(ran Beach edition)
Redington Beach voters on Tuesday overwhelmingly defeated a referendum to build a new fire station and picked two new commissioners _ Laura Canniff and Brian Mathers.
In a lopsided result, voters said they did not want to join with their fire service partners North Redington Beach and Redington Shores in building a new station in Redington Shores.
"This has really narrowed our options," said North Redington Beach Mayor Harold Radcliffe. "I am disappointed, but I expected it."
Radcliffe said he believes the two towns will be able to build the fire station on their own: "I think it can be worked out."
This issue of what to do about fire service for the three towns now is thrown back to the Redington Beaches Fire Board. "It will definitely be an agenda item," said Lee Holmes. "We need to see where we go from here."
The next Fire Board meeting is 7 p.m. Nov. 17 in the North Redington Beach Town Hall.
Of the town's 1,365 registered voters, 552 voted Tuesday. "This is one of the best turnouts we've had except for a presidential election," said precinct deputy Gene Valentine.
During the past month, the political battles between candidates became highly personal as Gonsalves' opponents distributed literature citing partial information from past arrests on charges of theft by check (eventually dismissed), injury to a child (also dismissed) and spousal abuse (adjudicated guilty, resulting in a fine and 14 days in jail).
Canniff opposed the new fire station. Mathers did not take a stand, saying he would abide by whatever the voters decided. He was endorsed by a group that supported the new station, however.
Canniff and Mathers will be sworn in as commissioners in December, as will Joanne DeSimone and Robert McQuaid who, because they were not opposed, were automatically elected to the commission for two-year terms. The four newly elected commissioners will join Mayor Mark Deighton, who was elected to the commission last year and became mayor when Julian Cave resigned this past summer.
Only time will tell whether this election will put an end to this past summer's political turmoil that collapsed the town's government and forced Gov. Lawton Chiles to appoint a commissioner needed to create a quorum.
That turmoil centered on protests _ often led by Gonsalves _ that a majority of the former commission was appointed and did not truly represent the views of residents. Of particular concern was a decision to commit the town to joining North Redington Beach and Redington Shores in building a $1.2-million fire station.
There were also repeated complaints the commission stifled citizen participation during meetings, and that Cave had not been a legal resident when he was elected mayor.
Cave resigned his post, largely as a result of those charges. Just a few weeks ago, an investigation by the state attorney's office found the charges were unsubstantiated.
Following Cave's resignation, two other commissioners resigned _ Donald Combs and McQuaid. In an effort to create a quorum, McQuaid was reseated. That effort failed, however, when DeSimone, who had been appointed to the commission, resigned to protest the handling of commission meetings by the new mayor.
At that point, Chiles intervened, appointing former commissioner Nick Simons to fill one of the vacant seats. Trina Schlick and Nick Cordes were then appointed by the new commission to fill the remaining seats.
FIRE STATION REFERNDUM
Laura Canniff 414
Brian Mathers 295
Glenn Gonsalves 210