Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Amid angst, street light fee approved in Safety Harbor

SAFETY HARBOR — It may be unfair, but it was the best solution the city could come up with.

Most property owners will have to shell out $50.97 over the next year to cover the cost of public street lights.

The charge will appear on utility bills for people who live on roads with street lights that the city leases from Progress Energy. The fee will not be assessed on those who live on unlighted streets, those whose homeowners associations pay for public street lights, or those who live on private streets.

"You never get anything perfect, that's going to be perfectly fair," said Vice Mayor Joe Ayoub during the City Commission's final approval of the special assessment Monday night.

Some residents complained about what they see as a regressive tax on a public good — a flat cost disproportionate to people's differing financial circumstances. And the fee stays the same even though some roads have more street lights than others, they argued.

The city is imposing the special assessment to make up for a shortfall in the street light fund. At first, developers' fees fueled the fund. But the fund diminished over the years as construction slowed, and the city had to transfer money into it from other places. Faced with the inevitability of the fund zeroing out in 2013, the city began considering new revenue sources to pay for the poles leased from Progress Energy, which cost about $300,000 annually.

Initial discussions in the spring produced two possible options: implementing the new street light fee or hiking the property tax rate. But not enough commissioners supported a significant increase in the tax rate.

Just as commissioners argued unfairness in the street light fee Monday, they also pointed out unfairness in the alternative: that collecting money for street lights through property taxes would "double-charge" residents who were already paying for street lights through private means.

Saying they were open to re-evaluating the street light strategy in the next budget cycle, commissioners decided in two 3-2 votes to implement the fee at $50.97 for this fiscal year, which started Oct. 1. Commissioners Nina Bandoni and Nancy Besore continued their opposition to the fee.

• • •

Also at Monday night's meeting, the city terminated a development agreement for a potential office building at Cedar Street and McMullen-Booth Road. The one-year agreement inked in 2010 changed the property's zoning and land use for construction — except nothing was ever built.

The property owner hasn't been able to find a new developer.

After a six-month extension of the agreement earlier this year, neighbors pleaded with the city to crack down on the property, currently a storage facility that they say has evolved into a nuisance causing creek erosion.

Commissioners seemed peeved that the property owner, Paul McMullen, didn't attend the public hearing. They nixed the development agreement 4-1. Ayoub disagreed, worrying that dissolving the agreement would make it harder to market the property.

In other business, commissioners praised a proposed lease-to-own agreement for a former school site on Elm Street, a $250,000 deal to be paid over 50 years that will net the city more park space.

Also, changes to an ordinance regulating the location of group homes unanimously passed its final vote Monday night, a move likely to signal the end of a federal Justice Department investigation of the city. Federal officials viewed the city's restrictions on small residential care facilities as discriminatory toward people with disabilities.

Stephanie Wang can be reached at (727) 445-4155 or To write a letter to the editor, go to

Amid angst, street light fee approved in Safety Harbor 12/18/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 18, 2012 7:12pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Comedy legend Jerry Lewis dead at 91


    Jerry Lewis, who teamed with Dean Martin in the '50s before starring in The Nutty Professor and later founding the annual Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon has died at 91 at his home in Las Vegas, according to his publicist.

    More to come.

    Jerry Lewis in the 2016 film "Max Rose." [Hopper Stone, Paladin]
  2. Mastermind of lottery rigging scam that netted millions faces 25 years


    DES MOINES, Iowa — For a decade, computer programmer Eddie Tipton reliably showed up for work at the central Iowa office of the Multi-State Lottery Association and earned the confidence of his co-workers, a team of technicians entrusted to build computers used to randomly pick numbers for some of the most popular …

    FILE - In this June 29, 2017, file photo, Eddie Tipton, the former Multi-State Lottery Association information security director who admitted to masterminding a scheme to rig lottery games that paid him and others $2 million from seven fixed jackpots in five states, is seen in court in Des Moines, Iowa. Tipton is scheduled to be sentenced Tuesday, Aug. 22. (Rodney White/The Des Moines Register via AP, File) IADES501
  3. Pasco County man killed in wrong-way crash on New Jersey Turnpike


    MOUNT LAUREL, N.J. — Authorities say a Florida man driving the wrong way on the New Jersey Turnpike was killed when his SUV crashed head-on into another vehicle.

  4. No bond for suspect in Kissimmee officers' fatal shooting


    KISSIMMEE — A suspect in the fatal shooting of two police officers in Florida will be staying in jail after a judge denied him bond Sunday, saying there was probable cause for his first-degree murder charge

    Officers Matthew Baxter, left, and Sam Howard, right, who were both shot and killed in Kissimmee, Florida, on Friday, Aug. 18, 2017. [Kissimmee Police]
  5. Tampa police arrest 22-year-old man in July murder


    TAMPA — Police arrested Sunday a 22-year-old man who detectives said shot and killed a Tampa man after an argument.

    Tampa police arrested Dejonta Felder, 22, in the murder of 32-year-old Julius R. Carter. [Tampa Police Department]