Some things give me a chuckle and today’s photo is one of them.
For some reason, the sight of construction workers blocking the parking spaces of county commissioners conjured up a very old memory.
I ran a photo Thursday on Facebook of the Adams Building construction. The two-story office building, named for its owner, former Commissioner Scott Adams, will sit prominently on the southeast corner of Main and Courthouse Square, diagonal from the Walgreens, in beautiful downtown Inverness.
It’s a pretty cool sight. Definitely better than an empty corner lot.
But this really isn’t about the Adams Building. It’s the parking lot behind the building.
I pulled into that parking lot the other day for a photo and was amused to see construction vehicles spread out among the five individual parking spaces for county commissioners.
What’s that? County commissioners have their own parking spaces? Do they have valet service too?
Simmer down, it’s Friday. Let me pull up my rocker.
Only the oldest of Inverness old-timers (like me) know this as the jail parking lot because, well, it’s where the county jail sat for decades.
Time came in the early ‘90s for a new and bigger jail. The question was, where?
Some wanted Lecanto. Others said downtown Inverness. It was highly emotional and politicized, of course, and a grand jury was convened to make sure the whole thing was done right. (It was. No arrests.)
I don’t talk about this much, but I received a copy of the grand jury report before it was released publicly. Someone who had been interviewed by the jury, and received an advance copy, passed it to me.
That was a big deal early in my Chronicle career, receiving the findings of a grand jury; it’s illegal for anyone but the judge to release it. I can count on one hand the number of times I wrote stories for the Chronicle using unnamed sources. This was probably the first, and we couched it in a way so as to not get anyone in trouble.
At the time we had four daily newspapers competing in Citrus County, including two Tampa metros with local bureaus. My competitors were not pleased. In the big view, no big deal because the report became public within days anyway. But a scoop’s a scoop and that was a good one.
A few months later, I ran into the local judge at a party and we were discussing the grand jury. He said he knew I had the report, didn’t know how I received it, but decided it wasn’t worth the time to haul me into court since there was no harm.
He also said he wouldn’t have jailed me for refusing to give up a source.
“That’s what you’d want, Mike, to make your point,” he said. “The heck with jail. I would have made you wash fire trucks!”
That’s a smilin’ memory.
Back to the parking lot.
The jail went to Lecanto and the county built a parking lot in its spot, across from the sheriff’s office and Old Courthouse.
I don’t know whose idea it was to assign commissioners parking spots in that lot. It’s not a great location in relation to the courthouse. There are much closer spots.
That might have been the idea. Give commissioners their own assigned space, but make it so far away that no one could possibly get upset about it.
I’d understand that view. The courthouse parking lots, for example, have several spaces reserved for various elected and appointed folks. Others are reserved by number. One day I’ll learn how those are assigned but for now I just curse them while looking for a spot on a rainy day.
Commissioners, by and large, used their assigned spots over the years. On board meeting days of course, but also not unusual to see a commissioner’s parking spot occupied on a Thursday afternoon.
Interestingly, I asked a commissioner if she uses the assigned spot and she said sometimes, but that it’s not always wise to let the world know where an elected official parks. I hadn’t thought of that but it’s an excellent point.
Speaking of points, I don’t have one. I just enjoy Friday jabbering about parking lots.
Next week: slurry seal vs. seal coat — an American debate.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.