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    Cities plan face-to-face meeting to reach price

    Largo says equipment it's buying from Pinellas Park needs expensive repairs, so the council and the commission agree to meet.

    By ERIC STIRGUS

    © St. Petersburg Times, published April 19, 2001


    LARGO -- City Commissioners are taking the unusual step of seeking a meeting with their counterparts in Pinellas Park to resolve a dispute about the price of three lift stations Largo wants to buy from Pinellas Park.

    Largo commissioners approved the purchase of the lift stations in January for $225,000. But an engineering firm hired by Largo said the stations, which pump wastewater, need $168,000 worth of repairs.

    Bill LeVan, Pinellas Park's sewer director, disputed the repair costs.

    "He did not disagree with the findings of the report," said Steve Ross, Largo's assistant to the city manager, who had handled much of the discussions with Pinellas Park. "He had concerns with the cost."

    Largo plans to offer an alternative: The city will buy the lift stations for $57,000 and pay for the repairs.

    Pinellas Park City Manager Jerry Mudd said he will discuss the offer with council members there.

    Concerned that Pinellas Park officials may not accept Largo's offer, Largo commissioners agreed to meet with the Pinellas Park City Council on May 31 at the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority headquarters.

    Such meetings between bodies of elected officials are rare. The last time Largo commissioners were involved in this type of get-together was March 2000, when they met with Clearwater commissioners to settle a dispute over 14 acres both cities believed they were entitled to annex.

    "We went together and stayed together as a group. I was proud of that," said Largo Mayor Bob Jackson. "The interesting thing is, I don't know if we won."

    Another dispute between the two municipalities is the last thing officials from either city want.

    Last April, Largo and Pinellas Park signed an agreement that defined annexation boundaries for each city, ending the so-called "border wars" between the two cities and Pinellas County officials.

    Last August, Largo ended an agreement with Pinellas Park to treat the wastewater collected by Pinellas Park from an industrial area near Feather Sound. Largo wanted Pinellas Park to pay more money to treat the wastewater, Ross said.

    Officials from the two cities began negotiations toward a mutually beneficial arrangement. The officials agreed on Pinellas Park selling Largo the sewage collection system in that industrial area. But then TBE, the engineering firm hired by Largo, determined that two of the lift stations to be sold to Largo needed some repairs. The other had to be replaced, the firm said.

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