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Crystal River council charts 6th election for '96

City voters who already can cast ballots in five elections this year might get one more trip to the polls.

On Monday, the City Council tentatively approved a special election for Oct. 15 that will have one issue on the ballot: a package of changes to the city charter. The council will hold a public hearing at 7:30 p.m. Monday on the idea.

If the special election is held, voters will consider several charter changes. The most controversial would change how the mayor is chosen.

Voters now elect the mayor, whose role is largely ceremonial. The mayor runs the council meetings and has veto power over ordinances but votes only in case of a tie.

Under the proposal, the five council members would choose the mayor from among themselves. The mayor would continue to be chairman of the meetings and serve as the city's ceremonial head, but the position would carry no veto power.

The change has been proposed as a way to save about $7,000 annually by cutting out one position.

Critics have charged that the current council, which includes two people who ran for mayor unsuccessfully, are simply targeting Mayor Curtis Rich. Since the council election in December, Rich has been on the opposite side of the majority on several issues.

Council members have denied there is any vendetta against Rich.

"I see this as an enhancement of the mayor's position," council member Joan Ogle said.

Former council member Alexander Ilnyckyj again argued with the council Monday that removing the mayor's veto power was removing some of the checks and balances in the city's current government plan. "You have to have some balance," he said.

Ilnyckyj also urged the council to allow the residents, rather than the council members, to choose their mayor.

That was also the form of charter change pushed by real estate agent Ed Tolle, who was a member of the charter review committee. "Crystal River has quite a long history of electing the mayor," he said. "If you hold out for the council electing the mayor, you'll sink the whole thing."

Council members Ogle, Kitty Ebert and Ron Kitchen supported having the council choose the mayor, and members George Otto and Daryl Oster opposed the idea.

If the special election is approved, it will be the sixth election this year for voters, who went to the polls in March for the presidential preference vote, and who face a primary, a runoff and a general election this fall along with the December city elections.

In other action, the council:

Approved a change in the development plan for the Crystal River Mall that allows part of the mall to be converted into a movie theater.

In addition to allowing the nine-screen theater with its almost 1,700 seats, the change extends the time frames in the mall's build-out plan. The second and third phases of the mall, which include residential components, are now set to be built by the end of 1988 and 2000, respectively.

Set the tentative tax rate at 6.5 mills, a reduction from the current rate of 7.25 mills. A majority of the council has pushed for a tax rate even lower than that, with 6 mills as the target, but set the higher rate initially because some city costs for the coming year are not yet known.

A tax rate of 6.5 mills means $6.50 in tax for every $1,000 of appraised taxable property value.

The city budget cuts jobs out of the police and other city departments and reduces the amount of money drawn into the general fund from other independent funds such as the city utilities' accounts.

The final budget approval will be in September after two public hearings.

Approved three ordinances dealing with adult entertainment establishments.

The ordinances clean up past rules declared by the courts to be invalid, outlaw suggestive signs and significantly expand the areas of the city where such establishments can be opened. All of U.S. 19 and County Road 44 would be available for any such businesses as long as they were at least 500 feet from schools, churches and government buildings.

The previous city rules set only one small site for such uses, and City Attorney Clark Stillwell said the law would never stand up in court.

One more ordinance related to the topic will also be discussed by the council in August. That would increase the length of restricted use from schools, churches and government buildings to 1,000 feet.