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Belleair Bee
Belleair receives $4 million gift from estate
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Photo by BRIAN GOFF
The house at 200 Ricker Road is part of a $4 million gift to the town of Belleair by a deceased resident.
BELLEAIR – The town of Belleair got a sudden and welcome surprise recently with the news that a departed resident had left the community nearly $4 million.

Town officials knew that they were going to get something from the estate of John J. Osbourne, who had indicated that he was going to leave his house and its contents to the community. When he died in early September it was assumed the house and contents were all that was involved.

Mayor Gary Katica described how he found out about the multimillion-dollar gift.

“Micah (Town Manager Micah Maxwell) called me and asked me if I was sitting down,” said Katica. “Then he told me about the money. We had known that the person was leaving us the house and belongings but we had no idea that the estate was that large.”

Maxwell said he was as surprised as anybody.

“It was certainly a surprise; none of us had any idea that there would be something as significant as that,” he said. “Not in my wildest dreams did I think it would be $3.95 million.”

In addition to that the house at Druid and Ricker roads is valued at $180,000 and includes a $17,000 vehicle that will be added to the town’s fleet. The house will likely be sold.

Maxwell said the nearly $4 million is made up of $150,000 cash in the bank and the rest in stocks and bonds, which the town must liquidate.

The late Osbourne was well known around Belleair’s Building Department. Maxwell said he would buy a house in the community, live in it, fix it up and sell it, then do it all over again with another house. Over the years he owned many houses in Belleair.

Osbourne lived alone. His only known relative, according to town officials, is a sister somewhere in New York State. Maxwell said he likely came upon the idea to will his home to the town because he had heard about Eleanor Thompson doing the same thing a while back. Eleanor and Seton Thompson lived on North Pine Road. Seton Thompson died several years ago and before she died years ago, Eleanor Thompson told the town they could have her house as long as they tore it down and built a park on the land. That is where Thompson Park stands today.

Maxwell said he now assumes that Osbourne dabbled in houses as a hobby.

“Given what we now know about his assets he sure didn’t need to do it for the money,” he said.

Still to be determined is what is going to happen to the money.

“Once the money is transferred to the town it will go into the general fund,” said Maxwell. “After that the commission will decide what to do with it specifically. It could go to infrastructure, water, solid waste or it could be split up among all those funds. Staff will come up with a strategy and the commission will then decide.”

Katica said the money wouldn’t be wasted.

“There are so many things the town needs,” he said. “We have been cutting back and cutting back because of having to carry the Belleview Biltmore. The Finance Board will make some recommendations then we’ll decide what to do with it.”

Katica recalls his initial response to that phone call telling him of the inheritance.

“Wow, that is all I could say, wow,” he said. “I think it is a wonderful thing when a person does that for the good of the rest of the community. It is absolutely a terrific thing.”
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