Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Lealman is final choice for Tierra Verde fire service

LEALMAN — After a bizarre play of back-and-forth by county officials, the decision seems to be final — the Lealman Fire District is the choice to provide fire service to Tierra Verde.

That was the decision of a countywide committee that ranked Lealman as No. 1 a month ago. But Monday, Pinellas County Administrator Bob LaSala announced he had changed his mind and would recommend that the County Commission rebid the contract because he wasn't sure Lealman had really given the lowest bid. By mid-afternoon Tuesday, LaSala had reversed himself and said the county was sticking with Lealman although he still seemed to have doubts its bid was truly the lowest cost.

The fact that Lealman is still the first choice "doesn't mean they're not going to make sure we're getting the true lowest net cost," LaSala said.

Lealman fire Chief Rick Graham could not be reached for comment. But earlier in the day, he'd expressed shock and bewilderment at receiving the news on Monday that the contract would be rebid.

"I got the call right after lunch and thought, 'You've got to be kidding me,' " Graham said. "I still don't have a good understanding why they're redoing it."

Equally perplexed was Paul Murray, president of the Tierra Verde Community Association, who sat on the committee that chose Lealman. Murray said he had received a message saying that there was some confusion and the contract needed to be rebid. But Murray said of the process, "I wasn't confused." He said he was confused by the county's reversal.

For years, the city of St. Petersburg has contracted with Tierra Verde to provide fire service to the island. That contract will end this fall, and island residents have asked the county to open the contract to bidders to see if they could get a lower price. Three agencies bid: Lealman, St. Pete Beach and St. Petersburg. Lealman had the lowest bid, and the county was prepared to negotiate the details of the deal with Lealman.

Shortly after that, St. Pete Beach wrote the county a letter objecting to the Lealman bid. Among the objections was the way Lealman had figured its costs — apparently shifting some fire costs to the EMS side of the equation. St. Pete Beach said had it done the same, it would have had a lower bid than Lealman.

The county initially dismissed St. Pete Beach's letter, saying it could be "perceived" as an illegal attempt to "lobby for award of a contract," according to a letter from Joe Lauro, the county's director of purchasing, to St. Pete Beach City Manager Mike Bonfield.

Bonfield replied that he was only raising legitimate issues and wanted to know the procedure. Lauro responded that there is a grievance process. But St. Pete Beach never used it. On Monday, LaSala said he planned to ask the County Commission to rebid the Tierra Verde contract because he agreed with some questions St. Pete Beach had raised.

Then Tuesday afternoon, things changed again.

"We have been scrubbing those numbers back and forth, back and forth," Assistant County Administrator James Dates said. "We're not reissuing the (bid). … We are comfortable" that Lealman was the right choice.

Staff writer David DeCamp contributed to this story. Anne Lindberg can be reached at or (727) 893-8450.

Lealman is final choice for Tierra Verde fire service 07/14/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 14, 2009 4:31pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. BREAKING: Tropical Storm Harvey forms in Atlantic


    UPDATE: At 5 p.m. the National Hurricane Center said a hurricane hunter plane had determined that Tropical Storm Harvey had formed with sustained winds of 40 mph.

    Three tropical waves are expected to strengthen as they move across the Atlantic Ocean. [Courtesy of the National Hurricane Center]
  2. Editorial: Pinellas should join lawsuit challenging new state law


    The Florida Legislature has been on a cynical, constitutionally dubious quest to render local school boards powerless. The most direct assault is a new state law that strips school boards of much of their authority when it comes to the creation and funding of charter schools. It's time for the Pinellas County School …

  3. Editorial: Fix funding unfairness in Florida foster care system


    Many of the children in Florida's foster care system already have been failed by their parents. The last thing these kids need is to be failed by bureaucracy, too, and yet that's exactly what appears to be happening because of a needlessly rigid funding formula set up by the Florida Legislature. Child welfare agencies …

    The Legislature may have had good intentions when it came up with the funding plan, but it’s obvious that there is some unfairness built into it. The funding may be complicated, but the goal is simple: Making sure every child in need gets the help he or she needs.
  4. After Charlottesville, Judy Genshaft asks USF to "stand together with open minds and open hearts"


    TAMPA — In a welcome letter celebrating the start of a new academic year, University of South Florida System President Judy Genshaft took a moment to reflect on last weekend's violence in Charlottesville and asked students to unite with "open minds and open hearts."

    USF president Judy Genshaft posed with graduate Matt Jackson in 2015.
  5. Police: Man arrested in Largo had thousands of child pornography files


    LARGO — A 43-year-old man was arrested Wednesday after detectives found thousands of child pornography images and videos on his laptop.

    Tyrone Jeffrey Russell, 43, was arrested Wednesday on child pornography charges, according to Largo police. [Pinellas County Jail]