Dispatches from the frontline of the annexation wars: Kenneth City vs. Lealman, part II
The last time Lealman Fire District officials got into a snit about Kenneth City’s annexations, it cancelled the longstanding contract to deliver fire service to the town. Rather than backing down and promising to never again annex into Lealman, the Town Council turned to Pinellas Park for fire service. Lealman lost a contract worth more than $200,000 a year in that battle and Kenneth City got a fire truck located in its old fire station.
Now, Kenneth City Mayor Teresa Zemaitis is rallying the troops in an attempt to stop the passage of an “all or nothing” bill that would require annexing cities to take all of Lealman if they want to take just one piece. And Lealman voters would have the final say in a referendum on the issue. The bill would be good for six years.
Well, even if Kenneth City wanted all of Lealman and even if Lealman voters wanted to become part of Kenneth City, the logistics make the deal impossible. No way can a town of about 4,500 absorb an area with more than 30,000 residents. Think of a guppy swallowing a whale.
So, Zemaitis has turned to her residents for help in defeating the bill. And the Lealman Fire District has turned to Ray Neri, head of the Lealman Community Association, for help. Neri, in turn, has asked his supporters for help.
Here’s the correspondence:
From: Teresa Zemaitis
Sent: Wednesday, March 03, 2010 12:34 PM
Subject: FW: Lealman annexation bill
Attached is a copy of the local bill being proposed by our county delegation. If passed, this bill will stop all annexations into the Lealman area for a period of 7 years. That means no growth for Kenneth City for 7 years in a time when our property values are continuing to decrease. With no other way to raise real revenues for the town and with the certain inflation of our other expenses, we can only assume that we will have to drain our reserves so as not to burden our residents AND/OR we will have to raise the millage rate to make up the loss in ad valorem taxes.
In light in this information, I would ask all of you to please contact all members of the Pinellas County delegation to let them know you are not happy about this bill. Not only does it deny us growth, it takes away property owners' rights. Many people contact us and want to annex into Kenneth City but because they are not contiguous, they have to wait. This bill will totally strip those individuals of their right to choose where they want their property located and they will be forced to pay higher taxes.
It is a lose-lose situation for Kenneth City and Lealman both. Please follow this link to obtain the names and contact information for the entire delegation: http://www.pinellascounty.org/delegation/pdf/all-delegation.pdf.
It is important to contact everyone by any and all means necessary, but it is especially important that we target heavily those from our immediate area (Long, Justice, Heller, Kriseman, Rouson).
Please help our city grow. If we do not stop this bill, there will be no growth for the next seven years. Period. I have spoken to a lobbyist in Tallahassee and she says the only way to stop this is if residents get vocal and fight for their property rights. Help me in the fight for Kenneth City. If you can let me know you were able to contact our delegates, I would appreciate it so that I can keep track of the strength of our numbers. If you know others not on this list, please forward it to them.
Let's be as loud and as vocal as that minority group in Lealman who caused this bill to be introduced.
I appreciate your support,
From: Ray Neri
Sent: Tuesday, March 16, 2010 4:44 PM
To: Residents of Lealman
The info below was emailed to me by Jim Millican of the Lealman Fire Dept. He is up in Tallahassee to encourage the passage of the bill that will protect Lealman from further annexation. The LCA has done all it can to get bill 1557 to our legislature...now we need your help as well as the help your of your neighbors and friends. Should we fail to get this bill passed Lealman may not be around in the future. This is serious and your help is needed now. Below are the email addresses of the committee members. Send them your concerns today and prove this is not just a "minority group's" wish. Surveys that we and the county conducted showed that over 90% of Lealman residents wanted to stay in the county.
Good Afternoon Ray,
We need to get as many residents as possible to email and/or call the representatives listed below regarding our House Bill 1557. I included a copy of the letter that Teresa is sending out to her residents below. I have attached a list with all of the contact information for our local legislative delegation and listed all of the house representatives that are on the Military & Local Affairs Committee. They are
Chair Dorothy Hukill Dorothy, firstname.lastname@example.org
Vice Chair Chris Dorworth, email@example.com
Janet Long, firstname.lastname@example.org
Janet H. Adkins, email@example.com
Mackenson Bernard, firstname.lastname@example.org
Esteban L. Bovo, Jr., email@example.com
Keith Fitzgerald, firstname.lastname@example.org
Evan Jenne, email@example.com
Mark S. Pafford, firstname.lastname@example.org
Ronald Renuart, email@example.com
Ron Schultz, firstname.lastname@example.org
Charles E. Van Zant, Charles.email@example.com
John Wood, firstname.lastname@example.org
Juan C. Zapata, email@example.com
Teresa Zemaitis is having quite a few people call. She states in her letter that this is a lose-lose situation for Kenneth City and Lealman. She is incorrect. She also states very clearly in her letter that she wants to annex to pay for her expenses at the expense of the Lealman Residents. I find that offensive.
-- Anne Lindberg, Times Staff Writer