NoT. /3, /q 5
Battling water board "
By KIM KLEMAN
Tribune Staff Writer prcm claim pea ,
It has taken nearly two years, a battle .t
royal and 7 million collected in excess after agreeing
taxes, but finally there's peace at the dispute over l
Southwest Florida Water Management Dis- s pu
trict at least for now. powers for wat
Under heavy pressure from Gov. Bob !
Graham, two subdistricts of the water man-.
agement authority agreed Tuesday to drop
their lawsuit against the district over which
group has certain taxing powers. crow money at a 3 p.m. hearing
And all parties agreed that the surplus Thursday in Bushnell.
tax money now in an interest-bearing Regardless of Booth's decision,
account should fund future projects of this year's $30.2 million budget and
the authority's eight subdistricts, called tax rates adopted i September will
basin boards. not cha,,ge district officials said.
lThe reser'e funds, however, will
"I'm pleased very pleased that it's phe reserve funds, o t tes evied
going to be resolved so we can get back to u
managing the resource," said district Exec- by the basin boards, officials said.
Grahaim. spurred Tuesday's set-
utive Director Gary Kuhl, whose agency tlement when he admonished dis-
manages water supplies in a 16-county trict atld basin board officials last
area. week to resolve their differences by.
The district directs large projects that Thurday.
may affect many people or a large area. "This is no time, and Southwest
Basin boards have authority over local Florida is no place, for quibbling,"
water projects that affect residents in a Graham told officials at a meeting in
"Maybe some day we'll all get together Tallahassee.
and laugh about this," said Michael Zago- "Anyone who currently is serv-
rac, a district governing board member, of ing on any of these boards who is not
past conflicts between the groups. "Maybe committed to settlement needs to
not soon...." reconsider the prospect of continu-
Florida Citrus Mutual and Hernando ing to serve," the governor said.
Florida CitrusThe feuding began in 1984, when ':
Hardee and DeSoto counties also are in- The feuding began in whe
evolved in the lawsuit against the district in basin boards and taking away their
part to protect rural interests that some budgeting powers in an attempt to
basin boards represent, streamline the district.
But they have not decided what to do in District officials later recom-
light of the decision of the Northwest Hills- mended that the basin boards re-
borough and Alafia River basin boards to main, but that they act in an advi-
drop out, officials said. sory capacity without budgeting
Leaders of the citrus cooperative, yv power. The two basin boards and the
meet today to discuss the issue, its attorney other groups filed suit to maintain
said. their authority.
Hernando Circuit Judge John W. Booth In the ensuing battle, the district
will make the final decision concerning the levied double taxes on residents to
disposition of the lawsuit and the es-
cover duplicate projects that the
basin boards and the district sought
to fund. That amounted to a surplus
of $7 million.
Last week, the governor care-
fully delineated the powers of the
basin boards and the governing'
board to help settle the issue.
Both sides claim Graham sided
with their cause.
"The people won," said Patricia
Odiorne, a member of the Alafia
River basin board. "They have local
representation that they wouldn't
have had without this lawsuit."
Countered Bruce Samson, gov-
erning board chairman: "Clearly,
the governor comes down on the
side of the governing board concern-
ing the litigation."
"They both won," said John
Wehle, of the Florida Department of
Environmental Regulation, who at-
tended Tuesday's meetings. "They
both got part of what they wanted."
Tuesday's meetings followed a
morning workshop of the governing
board and basin board members.
They discussed the governor's plan
and agreed they needed to work bet-
"The peace pipe is lit," Zagorac
said. "What we need to decide now
is how to work together."
Instant rapport may not occur,
said Al Stone, a member of the
Northwest Hillsborough Basin
Board. "I think you have to recog-
nize there are some deep wounds,"
he said. "Hopefully they will be
healed. The deep trust (between
groups) will come with the healing."