LARGO – The residents of the Paradise Island mobile home park came to the Largo Commission meeting in droves to protest Largo’s imminent response to their ongoing sewer woes Oct. 16.
The neighborhood is upset that the city will offer to pay Paradise Island Co-op only half of the costs of the $15,000 repairs to its sewer, the source of a bad smell that has been plaguing the neighborhood for several years.
“Apparently, the city has already decided what they’re going to do with no negotiating,” said Nancy Perry, manager for the co-op. “Something’s wrong here; something smells.”
Earlier this month, City Attorney Alan Zimmet updated the city commission on the status of the ongoing issue. City staff would be responding to the co-op’s claim in a letter, he said.
“It was staff’s determination that an appropriate offer from the city was to pay 50 percent of the costs which you had submitted a claim for,” Zimmet explained again, addressing the co-op leaders. “I never said negotiations were over or complete.”
As of yet, the letter had not been sent. However, Paradise Island residents read about the discussion in local newspapers and weren’t happy.
“I’m letting the commission know this is not acceptable behavior,” Perry said. “(You) negotiate with a human being, the parties involved. You do not do it in the media.”
While the city might have preferred to keep the terms of the initial terms of the negotiation under wraps a bit longer, the Florida Sunshine Laws prevent Zimmet or any other city representative from discussing governmental business with any more than one elected official at a time, outside of a public meeting.
“The negotiations that you spoke of have not occurred,” Commissioner Harriet Crozier explained to the co-op. “The press has a way of knowing things and putting things in the newspaper before we want them to.
“Sometimes government doesn’t work as fast as you want it to,” she later added.
Zimmit said the letter to the co-op likely would be ready before the end of the week.
The timing of the negotiation, however, does not change the position of the Paradise Islands residents, who want to be compensated in full for the emergency repairs made to the sewer.
“We want our money,” Perry said. “It’s not half our fault. We did not do anything wrong. We jumped when they told us to jump.”
At the conclusion of a study on the sewer problem earlier this year, the city is investing $10,000 in additional short-term improvements to the sewer as well as long-term upgrades over the next three years.
No raises in union contract
The city agreed to its first union agreement for the current fiscal year. The employees represented by the Communications Workers of America agreed to an upgraded contract that included no pay increases, said Assistant City Manager Henry Schubert.
“We would all like to have a pay increase, every employee would, but they understand the city’s financial situation and are willing to work with us. So we do appreciate that,” Schubert said.
The city is still in bargaining process to develop new contracts with the police and firefighter unions.
The city is going to pay more than anticipated for the repair of City Hall roof, after discovering that the roof differed from the original design drawings and would require additional work to update.
The city budgeted $1.5 million toward the roof repair. However, the city contracted the project with the construction company Eveland Brothers at a cost of $783,400. The additional work will cost $22,907 extra.
Commissioner Curtis Holmes questioned the “25 percent increase” in the cost. Facilities Manager Glenn Harwood told him that there was no way to anticipate the increase until the work exposed the difference in the roof’s design.
The commission proclaimed the week of Oct. 21 in honor of the Friends of Largo Library, which reaches the milestone this year of $1 million in donations to the library since 1979. Recent donations of note from the organization include $185,000 toward the new library building between 2003 and 2006, funding for computers in the children’s and teen area and $200,000 slated in 2013 for a new radio frequency identification system, their largest donation to date.