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Spring Hill Fire Rescue Commission dying as it lived — bickering

SPRING HILL — Looking exasperated, Spring Hill Fire Rescue Commission Chairman John Pasquale entertained a motion to take a break.

"I think we need a long one," Pasquale said, tapping his gavel.

With little on the agenda other than some minor housekeeping items, the five commissioners spent much of what was likely their last meeting Wednesday doing what they have become famous for — arguing among themselves.

The most heated rhetoric came from Commissioners Rob Giammarco, Sherry Adler and Ken Fagan, who took turns criticizing each other, while Pasquale and fellow Commissioner Amy Brosnan mostly listened.

For people like Spring Hill resident Ian Norris, it was a sad, yet predictable ending to a long, drawn-out saga.

"There's not much you can say about it," said Norris, a frequent board critic. "Had they paid more attention to taking care of business, then the district might have survived."

Harry Chamberlain, who has regularly attended fire board meetings for several years, eventually left Wednesday's meeting in disgust.

"I guess I was wrong in hoping they would end on a dignified note," Chamberlain said afterward. "The best thing we can do now is look to the future."

For the 37-year-old independent district, the future will begin Oct. 1, when the county officially assumes the reins of running fire and rescue services for the 92,000 residents of Spring Hill.

An interlocal agreement passed last month allows the county to continue collecting the current 2.5 mills in annual property taxes for at least one year. The merger became necessary when Spring Hill residents twice voted not to give the district any taxing authority, after voting in 2008 to give it its independence.

While firefighters and paramedics will continue working under their existing union contract until it expires in 2013, other district employees will fall under county employment rules.

According to Chief Mike Rampino, the transition has been smooth so far, but some details remain to be worked out.

"There's obviously a lot of work to do yet, but we expect it's going to remain pretty much business as usual," Rampino said.

Although the district will remain independent until it is dissolved by the Florida Legislature sometime next year, the elected board will have no say in how things are run. Those decisions will be left up to the county administration.

According to the district's attorney, Andrew Salzman, the board won't have to meet again unless asked to do so by the county.

That's all right with Giammarco, who has been on the fire board for nearly four years.

"I won't miss it one bit," he said. "I know I'm going to come home with a lot less headaches."

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

Spring Hill Fire Rescue Commission dying as it lived — bickering 09/14/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, September 14, 2011 7:42pm]
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