Hillsborough discusses consolidating services02/06/08 Mitch E. Perry
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Hillsborough County Commissioners today discussed how to bridge longstanding differences with the city of Tampa. It was part of dealing with reduced property tax collections coming to local governments in the wake of Amendment 1â€™s passage.
Commissioner Al Higgenbotham said he wanted to have county staff develop plans to merge the countyâ€™s Parks and Recreation department with the cityâ€™s.
Higgenbotham and Commissioner Rose Ferlita both told the Tampa Tribune last week that they wanted to begin merging services with Tampa. But in that same article, Mayor Pam Iorio said she wasnâ€™t really interested.
The county is hoping to work with the three cities in the county: Tampa, Temple Terrace and Plant City.
Commisioner Mark Sharpe said it was important for the county to be humble in working with those muncipalities. He said the sentiment from the community is loud, and somewhat contradictory.
In rejecting the call to consoldate the parks department, Iorio referenced the controversial 2005 vote by the County Commision banning gay pride events.
In a letter, Iorio said that the the countyâ€™s lack of tolerance toward a segment of our community cannot be allowed to affect the services provided by Parks and Recreation.
Commissioner Kevin White lauded Higgenbothamâ€™s idea, but said it was just a dream at this point, considering the tension in the relationship between the county and the city of Tampa.
Ferlita said she regretted mentioning the idea to the Tribune. And she said she didnâ€™t want the county to sound arrogant.
Sharpe said whatever has happened in the past needs to be set aside because too much is at stake regarding the potential for reduced spending due to the property tax cuts.
But the question is: Can the county and city work together? Recent history has indicated that has been difficult to achieve, in particular for whatever reason, since Mayor Iorio came into office five years ago.
The board ultimately voted on a resolution to have the County Chairman and Administrator to meet with the mayors of the three respective cities and begin to re-establish relationships with them before going into discussions about potentially combining services.