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    Letters to the Editors

    Belleair Bluffs mayor is an embarrassment

    © St. Petersburg Times
    published December 28, 2001

    Re: Belleair reeling after Bluffs fires fire chief, story, Dec. 21.

    Well, well, well. The wolf in sheep's clothing reveals himself. Since he took the Belleair Bluffs mayor's post last spring, Chris Arbutine has done nothing but embarrass the city, ruin relations with neighboring Belleair and dismantle a city department. He also seems quite adept at creating issues where there are none.

    Unfortunately, the lack of citizen attention and laissez faire mentality of some small governments allows this type of behavior to flourish. Nowhere has it been more prevalent during the last decade or so than in Belleair Bluffs. The residents need to wake up and create a real revolution in this city before nothing is left.

    During his campaign, Arbutine touted support for the Belleair Bluffs Fire Department, which has put up with more than its share of animosity with various city officials in the past. Then he questioned the purchase of a new firetruck, which is a budgeted item replaced every 10 years, alternating between the cities of Belleair Bluffs and Belleair.

    On top of that, he ordered a Fire Department study by an outside consultant, unbeknownst to Belleair, our partner in fire services. To keep Belleair out of the loop was patently wrong. More appalling is that he quietly went back and asked for adjustments on the study because he didn't like the first results.

    If all the above actions weren't enough, the mayor, without good reason, fires and then bans Fire Chief Pidala from the fire station. I served as fire commissioner during my two years as a Belleair Bluffs commissioner (1999-2001), and I have never seen any indication that Chief Pidala is anything less than a highly qualified individual. Arbutine perceives some insidious plot by Belleair to "control our city through the Fire Department."

    Of course at this point if Belleair did want to control our city, I believe it would do a much better job than the current Bluffs administration! The kicker is that Largo will now provide "temporary administrative oversight."

    The future of the Fire Department might be better served by looking into joining a county district, thereby keeping city politics out of the equation. But that is an option that should be explored in a rational and timely manner, not jumped into headfirst out of necessity because someone screwed up the existing system.

    The governing of Belleair Bluffs requires professional, compassionate and rational behavior. It's sad that things have degenerated to this.
    -- Carol Cortright, Belleair Bluffs

    Fire Department study misrepresented

    Re: Belleair reeling after Bluffs fires fire chief, story, Dec. 21.

    Well, Belleair is not the only one reeling. All of the residents of our city are shocked and dismayed at the recent actions of our City Commission.

    What offends me most is the wholesale misrepresentation of the results of the recently conducted fire and emergency services evaluation. Belleair Bluffs Mayor Chris Arbutine with the help of Commissioners Susan McElveen and Karen Hone have warped a complete and thorough study into some sort of phantom validation for Arbutine's scheme to single source the Fire Department's administrative duties to the city of Largo.

    In fact, this action is the complete opposite of the study's primary recommendation. The vast majority of the study's recommendations are to consolidate the department, not split it up among different cities. No other fire departments were asked or inquired of, only Largo.

    In my 10 or so years as a project engineer at a large architectural and engineering firm, I have never seen a study so misused and abused. In fact, I overheard the firm that performed the study (Emergency Services Education & Consulting Group) apologize to the chief and some residents for the way the study results were being misrepresented.

    I have the utmost respect for the city of Largo, but I don't understand why one municipality has to be insulted and alienated at the expense of another, a municipality that has paid subsidies of hundreds of thousands of dollars of operating expenses through the years. The end result is the residents of Belleair Bluffs end up being sued and paying more taxes.
    -- Paul Kuykendall, Belleair Bluffs

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