactics. For some reason, Ockunzzi has not wanted any kind of televising or taping of meetings.
A huge expense looming in the future for taxpayers is the idea of having an extensive library which, many think, is totally unnecessary given the availability of the Clearwater, Largo and Seminole libraries, all three virtually minutes away.
Trouble is, as many observers point out, libraries invariably grow and expand and they see the undertaking as the eventual care and feeding of a voracious white elephant.
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