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Port Richey ceases attempt to buy utility
By MATTHEW WAITE and BETH GLENN
© St. Petersburg Times, published March 29, 2000
PORT RICHEY -- Port Richey's attempt to buy Lindrick Service Corp. died Tuesday night after three members said they were through trying.
Outgoing council member Ron Barnett made a motion to end Port Richey's attempts to buy the utility after a half-dozen residents spoke against it, and Mayor Eileen Ferdinand said she "thought it should have been dead last (Monday) night."
After City Attorney Paul Marino tried to persuade the council to stick with the deal, Barnett, at his last meeting as a council member, ended the debate.
Barnett, Ferdinand and Vice Mayor Patricia Guttman voted to abandon studying the sale just before 9 p.m., giving the motion a majority of the five council members.
Before the vote, City Manager Vince Lupo told the council that he wanted to continue researching the purchase, but the city is now $7,000 over its budget for research and expected to spend as much as $15,000 more before any decision would be made.
Lupo told the council that as much as $23,000 has been spent to study buying Lindrick since the council budgeted $15,000 last year. Lupo said bills were still coming in, and he expected to spend $10,000 to $15,000 more.
The only reason council members continued to consider the $19.5-million purchase was that Lindrick owner Joe Borda agreed to extend a Tuesday deadline for agreeing to a contract. Council members said Monday night that they wouldn't be able to meet that deadline.
Borda said after the vote, "It's disappointing, but that's all I can say."
Borda said he didn't know what his next move would be.
Borda on Tuesday morning told Lupo that he would allow the city to continue negotiating. His attorney said Tuesday afternoon that he and Borda were discussing their options.
Gulf Harbors residents, a half-dozen of whom spoke at the meeting against the sale, were ecstatic after the vote.
Pat Gorecki, chairwoman of the Waterfront Impact Council, said she thought their next move would be to get another valuation of the utility
"I think we'll be able to determine what Lindrick is actually worth and find a credible buyer," she said.
Barnett and Ann Lennon are leaving the council. City elections are April 11, and only Guttman is running for re-election. Two candidates for council seats, Phyllis Grae and Joe Menicola, have sat in on meetings about Lindrick and said Monday evening that they wouldn't support going forward without more facts about the sale.
Their sentiments echo the council's decisions Monday night. Four of the five said they wanted to go forward, with only Ferdinand saying she was opposed.
Both Guttman and Barnett said they were willing to give the Lindrick purchase another shot Monday evening.
Members of the public who were at Tuesday night's meeting mostly spoke against the purchase and questioned Borda's integrity.
"He's not been honest or up front with you," Port Richey resident John King told the council. "I wouldn't traffic with this man on any deal. The council should take the vote and cut him loose."
Rachel Warnett of Port Richey said the money would be better spent on other city projects.
"It absolutely doesn't make any sense whatsoever," she said to applause.
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