Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Kenneth City meeting turns into brouhaha over manager

KENNETH CITY — The workshop was called to discuss the wisdom of hiring a city manager, and by the end, some residents said it was a prime example of the need for a professional to run the town.

The meeting, they said, was an insult to Kenneth City and its residents because council members spent much of the time squabbling over allegedly missing stakes for yard signs, a supposedly missing photograph from the Town Hall and whether the police chief should fill out paper work to spend tax money. Residents were equally unimpressed when Mayor Teresa Zemaitis turned her presentation about the wisdom of changing the government to a council-manager format into one about the possible elimination of the Police Department.

"Every one of you, shame on you. … This is embarrassing. This is embarrassing. … This isn't working," Kenneth City resident Maureen Boberg said. "All of you have done an injustice to us tonight."

Boberg's comments echoed those of Lori DeLisle and Karen Cassidy. DeLisle and Cassidy served on a committee that unanimously recommended last September that the town government be changed so a trained professional could oversee Kenneth City's daily activities.

"I think the first half of this meeting really illustrates why we need a town manager," DeLisle said.

Council members agreed to hold a workshop next month to discuss not only the prospect of a town manager but to go line-by-line through the rest of the committee's report. It's unlikely they will discuss the possibility of disbanding the Police Department and turning over daily operations to the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office. That's not one of the charter review group's suggestions and most of the council appeared to oppose the idea, saying they felt ambushed and blindsided by the suggestion.

Zemaitis said she was not advocating elimination of the Police Department, but was gathering information so taxpayers could see the costs. Adding a city manager, she said, could end up increasing the tax rate. Eliminating the Police Department could make a city manager unnecessary and would lower costs.

Kenneth City, located along both sides of 54th Avenue N between St. Petersburg and Pinellas Park, is one of the county's smallest municipalities. It is about 1 square mile in area and has about 4,900 residents. It has an annual operating budget of about $2.02 million. About $556,760, or 27.5 percent, of that comes from property taxes.

The city has a mayor and four council members who are elected at-large. Each council member oversees the daily activities of a department and the mayor acts as the chief financial officer of the town. It is one of a handful of Pinellas municipalities with that style government.

It's a style that has been heavily criticized for at least 20 years, dating back to when a grand jury issued a scathing report citing a dysfunctional government characterized by cliques, backbiting and petty tiffs. The grand jury recommended converting to a manager-council style government in which a trained professional would run the daily activities and the council would be responsible for setting policy and passing a budget presented by the manager. The change would have to be approved by voters. But it takes council approval to put the issue on the ballot.

Thus far, one council after another has refused even though the prospect has been suggested many times throughout the years. The reason: The councils say the town can't afford a manager.

The idea has become more popular among some activists who point to the continual petty bickering on the council. Some have charged the town is run more like a homeowners association than a government. Some pointed to last week's meeting for examples that included disputes over "missing" yard stakes and a photograph:

• Council member Joanne DeSimone, who oversees the Police Department and the fire contract with Pinellas Park, complained that yard stakes were missing from a locked town building. Zemaitis responded that the stakes never existed. There was no purchase order or receipt or any other documentation showing the town had ever owned stakes. DeSimone insisted the town owned the stakes and they were missing. The situation was resolved when council member Phil Redisch volunteered to donate to the town the stakes he'd used for his campaign signs. And Adam Mayefsky, who oversees the public works department, suggested he could change the lock.

• DeSimone also complained that a photograph of the fire station was missing from the Town Hall. The photograph, she said, showed a "16" on it, the number assigned to the Kenneth City station. The photo was needed, she said, so she could make sure new lettering on the station would match the lettering that had been there at one time. Zemaitis and former Kenneth City fire Chief Donald Mecomber said there never was a picture with a "16" showing on it. The photograph of the station in Town Hall, which has no "16" on it, is the same one that has been there. No photo is missing, they said.

Anne Lindberg can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8450.

Kenneth City meeting turns into brouhaha over manager 05/25/13 [Last modified: Friday, May 24, 2013 1:32pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. No. 16 USF hangs on at Tulane, off to first 7-0 start

    College

    NEW ORLEANS — After half a season of mismatches, USF found itself in a grudge match Saturday night.

    USF quarterback Quinton Flowers (9) runs for a touchdown against Tulane during the first half of an NCAA college football game in New Orleans, La., Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. (AP Photo/Derick E. Hingle) LADH103
  2. Lightning buries Penguins (w/video)

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Ryan Callahan spent a lot of time last season rehabilitating his injured hip alongside Steven Stamkos, who was rehabbing a knee after season-ending surgery. During those hours, Callahan noticed two things about Stamkos: his hunger and his excitement to return this season.

    Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Slater Koekkoek (29) advances the puck through the neutral zone during the first period of Saturday???‚??„?s (10/21/17) game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Pittsburgh Penguins at Amalie Arena in Tampa.
  3. Spain planning to strip Catalonia of its autonomy

    World

    BARCELONA, Spain — The escalating confrontation over Catalonia's independence drive took its most serious turn Saturday as Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of Spain announced he would remove the leadership of the restive region and initiate a process of direct rule by the central government in Madrid.

    Demonstrators in Barcelona protest the decision to take control of Catalonia to derail the independence movement.
  4. Funeral held for soldier at center of political war of words (w/video)

    Nation

    COOPER CITY — Mourners remembered not only a U.S. soldier whose combat death in Africa led to a political fight between President Donald Trump and a Florida congresswoman but his three comrades who died with him.

    The casket of Sgt. La David T. Johnson of Miami Gardens, who was killed in an ambush in Niger. is wheeled out after a viewing at the Christ The Rock Church, Friday, Oct. 20, 2017  in Cooper City, Fla. (Pedro Portal/Miami Herald via AP) FLMIH102
  5. Chemical industry insider now shapes EPA policy

    Nation

    WASHINGTON — For years, the Environmental Protection Agency has struggled to prevent an ingredient once used in stain-resistant carpets and nonstick pans from contaminating drinking water.

    This is the Dow chemical plant near Freeport, Texas. Before the 2016 election, Dow had been in talks with the EPA to phase out the pesticide chlorpyrifos, which is blamed for disabilities in children. Dow is no longer willing to compromise.