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Temple Terrace debates how to fund a mayors' memorial during a budget crunch

TEMPLE TERRACE — Last year, the City Council voted to build a memorial in Woodmont Park to the 18 mayors who have served the city since its founding in 1925.

It resulted from a suggestion from state Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon, that the city do something to honor former Mayor Joseph C. Bondi — father of Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi — who died on Jan. 8, 2013.

But in light of strained city finances and looming budget cuts for next fiscal year, council members Grant Rimbey and Alison Fernandez have had second thoughts about setting aside $10,000 for the project. They moved to have the city check and see whether private donations could be raised to offset the city's expenses. But that motion was overruled by colleagues Eddie Vance, David Pogorilich and Robert Boss, and so the $10,000 remains earmarked for the memorial.

The balk irritated Mayor Frank Chillura, who conducts the meetings but can vote only to break a tie. While saying he did not personally care whether the city built such a memorial, he said the hesitation now after the council already voted to do it makes the group look disorganized. He reminded members that Lee serves on the Legislature's appropriations committee, which allocates funds for city programs.

"Why now, after nine months later, or 10 months, all of a sudden this sort of change of heart?'' he asked in an interview last week. ''That should have been done way back then if that's what they wanted to do.''

Rimbey said the city has always sought private funding for these sorts of projects. A donation drive funded the Angel of Hope memorial to lost children and is funding the rebuilding of the historic Temple Terrace Bat Tower, he said. He suggested that the families of the mayors could organize a group.

"It's kind of how things are done in Temple Terrace,'' he said.

Pogorilich said it didn't seem right to ask former mayors and their families to contribute to building the memorial.

Boss said since it's a city-initiated project honoring the city's leaders, he thought the city should fund it. He, too, said if the council had wanted to do it another way, it should have acted a year ago.

Vance expressed concern about using public funds for the memorial when the city cannot easily spare the money, and he voted with Rimbey against setting aside the money during a vote last month. He said he was not in favor of the city staff seeking a private partnership to fund the memorial, however, because he feared it would open the floodgates of groups asking to partner with the city on fundraising drives.

The memorial's design would probably be centered around pavers or bricks etched with the names of the mayors and the dates that they served, Chillura speculated.

"I think it's a good idea,'' said Joseph Affronti, who was mayor before Chillura. "So many have contributed so much to the city over the years. It would be nice to recognize them and let people know who they are.''

A separate tribute already exists honoring Affronti. Vlass Temple Terrace, the developer now in legal dispute with the city over the stalled Downtown Temple Terrace project, surprised Affronti with a bronze statue in December 2011 in recognition of the mayor's longtime efforts to build a downtown the city has never had.

Rimbey suggested that once the city gets the property back, they could move the Affronti statue to the new mayor's memorial. No one else voiced support for the idea.

Philip Morgan can be reached at pmorgan@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3435.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction: The city of Temple Terrace set aside $10,000 last month for a possible mayors' memorial.

Temple Terrace debates how to fund a mayors' memorial during a budget crunch 04/29/14 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 6, 2014 2:29pm]
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