Question Raised on Consent Agendas As Largo Commission Okays Pensions
by Leo Coughlin
LARGO – A daily publication that is one of a dying breed raised an interesting question recently, to wit – how about those “consent agendas” that come up for action with local governing bodies.
A consent agenda is, to use the definition given by Largo, a list of “previously budgeted or administrative matters that require approval by the Commission.”
To some observers that definition is ambiguous. “Previously budgeted or administrative matters” does not mean necessarily that the elected officials have given approval to the matter after due discussion.
While the Largo City Commission Tuesday night wrestled with the question of increasing the maximum pension benefit percentage for police officers (it approved the measure, 6-0), the consent agenda, earlier went whizzing by with just once citizen, Curtis Holmes, pointing out what had been noted last Sunday in a newspaper.
A close look at the consent agenda items turns up some interesting and, in one case, puzzling concern.
First off, the various outlays in the consent agenda total $658,679.40 and include such items as “one Dodge Charger” at a little more than $20,000 and two Ford Escapes,” total $32,296.
Not bad. But then there is this, item number 16 –
“Authorization to purchase one 1 ton dump truck . . . in the amount of $38,898 . . . and one E450 TV truck from Cues of Orlando, Florida in the amount of $179,407.”
Dump truck, good enough. But a TV truck? That sharpens the curiosity so more information was sought by looking at the underlying memorandum that accompanies the items and gives details.
Details like a TV truck for what? And who uses it? And why does it cost more than $179,000?
An examination of the memorandum for item number 16 turned up a map of the Bay/Seminole Boulevard intersection and environs and there was no mention of any trucks – dump trucks or TV trucks.
The map apparently belonged to item number 23 on the regular agenda which involved the proposed purchase of property (price, $83,600) at 16 5th Avenue SW.
But nothing anywhere about a dump truck or TV truck.
When this brought to the attention of Jonathan Evans, assistant to the city manager, at mid-day Tuesday, he alertly fixed the error that had apparently gone unnoticed since Friday when the agenda was first posted.
The memo said the vehicles were approved in the FY2009 budget.
The TV truck, according to the memo, the new video capture system, software, cameras, lightheads and power control units will be interchangeable with the equipment in another TV truck. Apparently the city has two of them.
Additional expense on each vehicle will pay for installing lightbars, strobe lights, fire extinguisher, first aid kit, and vehicle markings. In all, the cost is $226,400.
No one could ever excuse the city of Largo of not going first class in its equipment.
City officials have maintained over the years that items on the consent agenda have been discussed previously by the City Commission but some citizens who attend commission meetings and follow the proceedings closely say very often they see things for the first time when the commission votes on the consent agenda which is not done by individual items.
Such seems to be the case with item number 16. Close observers of commission meetings say they have no recollection of a TV truck with a price of more than $179,000 being discussed.
Some employees from the Police Department were honored at Tuesday’s meeting with Chief Lester Aradi doing the honors. (The department is saddened, as is the city, over the death of Lt. Mike Renault.
Sgt. Kelly Goswick, a 30-year veteran of the Police Department, received the Officer of the Year award.
Three members of the Largo Fire Rescue Department received the Medal of Honor for Distinguished Service. Dale Rosko, George Cottom and Robert Johnson alertly responded in December to the distress of a two month old baby and their immediate and professional aid resulted in the child, apparently near death, fully recovering.
Other awards – both Police Department employees – went to Jennett Whitworth as Civilian Employee of the Year, and to Sue Porter, who received the Volunteer of the Year award.
Citizen comments usually turn up a barometer of how the community is feeling. Norma Jean Anderson made a pitch for arts and culture in these hard times, Geoff Moakley continued his ongoing keen and perspicacious analysis of city spending on how to save money and another fellow, Greg Pound, who has been talking for four years about a problem that is not in Largo’s jurisdiction, was allowed to go over it all again. Proving, no doubt, that the quality of mercy is not strained in Largo these days.
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