The Pinellas County Commission last week showed County Administrator Robert LaSala the door, and then ordered its staff to pay the roughly $110,000 that Pasco County Tax Collector Mike Fasano has said Pinellas owes Pasco on the Crossbar Ranch property Pinellas owns in north-central Pasco. While Pinellas County’s lawyers continue to advise that the Crossbar land is exempt from property taxation because it is publicly owned — a contention Pasco Property Appraiser Mike Wells and other Pasco officials reject with certitude — Pinellas commissioners decided the point was not worth arguing any further. “I want that resolved, yesterday,” Pinellas Commissioner Susan Latvala told County Attorney Jim Bennett.
Pinellas County’s money will redeem the tax certificates Fasano’s predecessor as tax collector, the late Mike Olson, sold in 2012 when Pinellas decided not to stop paying the tax bill from Pasco on Crossbar and the 2013 payment Fasano is seeking.
Unfortunately, a majority of Pinellas commissioners are determined to continue rebuffing Pasco’s bids to buy the 12,500-acre Crossbar property. Pasco wants to preserve the land and open it to the public. The Pinellas officials who don’t want to sell, however, imagine the land, which has wells on it now controlled by regional wholesale utility Tampa Bay Water, will be of some value to Pinellas if what were known as the Suncoast “water wars” ever re-ignite. It won’t, for a variety of reasons.
Latvala, however, says Pinellas residents would vote to sell the Crossbar land to Pasco “tomorrow” if given a chance. We agree. At least Pinellas commissioners decided not to try to make it harder for future, hopefully wiser, Pinellas commissioners to sell Crossbar.