LEALMAN — Residents of this unincorporated area can look forward to more fire hydrants and fewer county services in the next year or so.
That's the mixed message Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch brought Wednesday to the Lealman Community Association meeting.
Among the changes residents can expect to see if $71 million in proposed cuts are eventually adopted: the closing of the county connection center at Lealman Park on 54th Avenue N; code officers who do not look for problems but who only respond to complaints; elimination of sidewalk and paving programs; and animal control officers who respond only if an animal is dangerous.
"This is not written in stone, but it's kind of wet concrete," Welch said. "Your government is not going to look the same after this budget year. … The dollars are gone. We don't have the money in our budget."
But the picture is not all gloomy for Lealman. Much-needed fire hydrants will still be installed. By the end of this year, 86 new hydrants will have been installed since 2003. Half of these were paid for by the county and half by St. Petersburg, which owns the water system and provides water service to a portion of Lealman.
This area's lack of hydrants was graphically highlighted in 2003 when the Nautilus building at Town Apartments North was destroyed in a fire. Firefighters had a hard time finding enough hydrants to battle the blaze.
Welch praised Lealman for leading the way in another area: garbage collection. The midsection of east Lealman — that part east of Kenneth City between Pinellas Park and St. Petersburg — petitioned the county for unified garbage service. The price is tacked onto the property tax bills.
The system has become such a success, Welch said, that others in unincorporated Pinellas have asked for the same service. The commission, he said, is moving toward a countywide system of garbage collection.