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Fire district official scoffs at firefighters' 'dreams'

A Spring Hill fire rescue wish list is called extravagant by Commission Chairman Bob Kanner at a budget workshop.

By JENNIFER FARRELL

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 27, 2001


SPRING HILL -- As Spring Hill Fire Rescue District commissioners prepare to build a spending plan for next year, Assistant Chief J.J. Morrison thought it would help to give his bosses a wish list.

But if Morrison was hoping for Santa Claus, Commission Chairman Bob Kanner reacted more like Scrooge at a budget workshop Wednesday night.

During Morrison's presentation of a five-page collection of construction, staffing and equipment concerns gathered from employees, Kanner shook his head and interrupted repeatedly with questions about need and cost.

Later, Kanner dismissed many of the items on the list as "dreams."

"That's a dream that as long as I'm on this board won't come true," he said. "I'll be darned if I'm going to support most of this."

Before Morrison began, he emphasized the items were brought to the board in no particular order and did not come with cost estimates or endorsements from the administration.

"There is no way the department could afford the entire list," Morrison told commissioners, adding later: "These are not recommendations. I wasn't here trying to sell you these."

But Kanner focused on several items he considered blatantly extravagant, such as a request to supply light jackets to 63 firefighters.

"We just spent $14,000 on uniforms," he said. "Now they want light jackets?"

Also among the proposed expenditures were: building expansions at headquarters on Bob Hartung Court and at one of the district's four stations; several vehicles tagged for replacement, including Chief Mike Morgan's car; computer, phone and office equipment upgrades; tools for maintaining district vehicles, including a wheel balance machine, brake lathe and tire removal machine; pagers for firefighters; and additional staff, including three new firefighters, a training officer and part-time billing assistant.

Morrison said he would come back to the board in two weeks at a 6:30 p.m. workshop scheduled before the commission's regular meeting May 9 with a skeleton budget including cost projections.

"Then we can start the slow process of reviewing each of the lines," he said.

In a meeting after the budget workshop, commissioners agreed to move forward with revamping the district's purchasing procedures to bring them in line with those used by the county.

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