07-26-2005, 05:58 PM #1
Pinellas County Cities argue over lost fees
St. Petersburg Times
2 cities ask dismissal of fire suit
By ANNE LINDBERG, Times Staff Writer
Published July 13, 2005
LEALMAN - Pinellas Park and St. Petersburg have asked that a judge dismiss a lawsuit that seeks to have the two cities pay the Lealman Fire District almost $300,000.
The Lealman Fire Commission sued the two cities in May, alleging that both annexed property worth millions from the fire district but that neither city assumed responsibility for first-response fire service to those lands.
But Pinellas Park spokesman Tim Caddell said this week that the lawsuit was without merit. "We don't intend to pay it," he said.
That stance did not surprise Lealman fire officials.
"Our attorney said this would happen," Lealman fire Chief Rick Graham said. "I guess that's pretty standard."
An Aug. 23 hearing is scheduled on the motion, Graham said. If a judge declines to dismiss the suit, he could force the parties to negotiate or send the case to trial.
Annexations by St. Petersburg and Pinellas Park left Lealman as first responder to fire calls in those areas, but without the tax money to pay for their services. And, according to the fire commissioners' reading of state law, both cities should pay the district for providing first response service to those annexed properties.
Annexations and the tax monies lost in them have long been a touchy issue for the unincorporated Lealman area. Local activists and fire officials have lobbied the county and state officials for changes to annexation laws that would protect the district from repeated annexations.
The effect, they have argued, is to take tax money out of the district while leaving the burden of service on residents, who are some of the poorest in Pinellas County. The result, the activists say, is one of the highest fire taxes in the county.
This year, fire commissioners decided to act rather than talk. They sent demand letters to Pinellas Park, St. Petersburg and Seminole threatening to sue unless those cities returned about $1.5-million in property taxes gained through annexations.
Seminole evaded the suit because its annexation of the tax-rich commercial area on the west side of Park Street happened just days before a state law changed that required notice of the annexations.
Likewise, St. Petersburg lowered the amount the district says it owes by showing some of its annexations also occurred before the law changed.
[Last modified July 13, 2005, 00:09:17]09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
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The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.
07-26-2005, 06:16 PM #2
- Join Date
- Jul 1999
- Flanders, NJ
The "NJ method" would fix this problem. Build on every square inch of vacant land and tax the living daylights out of it.
07-26-2005, 09:29 PM #3
I hope they get the money. We are in the same situation as Lealman, but we made sure long ago to take care of the annexation problem. Cities can annex all of our area they want, we still get the fire tax for it.
On a side note, Leaman fired back at Seminole by out bidding them for the contratc for the local VA hospital. Now Seminloe claims they are not going to send units there untill Lealman gets on scene. Of course thats not going to happen because Seminole signed the county mutual aid argreement, so they will send units there and like it.
But really, this is only part of the story. All I can imagin is the "powers" at the county level must be sweating buletts about now as all this infighting threatens to destroy the system they have spent 20 years (and millios of $$$)trying to build.Fire Marshal/Safety Officer
"No his mind is not for rent, to any god or government"
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Failure is when fantasy meets reality
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