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Confusion at County Center as Hillsborough offices close for second furlough

TAMPA — Hillsborough County offices closed Friday for the second of five furlough days, including parks, libraries, neighborhood service centers, senior centers and all office at the downtown County Center.

It was the second of five furlough days and like the first time, it caught some people by surprise.

The scheduled closures are part of a Hillsborough County Commission plan to balance the budget and save jobs. County offices are also closed Monday for Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

At the County Center in downtown Tampa, signs were on the doors explaining that the offices are closed.

A few employees went in anyway to catch up on work. Everyone had to sign in.

A security guard said he had been turning ay people since 7 a.m. Friday.

When Carl Waltower, 52, walked up to a security guard found out the place was closed, he said: "You gotta be kidding me!"

Waltower was trying to get a new vehicle tag for his van because it expires on Monday. He said he would wait till Tuesday.

"It's about like everything," he said. "Everybody's cutting back. There's nothing I can do about it."

Pat Fenda of Tampa walked up to the doors at about 8 a.m. She was there to get new vehicle registration for her Chrysler Crossfire because she was pulled over by police Thursday.

When the security guard told her the building was closed, she slumped her shoulders. She was redirected to a AAA office near her home, which she said was inconvenient because she was supposed to meet someone downtown in the morning.

"I don't know how I would have found out," she said. "It was a luck of the draw."

David Neville, 46, was returning a book for his daughter to the Jan Platt library on Manhattan Avenue when he discovered the drop-off boxes were locked.

But Neville said didn't mind the inconvenience. "I'd rather come in on Saturday as opposed to someone being canned,'' he said.

The first furlough on Oct. 30 caused frustration for people visiting the shuttered County Center to pay taxes and renew tags, or those trying to return library books to locked drop boxes. Parks greeted would-be visitors with big, red CLOSED signs.

"It's definitely an inconvenience," said county spokesman Willie Puz. "It's an inconvenience to the residents, and it's also an inconvenience to the employees."

Puz said the county was concerned about another day of confusion, but that the closure was necessary. He said he was satisfied with the way the county notified residents of the furlough with alerts on its Web site and commercials on its television station.

"We try to get the word out as best we can," Puz said.

Some constitutional offices, such as the Clerk of the Circuit Court, Property Appraiser and the Tax Collector, were open at satellite locations. Officials said residents should call the offices to verify their hours of operation.

Some clerk services were available at the Hillsborough County courthouse.

Open tax collector satellite offices included:

•9309 N Florida Ave. in Tampa

•6283 Waters Ave. in West Hillsborough County

•2211 N Falkenburg Road in Brandon

•3002 E College Ave. in Ruskin

•1834 Jim Redman Parkway in Plant City

Property Appraiser satellite offices included:

•311 Pauls Drive in Brandon

•3018 S.R. 674, Suite 2B in Ruskin

•12086 Anderson Road, Suite 105 in Northwest Hillsborough County

•302 N. Michigan Ave. in Plant City

Emergency services, wastewater plants, solid waste collection and some children's services were not affected. Also, the county's Sunshine Line bus service was transporting dialysis patients to open dialysis centers.

The next furloughs are scheduled for April 2, June 18, and Sept. 9.

Tom Dowling, 54, said he drove Friday morning from Orlando to get a fire inspection permit. He works for a construction project in Temple Terrace, building town homes. He needed to visit the building department to get fire inspection permit.

The inspection was supposed to happen today, he said, and now he would cancel it.

"Seeing as how I just drove from Orlando, I'm not feeling so good," he said. "I gotta come back Tuesday. What else are you going to do?"

Others were being affected by less pressing matters. Edwin Vasquez, 51, doesn't have a job and wanted to visit the snack bar in the building to buy cigarettes.

It was locked.

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Confusion at County Center as Hillsborough offices close for second furlough 01/15/10 [Last modified: Friday, January 15, 2010 11:18am]
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