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Date of Issue: August 25, 2010

Robinson blasts WMFR commission

Holmes Beach Commissioner Al Robinson sounded off about overspending once again at West Manatee Fire Rescue District commissioners during their Aug. 19 meeting at WMFR Station No. 1.

Regarding WMFR’s retirement program, Robinson said, “No one on this planet with any financial background would estimate a return on investment of 8 percent in this economy. Someone is living in la-la land. Could it be this is to cover the fact that the retirement fund is sucking air?”

That was about the last comment Robinson made regarding what he called WMFR’s “out-of-control spending and waste of the taxpayers’ dollars.” WMFR commissioners allow a maximum of three minutes for each speaker during public comment.

Anna Maria contractor Kevin Hutchison followed Robinson in the public comments. Hutchison began asking questions, but commissioners told him he was not allowed to ask questions during public comment.

“This is the USA,” Hutchinson said. “We have the right to assemble and the right to free speech, and for you to limit Mr. Robinson to three minutes to get his point across. I don’t think that’s fair.”

The self-dubbed Al “Lower Taxes” Robinson handed reported and commissioners a 12-page packet filled with complaints. He attacked the district’s capital spending, saying, “Last year you bought that cute, little, narrow fire truck for over $100,000 that can go into the jungle to fight fires. I’m still trying to find the jungle. Now, however, it is a nice toy to take to all the craft shows and fishing festivals as a conversation piece. How many times have you heard, ‘What is that cute little thing?’ And, by the way, how many trips to Phoenix did it take to make sure it was the right color and had all the right bells and whistles.”

Robinson compared compensation to education, pointing out that no WMFD jobs require a college degree. But his criticism kept going to wasteful spending.

“The public is being eaten alive with taxes, and it seems to me the people we have entrusted with our finances are spending like drunken sailors,” he wrote.

“The blame lies at the feet of the elected commissioners,” he added.

But WMFR Chief Andy Price defended the firefighters and commissioners.

He concluded the meeting, talking about the increased number of rescue calls that going in to WMFR. He added that the WMFR played a crucial role in last week’s incident where two drowned in rip currents in Anna Maria. Price said WMFR firefighters helped pull two of those in distress to shore.

“The thought some people have that we stand around and do nothing is ridiculous,” he said. “These people work their butts off.”

The chief also spoke about how he frequently reads in newspapers that firefighters suffer heart-attacks because of adrenaline and stress.

“It’s not a fun job,” Price said. “You don’t come back and laugh about it. It’s very serious.”

“These guys have to put their lives on the line every day,” Price said, before picking up Robinson’s 12-page packet. “And then we have to deal with this crap.”