Commissioner Ruthie Davis Schlabach did something last month that I’d never seen any commissioner do:
She whispered her vote.
It was the motion by Commissioner Jeff Kinnard to use three sources of funds to buy a portion of the Pirates Cove property in Ozello. Kinnard said he had private buyers lined up to buy the rest and deed it to the county.
Kinnard and Commissioner Holly Davis liked the idea. Commissioners Scott Carnahan and Ron Kitchen Jr. were against. The meeting room was filled with white-shirted Ozello persons who leaned in when it came time for Schlabach to vote.
Schlabach was torn. She thought the property should be in public hands, but also thought Kinnard and the Ozello folks should have included the state in any funding discussions. Without that, she very quietly voted no.
The white shirts left unhappy.
So much can happen in a few weeks. Schlabach now says she may bring up an idea at Tuesday’s commission meeting that could keep Pirates Cove on the table without committing the county’s general fund.
Schlabach was rather cagey when I pressed for details. She would only say that, depending on how the conversation goes Tuesday, it’s possible the matter could come back at some future board meeting for another vote.
She stressed two things, though: One, her belief that state money is available to help with the purchase; two, she isn’t changing her position that no general fund money – that’s what property taxes pay for – goes toward the purchase, if there is one.
While it happens on occasion, it’s rare for a commissioner to change his/her vote on any issue. But that’s the beauty of these 3-2 deals.
The most famous that I can recall involved the county seat. It’s hard to think today that this really happened, but the city of Inverness and the county were at near war about the county seat and where the commissioners should meet.
It got so ridiculous that the commission voted to actually stretch the county seat from Inverness west on S.R. 44, turn south at C.R. 491 and include the jail property. In case the county commission wanted to build Courthouse Central at the jail.
I kid you not.
I know I’ll get the dates and details wrong (other than that, you can believe every word), but my recollection is the board had a 3-2 vote to put a referendum on the ballot moving the county offices to Lecanto.
At the end of one meeting, Commissioner Roger Batchelor announced he was changing his mind. He made a motion to kill the referendum and it quickly passed, with Inverness-based Commissioners Jim Fowler and Josh Wooten jumping in to support. Commissioners Gary Bartel and Vicki Phillips were livid.
(And I’m sure the participants will tell me how I got that wrong.)
I doubt Schlabach’s idea of reopening the door to Pirates Cove will cause that kind of reaction. Some people won’t like it, but more discussion on something worthwhile is never bad.
That discussion will happen Tuesday afternoon at the Courthouse which, thankfully, is in Inverness. The county seat.
Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.