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Billboard signs off on race

In recent days, a billboard on State Road 44 that had touted Margaret Alexander's candidacy for property appraiser has been converted into one advertising Roger Weaver for the same office.

Alexander lost the GOP primary. Weaver won the Democratic primary.

Weaver said the billboard owner, Harry Moody, has donated the billboard space because he is upset with incumbent Ron Schultz, a Republican. Weaver said the owner's assessment for his billboards has been set at $40 per square foot when $7 or $8 would be a more reasonable figure.

Weaver said Schultz "is picking numbers out of the air. They do not represent the market value of those billboards."

"If he can build them for between $5 and $6 per square foot, they are $7 or maybe $8 at retail," Weaver said.

Schultz said the assessed value for the billboards is $12.50 per square foot, not $40. (Schultz proposed a higher figure one year, but the Value Adjustment Board cut it by 30 percent.)

Schultz also noted that Harry Moody Outdoor Advertising Inc. filed a lawsuit last year challenging the assessment.

Schultz said Moody is the only billboard owner who has complained about the assessment. "Being unable to gain relief that he wishes from the Value Adjustment Board or through the courts . . . he apparently is seeing if he can acquire an advantageous value through campaign contributions," Schultz said.

This year, the assessed value of all of Moody's billboards is $301,000, Schultz said.

The value of a billboard is determined not just by the cost of its wood and nails, he said. A value is also placed on "the leasehold interest in the real estate _ the ability to put the billboard there," Schultz said.

Defending Schultz in the billboard lawsuit is lawyer Paul Hawkes, who also happens to be a Republican state representative seeking re-election. In the Legislature, Hawkes proposed a bill last year calling for the eventual elimination of billboards.

State Rep. Paul Hawkes, R-Crystal River, was honored last week by the National Federation of Independent Businesses. The organization, which represents 415 small businesses in Citrus County, presented Hawkes with the Guardian of Small Business Award during a reception at Andre's of Citrus Hills. The award recognizes Hawkes pro-business voting record.