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Contingency funds to pay Spring Hill fire truck bill

The commission authorizes the fire district to pay for the vehicle after learning impact fees couldn't be used to buy the truck.

By JENNIFER FARRELL

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 14, 2001


BROOKSVILLE -- County commissioners authorized the Spring Hill Fire Rescue District Commission to spend $50,500 in contingency funds on a brush truck they mistakenly thought could be paid for with impact fees.

In asking for permission to use contingency money, fire district Chairman Bob Kanner told the board the truck purchase was an unusual occurrence that he and his fellow commissioners would take steps to avoid repeating.

"I'm not going to stand here and beat around the bush," he said. "We did make a mistake."

County Commission Chairman Chris Kingsley suggested the fire district bring its purchasing procedures in line with the county's to prevent similar mix-ups in the future.

When the matter came to light early this month, Kingsley criticized the fire commission's handling of the purchase, which was done on an emergency basis without the county's prior approval.

* * *

"I was under the impression that we were mirroring your procedures in purchasing," Kanner told the board, adding he would like to meet with county officials on the issue.

"I think everybody would view it as a fiscally conservative approach," Kingsley said.

At an emergency meeting last week, fire commissioners voted unanimously to formally reprimand Chief Mike Morgan for being careless in his duties by telling them impact fees could be used for the truck.

Morgan, who returned to work last week after suffering a heart attack last month, came under fire after Hernando County's Legal Department rejected the district's impact fee request, saying the need for the truck was caused by drought, not growth.

The law requires impact fees to be spent only on items related to growth.

By that time, though, the truck had been delivered, forcing fire commissioners to ask the county to allow contingency funds to cover the bill.

Morgan has argued that impact fees could be used for the truck because development around vacant land places homes in danger during brush fires.

At Tuesday's meeting, Assistant County Attorney Bill Buztrey, who rejected the impact fee request for the brush truck, asked the district to submit a list of its capital purchases over the past few years. He said he would review it to see if some of those items might qualify for impact fees.

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