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Spring Hill fire commissioners balk at colleague's request for special meeting

BROOKSVILLE — Fire Commissioner Rob Giammarco wants to discuss the fate of Spring Hill Fire Rescue now that voters have once again denied the district the authority to levy and collect property taxes.

The problem is, he said, three of his four colleagues on the fire district board so far have not agreed to meet.

Giammarco said this week that he's made two written requests to hold a special meeting before the County Commission's July 12 workshop on the matter, but only one other fire board member has expressed interested in attending.

That frustrates Giammarco, who has served six years on the fire board.

"It's time to direct our attention to making a smooth and orderly transition" to consolidation with Hernando County Fire Rescue, he said. "We have a lot of work to do, and stalling isn't going to help anything."

Fellow fire Commissioner Sherry Adler said Friday that it was her understanding from the district's attorney, Andrew Salzman, that there was no need for an emergency meeting, and that discussions about consolidating the district's fire and rescue services with those of the county could wait until the fire board's regular meeting on July 13.

"It's not a matter of not wanting to be there," Adler said. "I'm in favor of whatever the majority of the board wants."

Fire Commissioner Ken Fagan, who supports Giammarco's call for a meeting, said he fears that not addressing the consolidation issue before the County Commission workshop sends a signal to Spring Hill taxpayers that the district is not being responsive.

"It seems everybody is willing to work toward what's best for the 92,000 residents in Spring Hill except for this board," Fagan said. "We have accepted the inevitable by now. We need to start working with the people who will be taking over."

Spring Hill voters agreed to make the district independent in 2008, but voted in 2010 and again last month in a special election not to give the fire board taxing authority. Without that approval, the district will have no ability to raise revenue to fund its fire and rescue services once an interlocal agreement with the county sunsets on Sept. 30.

Giammarco and Fagan said they support a consolidation plan by County Administrator David Hamilton, which would include a two-year transition phase and maintain the 2.5 mill property tax rate now in place.

But before that could happen, the fire board would first have to declare a financial emergency through the governor's office. The matter of dissolving the independent district would have to be decided by the Legislature.

Fagan said he had hoped consolidation with the county would include returning the district to its former dependent status with administrative financial oversight by an elected board. But after speaking this week with county commissioners, he got the impression that such a scenario is unlikely.

"My guess is that they already have a pretty good idea how they want to see the things run," Fagan said.

Logan Neill can be reached at (352) 848-1435 or lneill@sptimes.com.

Spring Hill fire commissioners balk at colleague's request for special meeting 07/01/11 [Last modified: Friday, July 1, 2011 6:22pm]
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