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    Oldsmar tightens tap on water

    The city seems to be conserving water, council members hear. The mayor also weighs in on a dispute.

    By RICHARD DANIELSON

    © St. Petersburg Times,
    published June 7, 2001


    OLDSMAR -- Two months after Mayor Jerry Beverland questioned whether there even was a water crisis in Florida, the Oldsmar City Council Tuesday night took a stand for water conservation.

    As a light rain fell outside council chambers, officials heard that Oldsmar's water use last month was more than 15 percent less than consumption for May 2000.

    "We're finding that residents actually are complying with the water restrictions," Public Works director John Mulvihill said.

    Council members also voted to encourage further conservation and took a step toward waiving landscaping requirements temporarily for new developments that do not have access to reclaimed water.

    Considering the need to develop new sources of water, Beverland said he was encouraged to see regional water supply officials consider drawing water from springs and rivers throughout west-central Florida.

    "In the meantime, everyone should conserve water," he said. "I think it's very important that we conserve water."

    Beverland saved most of his comments, however, to say that he wanted to get past his recent dispute with former Mayor Jerry Provenzano.

    "I have no running conflict with Mr. Jerry Provenzano and never have," Beverland said. "Politically, he does not exist for me. He keeps bringing things up."

    Beverland said that in the future he would try to "tone my opinions down, but I'm going to voice my opinions."

    The disagreement flared up after Beverland said at a City Council meeting April 3 that "we are not in a crisis. What has happened is, the water board has created a crisis for us."

    Beverland said at the same meeting that Florida did not have a water shortage because it has "more surface water than any state in the union. . . . My solution is to tap into some of these natural springs."

    In response, Provenzano, who is on the Pinellas-Anclote River Basin board of the Southwest Florida Water Management District, played a four-minute videotape of Beverland's statements to fellow basin board members as they considered a city grant request. He said he took offense at what he saw as a challenge to "our integrity and veracity."

    On Tuesday night, Beverland denied criticizing the basin board and said the city would continue to work with regional water boards.

    He also acknowledged that "we do have jealousy here. We have sniping here. We have vendettas here."

    In particular, he recounted that Provenzano came to his house about three months before city elections in March and tried to discourage Beverland from running, saying that former council member Ed Manny was the better candidate.

    "Mr. Manny is going to win, because I'm going to be his campaign manager," Beverland quoted Provenzano as saying.

    "This council doesn't need this foolishness," Beverland said. "Somebody just might end up in court, because I'm tired of it. . . . I'll say it just one more time: Because of the blessings of the citizens of this town, I won by a landslide." Anyone who didn't like that, he added, should "get a life."

    After the council meeting, Beverland said he didn't mean to imply that anyone, including Provenzano, wouldn't be welcome to speak to the council if that person had a genuine difference of opinion with council members, including him.

    Asked what he meant about somebody ending up in court, Beverland said, "I'm not sure what that means. That was for emphasis. I don't believe in lawsuits."

    On Wednesday, Provenzano said his memory of the pre-election meeting at Beverland's home differed greatly.

    Overall, though, "I don't disagree with a whole lot of what Mr. Beverland said," Provenzano said. "My only concern is that the board that I sit on be given the respect it deserves. . . . I didn't appreciate the attack on their integrity, and I perceived it as an attack on their integrity, saying that the water shortage had been contrived."

    Otherwise, Provenzano said he has "absolutely no qualms about letting this whole thing go to bed."

    "Enough of this," he said. "There is no blood feud here. There is no vendetta. If there is anything, it is two people disagreeing on how to get the same thing done."

    - Staff writer Richard Danielson can be reached at (727) 445-4194.

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