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West Oldsmar gets a fourth chance to join city

In Tuesday's referendum, 387 voters can decide if it's finally time for annexation.

By RICHARD DANIELSON
Published March 6, 2005


OLDSMAR - City officials and residents of West Oldsmar will find out Tuesday if the fourth time is the charm.

Three times, in 1965, 1973 and 1988, the idea of annexing West Oldsmar to the city has come up, only to encounter withering opposition from residents.

Now the city is back, with analyses showing that homeowners should get a break on their property taxes and predictions that the city can deliver services better than Pinellas County does.

Several City Council members said last week that they would like to see West Oldsmar residents approve the referendum, but no one was making predictions.

"I hope it passes," said Mayor Jerry Beverland. But he conceded, "I have no idea."

In West Oldsmar, many of the yard signs, often handwritten or printed on personal computers, urged a "no" vote.

"Personally, I will wait until I get into the voting booth, but everyone I've talked to is voting against annexation again," said resident Bonnie Creais, 54, who manages the office of a manufacturing plant in Oldsmar. "It has no champions on our street that I know of."

Creais said she figures annexation might save her $100 a year in property taxes. Although city officials have estimated that their solid waste collection fees are lower than the county's and that surcharges on water and sewer bills would go away with annexation, she worries that she might somehow end up paying additional utility fees. In any case, she said, "it's worth the $100 to me not to be in the city of Oldsmar."

She likes her neighborhood the way it is and doesn't feel, for example, that Oldsmar's code enforcement would be an improvement over Pinellas County's.

Oldsmar City Council member Jim Ronecker said West Oldsmar residents who are comfortable with code enforcement should note that county officials are talking about tightening rules on parking RVs, boats and trailers in unincorporated areas.

In the runup to the referendum, city officials have held two public meetings to answer residents' questions. They've also made the annexation feasibility study done by the Pinellas Planning Council available at www.ci.oldsmar.fl.us/Annexation/w_o_annex.htm

The study concluded that annexation would produce about $233,000 in new revenue for the city. New expenditures would be approximately $130,000, leaving an annual net revenue of about $103,000 if West Oldsmar is annexed. The study estimated that West Oldsmar homeowners would save $100 or more a year if the city annexed the 142-acre area.

"The study speaks for itself," Ronecker said. "I think that it shows clearly it's a good idea."

The city, he said, can deliver better services, including road, sidewalk and streetlight improvements, at a lower cost to residents. In the long run, he said he thinks property values in West Oldsmar would appreciate faster under the city's stewardship than the county's.

He said the question now is, who will come out to vote?

For the referendum, only the 387 registered voters who reside in West Oldsmar can vote. Polling will take place from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at Oldsmar Community United Methodist Church, 207 Buckingham Ave. E.

[Last modified March 6, 2005, 00:14:20]


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