Palm Harbor Community Services Agency board chairman Rex Haslam, left, listens as agency attorney Andy Salzman reviews the changes to the board, as outlined in a recently revised county ordinance, during the agency’s meeting in East Lake Library Oct. 16.
PALM HARBOR – The traditional makeup of the Palm Harbor Community Services Agency board met one last time Oct. 16 and said goodbye, without knowing who wouldn’t be back when the board meets again next month.
“I can’t tell you how much I appreciate working with everybody, whether (you’re) going to be here on this board or not,” said board chairman Rex Haslam. “We’ve done a lot of things in a short period of time, and we’ve gone a long way from where we were. And I couldn’t have done it without the board working together.”
The period to apply for a position on the PHCSA board as a county appointee closed Oct. 9. From the applications submitted, the county commissioners will select four appointees to the new seven-person board Oct. 22.
Haslam invited the outgoing members of the board to return for the PHCSA meeting Nov. 20 to receive a gift in appreciation of their service.
“We don’t know who you are yet,” he admitted.
Haslam is one of the two current board members who will be returning next month as the Palm Harbor Recreation League’s single appointee. Sharon Pikulinski also will return, appointed by the Friends of the Palm Harbor Library. However, due to term limits, she can only serve through December.
East Lake Community Library Advisory Board’s first appointee to the PHCSA board will be Rob Moore.
“I’m looking forward to it,” he said. “We’ve come a long way.”
Until now, the East Lake library has been unrepresented on the PHCSA board, which oversees both libraries as well as CSA Palm Harbor on behalf of the county. Given the establishment of the East Lake municipal services taxing unit, which will now fund the East Lake library directly, as well as the reorganization of the Pinellas Public Library Cooperative, county commissioners saw an opportunity to reorganize the PHCSA board.
In prior years, the Palm Harbor Recreation League, the Friends of the Palm Harbor Library and the Palm Harbor Chamber of Commerce each have appointed two representatives to the PHCSA board, with the county appointing the seventh member. But now the county is responsible for naming four of the boards members, and the chamber loses its appointment power.
Even the county’s current appointee, Holly Bird, was asked to reapply for her position. The outgoing representatives worried that as many as five people would be brand new to the agency and its policies.
“It’s not going to be easy, because you’ve got five newbies with a learning curve that goes with it,” Pikulinski said.
Per the new county ordinance that establishes the new board, the agency has 30 days to realign their own by-laws to reflect the new policies. Members of the PHCSA board complained that the county commissioners didn’t provide for staggered terms and a less abrupt transition to the new board makeup in the ordinance.
“We asked them for all these things,” said Andy Salzman, attorney for the agency. “Based on the information we received, they’re happy with what they wrote, and we just need to implement it.”
Marcus Harrison, one of the two former chamber appointees, said he applied to become a county appointee, but wondered if he had been too outspoken during public hearings on the new ordinance.
“What they do, I don’t know. I might have been a thorn in their side,” he said.
Harrison, one of the most active members of the board, said it took him a year to get up to speed on how the pseudo-governmental agency worked, given its unique position in the unincorporated communities of Palm Harbor and East Lake. He suggested to the county commissioners that the terms of the new board be staggered, so that the majority of the board didn’t leave when the current terms run out four years from now. But that idea wasn’t established.
“They don’t seem to be listening to the public at all, whether they have good advice or not,” Harrison said.
One of the major responsibilities of the board is to sign certain checks for the day-to-day operations of the three entities. Members of the board have to be authorized with the agency’s bank in order for their signatures to be recognized. During the transition, Haslam and Pikulinski will continue to be able to sign checks, but the county hadn’t provided for that function, the PHCSA board commented.
“Technically, we have people who can sign only by chance,” said board member Phil Phillips, who didn’t apply for a county appointment. “We got lucky.”
Salzman said the agency could have asked the county to fund the three entities during the transitional period, or called an emergency meeting to establish the necessary operating parameters.
Also, potentially up in the air is the new liquor license for White Chapel and Harbor Hall, authorized to PHCSA directors who may or may not be still directors next month.
“This wasn’t really thought through,” commented Palm Harbor Director Gene Coppola.