SPRING HILL — Ballot language for Spring Hill Fire Rescue's November bid for independence has been finalized, just in time for public hearings on the issue set to begin June 17.
After months of talks with fire district attorney Andy Salzman, assistant county attorney Jon Jouben said Thursday that both sides had agreed to the language.
To keep the process moving ahead, the fire board voted Wednesday night to hold the district's tax cap at 2.75 mills. Lowering the rate, as the board previously discussed, would have delayed approval of the language.
A few weeks ago, the push for the November vote seemed to be derailed when another fire district attorney, filling in for Salzman, appeared before the County Commission. On May 6, Fabian Lokenauth asked for the vote to be called off and told commissioners instead to send the issue to the Legislature next January to create the independent district.
By going directly to lawmakers in Tallahassee, while avoiding the nonbinding vote, the county could keep from paying for an extra election, he explained. Another referendum would have to be held so voters could determine the millage rate the newly independent district could levy.
County commissioners, who have dealt with the contentious issue for months, were not happy about the suggestion to push back hearing dates.
The fire board has since blamed the request on miscommunication. When asked Wednesday what happened at the commission meeting, Lokenauth said that he was "not privy to that information."
Meanwhile, Assistant Chief Bill Davies said fire district staff will continue to meet with various Spring Hill groups to explain why it wants independence from the county. A town hall session with residents at Pristine Place will be held in the near future.
Also Wednesday night, fire commissioners voted 3 to 1 to allow fire board members to have radios and respond to emergency calls, but they must stand with the public and cannot get in the way.
The vote came after fire commissioner Rob Giammarco was accused by firefighters of interfering with an emergency scene.
Chandra Broadwater can be reached
or (352) 848-1432.