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3 campaign for 2 seats on Kenneth City council

The incumbents run on their record of an efficient town, while the challenger wants more services for residents.

By ANNE LINDBERG

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 7, 2001


KENNETH CITY -- A newcomer is squaring off against two incumbents for the two Town Council seats available in Tuesday's election.

Teresa Zemaitis, a familiar face at council meetings, is making her first run for public office against Al Carrier, who wants a second term, and Russ Dumont, who wants to serve his first full term.

Zemaitis' many goals include free access to the county library system, improving parks, and finding a way to help residents afford to participate in other cities' recreational programs.

Her decision to run for the council came after its members voted last month to renew the town's garbage contract with Waste Management Inc. More than 400 residents signed a petition asking that the contract be put out for bids, but the council ignored those pleas.

That decision frustrated her, she said, because the council members maintain they want to do what the people want, but refused to listen to the residents when asked.

"I have been very disappointed the past year when they would not listen to the residents," Zemaitis said. "I think the Waste Management issue is what pushed me over."

First on her agenda, if she's elected, is a plan that would make it easier and less expensive for town residents to use the county library system. Because Kenneth City is not a member of the consortium, residents are charged $100 for a library card. The town reimburses $75 of that, but the resident is still required to have the $100 when applying for the card.

Zemaitis said she has talked with officials from the library system and has been told that it's possible to change the system so a Kenneth City resident gets the card and the town is billed for it. That way, the town would pay the full amount and the resident would not have to wait to be reimbursed.

"At this point, all that would be needed is council approval and it would only cost them an additional $25 per person," Zemaitis said.

The town's parks also need attention, she said. The park next to Town Hall needs to be planted with low-maintenance greenery to give people a place to sit in the shade and relax. As for the park next to Community Hall, that needs to be refurbished, she said.

Strengthening enforcement of the town's truck ordinance is also important to her. Zemaitis said she has heard complaints that trucks are traveling up 46th Avenue, despite the "no trucks" sign. She vowed to meet with police Chief Jim Ernst to discuss improving enforcement along that street.

Zemaitis said she is also concerned about the high costs of recreation. Because Kenneth City offers no after-school programs or activities for handicapped children or other organized recreation, residents must go to other cities, such as St. Petersburg or Pinellas Park, so their children can participate. But there are often fees for non-residents.

"It would be nice if we could help defer the costs somehow, or make some kind of arrangements to help them out," Zemaitis said.

Zemaitis also wants to work on annexing property into Kenneth City. Annexations would help increase the tax base, she said. And it should be easy to encourage some people on the town's borders to come in because many are worried about being swallowed by Pinellas Park.

But primarily, she said, her goal is to work peacefully with the rest of the council to work out any problems that arise.

Dumont has served on the council since last spring when he was appointed, over Zemaitis and other candidates, to complete the term of Chuck Webber. Webber left the council after he took a job helping Pinellas Park annex property.

Dumont wants to serve his first full term on the council to maintain the status quo.

"Things are going good and I want to keep it going that way. Nice and smooth," Dumont said."There really isn't a lot of controversy now."

Dumont said the town's tax base is increasing as the Willow Lakes condominiums near completion. Helping that happen has been one of his goals since becoming a council member.

Another goal is annexation, though it must be done in an orderly manner. Dumont said the town probably could use a part-time professional with annexation experience to help.

Carrier wants to serve a second term on the council to complete what he has started in this term.

"I just feel as though I can do this town a great deal of good, and I've done it a great deal of good since I've been here," Carrier said.

Right now, he is concentrating on Kenneth City's drainage system. The cleaning and photographing of all the town's drainage pipes should be complete next week. The next step, he said, is to make a list of all the problems and prioritize them. After that is done, the repairs can be made as money permits.

"You only have so much money, you can't spend more than you have," Carrier said. "Although some of them are in bad condition, you can wait a year or two."

Carrier took credit for some accomplishments while on the council. One of those was improving the park next to Town Hall. Another is improving the image of the Kenneth City Department of Public Works.

At one time, he said, residents criticized the department, wondering what its employees did all day. Now, he said, residents have a better idea of what work is being done.

"I'm on top of what they're doing. I make sure people understand what they're doing," Carrier said. "These people are doing their job. They're doing it very diligently."

The job

The Kenneth City Town Council is a nonpartisan body of four members and the mayor who oversee the town government. Each member has charge of a government department. They meet as a group at least twice a month, once in a regular meeting and once in a workshop. Council members earn $300 a month. Kenneth City has a population of about 4,400.

The candidates

TERESA ZEMAITIS, 32

Zemaitis is a native of Queens, N.Y., who moved to Kenneth City a little more than four years ago. Since coming to Kenneth City, she has covered town government for the Sentinel, a community newspaper that no longer publishes; served on the Activities Committee, which helped establish the Kenneth City Library; and served on the Capital Improvements Committee. She is a teaching partner at Westgate Elementary, teaching reading. She is married and has a daughter.

ASSETS: Home, car.

LIABILITIES: Mortgage.

SOURCE OF INCOME: Westgate Elementary.

* * *

RUSSELL S. DUMONT, 65

BACKGROUND: He is a retired production supervisor for Honeywell in Clearwater. He was appointed to the council last year to serve Chuck Webber's unfinished term. Dumont has served as head of the Make Kenneth City Safer Committee, which campaigned last spring to abolish the Police Department in favor of the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office. He is married and has three daughters, one son and two grandchildren.

ASSETS: Home, car and stock investments.

LIABILITIES: None.

SOURCE OF INCOME: Social Security, pension, investments, council salary.

* * *

ALBERT L. CARRIER, 65

Carrier has served on the Kenneth City Town Council since 1999. He is a former member of the Kenneth City Homeowners Association and served as vice president and chairman of that group's Student Scholarship Committee. He also has been a volunteer at Kenneth City's bingo nights and has coached and umpired Cross Bayou Little League baseball. He is retired. He is divorced and has one son and two grandchildren.

ASSETS: Home, minivan.

LIABILITIES: None.

SOURCES OF INCOME: Retirement, council salary.

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