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Memorial for Mudd cost city $100,000

(ran West, Seminole editions)

When neighbors received the latest edition of the city newsletter _ the one advertising Saturday's Country in the Park festival _ they got one more reminder of the city's loss.

On the back of the newsletter is a picture of City Manager Jerry Mudd against the hazy backdrop of an American flag, historical buildings and the city's concert band. The caption to the right of the photo reads: "Jerry Mudd, 1946-2003. He made our city and our world a better place."

What the display omits is the cost to taxpayers of the city government's memorialization of Mr. Mudd, who apparently stabbed himself to death last month. City police still have an open investigation into his stabbing although the medical examiner ruled the death a suicide.

The latest numbers for the city manager's memorial put taxpayers' bill at around $100,000.

The biggest cost of $81,600 _ the average gross pay for a day. City Council members unanimously decided to shut down for the day _ rather than for several hours during the funeral _ to give employees a chance to go to Mr. Mudd's memorial.

That figure does not include: overtime for police or firefighters or others who worked; Social Security and other taxes the city paid; and credits for any employees who were on leave.

Mayor Bill Mischler defended the decision, saying it was Washington's Birthday, a holiday for many governments but not Pinellas Park.

"It could just as well have been a holiday," Mischler said. "Are we like a retail business, how much money did we lose?"

Tax money still came in, he said.

He conceded that shuttering city offices thwarted residents with city business. But "if it was one of our regular holidays, we would have closed anyway," the mayor said.

At first, Mischler said he wanted to close for four hours, but Interim City Manager Mike Gustafson said it would be awkward to close at 11 a.m. and reopen after the funeral.

"It would have been very unproductive. It's hard to do that in the middle of the day." Mischler said.

Gustafson, he said, recommended the daylong closure.

"I can't change what has been done," Mischler said.

Also unclear is the price for banners that hung outside City Hall. The banners, made in the city's sign shop, noted the loss of Mr. Mudd and the years of his birth and death.

Among the other costs:

Police officers who stood sentinel over Mr. Mudd's casket were paid $1,388.40 in overtime.

Officials also paid a $3,075 bill for catering the after-funeral lunch held in the Sacred Heart Catholic Church Parish Center. About 600 attended the funeral and all were invited to the luncheon. The bill, submitted by O'Houlihan's Deli, included sandwiches _ ham, roast beef and turkey _ potato salad, cole slaw, brownies, cookies, pickles and onions.

That bill would have been higher, but Sam's Club contributed $50 to reduce it from $3,125.

Council member Ed Taylor said the idea was to ask businesses to contribute to reduce the cost, but that hasn't happened.

Tim Caddell, the city spokesman, said he did not think any businesses other than Sam's Club had contributed, although several had offered. Caddell said he prepared a letter to send to those people, but it had not been sent as of Monday.

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