By Leo Coughlin
An idea well worth looking into and with far more merit than the notion advanced by dreamers that the western portions of Clearwater should secede from the mother city is that advanced by Dave Shimkus.
Namely, that Belleair, Belleair Bluffs, Belleair Beach, Belleair Shore and the unincorporated areas just south of Belleair Bluffs be amalgamated into one municipality. Altogether they would make a city of 13,000 or so population.
It’s an idea that has sprouted before but that has never taken enough root to give it life.
As an aside, the pipe dream that Island Estates, Clearwater Beach and Sand Key should separate from Clearwater and set up in the city business themselves is absurd, silly, wacky and, in fact, totally unworkable.
More on that on another Thursday. (With particulars.)
Shimkus renewed the idea of an enlarged gaggle of Belleairs after the dust settled last week at the scrimmage in the Bluffs City Hall that fired up tempers over the fire department situation.
Were his idea – one that has come up before – to be implemented it would reduce the number of municipalities in Pinellas County to 21.
Come to think of it, The Redingtons – North, Beach and Shores – ought to be glued together into one city as well. And maybe it would make sense to throw Indian Shores in with group, too.
Most counties in Florida have one or two municipalities. Some counties double as cities – Jacksonville/Duval, Miami/Dade.
How things ever got out of hand in Pinellas with the Legislature allowing a grand total of 24 cities and towns is incredible. St. Petersburg, Clearwater and Largo make sense. All the rest should be in county government jurisdiction.
Think of it – overlapping police forces in some instances, although this has been partly eroded with the Sheriff’s Office performing police duties in some municipalities.
Think of it – overlapping fire and rescue services, although this is being addressed in a quiet and persistent way and before long the county brains will have had their way and the whole shebang will be consolidated.
Those are just two instances of duplicated services in small areas where a county operation would be more efficient and less costly.
But back to Shimkus.
The predicate of his idea springs from the fire situation and the possible prospect of the Bluffs having to contract with Largo for fire services.
This sends shivers of horror through many Bluffonians. The very suggestion of the idea is anathema. But, dollars to doughnuts, that is how it is likely to go.
You see, the Bluffs was carved out of Largo and there is a strong feeling in the town to have as little to do with Largo as possible.
Yes, it’s that old human nature that fuels itself on dislikes and hates, etc., the stuff that historically makes we humans inclined to hurt and kill our fellows, despite the importunings of the religious figures who are ignored, by and large.
“We don’t want billboards and strip clubs and such in the Belleairs,” Shimkus said. “We want it to remain a small town, while maximizing the benefits of being a larger city.”
He pointed out that Belleair has a police force and trash pick up, along with a park district program, that the Bluffs has a business and shopping district and a fire department, while the rest – Belleair Beach, Belleair Shore, Harbor Bluffs and Harbor Hills – are strictly residential.
“It only makes sense to investigate the possibility,” Shimkus says, and he is right.
He would like to see a resident and commissioner from each of the municipalities with a couple of representatives from the unincorporated areas along with a county figure to explore the idea.
The idea makes eminent sense.
Of course, it would be an uphill struggle because of that old bugaboo – human nature.
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