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Consolidation divides three seeking election to Lealman Fire Commission

LEALMAN — The three candidates for the open seat on the Lealman Fire Commission have widely differing opinions about consolidation of fire and emergency medical services.

One sees consolidation as inevitable. Another wholeheartedly supports it. The third wants Lealman to remain independent as long as possible.

The three — Jay D. Alexander, John Frank and Becky Harriman — made their remarks at a recent forum held by the Lealman Community Association.

Alexander, 53, is a first-time candidate who has said he wants to revive the Civilian Conservation Corps. The CCC was a public works relief program that the federal government ran from 1933 to 1942.

Alexander told the audience that consolidation is an idea that might have to be considered. But he has said in the past that he "would like to hold out as much as possible to be independent."

Records from the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections Office indicate that Alexander has raised no money for his campaign.

Frank, 55, is a former Lealman fire commissioner who is well-known in the community. Frank believes that consolidation is inevitable and that it would result in better service for less money for Lealman taxpayers. But, Frank said, the way for Lealman to avoid disappearing in a consolidated system is to form friendships with the neighboring cities of Pinellas Park, Seminole, St. Petersburg and Kenneth City.

Frank has been a controversial figure during the past decade or so. Fire commissioners kicked him off the board because they said he does not live in the district. But county investigations have indicated that he does. He had run-ins with the law in 2005 when he was charged with speeding, DUI and leaving the scene of a crash. Adjudication was withheld on all charges. His license was suspended, but it has since been reinstated.

Frank has said that the experience allowed him to get treatment.

County records indicate that Frank had raised $2,380 as of Oct. 8. Most of that has come from individual contributors, including $100 from LCA president Ray Neri. Frank loaned himself $300.

Harriman, 53, is the current chair of the Lealman fire board. She advocates countywide consolidation because it is the best way to save money. She also advocates firefighter transport of patients to hospitals, saying that would cut costs because fire departments already have vehicles to transport patients.

Harriman has raised $3,450 in cash, most of it from her own pocket. She has given or loaned herself at least $2,500. Her contributors include the Flame of Continuous Existence fire union, which donated $250, and Larry Ahern, who donated $50. Ahern is the Republican candidate for state House District 51. He is running against incumbent Democrat Janet Long.

Fire commissioners meet at least twice a month, and they're responsible for setting the tax rate and creating a budget for the district. They earn $500 a month, although they have recently voted to temporarily forgo their pay to help hold down the budget. The 11-square-mile district has a budget of about $6.7 million derived from property taxes, money from emergency medical services and money from a contract to provide fire service to Tierra Verde.

Reach Anne Lindberg at alindberg@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8450.

Consolidation divides three seeking election to Lealman Fire Commission 10/23/10 [Last modified: Saturday, October 23, 2010 4:31am]
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