2 2 LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE

Pasco County, Florida -- This well field is located on the Cross Bar Ranch in Pasco County.

According to this 2012 audit, Pinellas County lost $1.9 million over the last 12 years and blames Pinellas County for lack of complete financial documentation of Cross Bar Ranch.

After 10 Investigates learned the cost to taxpayers to maintain the property, including a half million dollar annual salary paid to property manager Albert Roller, we started asking questions. When we asked to speak with Roller in 2011, he refused to walk out to the gate to discuss the contract he has with the county.

At a Tuesday press conference, Pinellas Commissioner Norm Roche addressed that lack of financial oversight of Cross Bar Ranch.

"It is concerning, but I think we are taking some steps, Mike, to get that straightened out," he told 10 Investigates.

However, Commissioner Roche says the bigger issue is also the fact that some elected officials in Pinellas want to sell the ranch to Pasco County in order to solve the current budget problems, but Roche says that is shortsighted and actually wants a referendum to prohibit the sale.

"The wars of the future are not going to be fought over oil, the wars of the future are going to be fought over water," Roche said.

Fred Kiehl, a Pinellas County taxpayer, agreed with Roche and told us, "Even if it costs us tax money for maintenance, it is cheaper than buying water from somebody else."

The water war, however, was getting more intense in April 2014 when Pinellas was refusing to pay Pasco County the property taxes they owed. One week later, after Pasco County Tax Collector Mike Fasano called out Pinellas for the back pay and threatened to sell the property if the taxes were not paid, Pinellas County Commissioners agreed to pay the taxes.

Now, commissioners who are pushing to prohibit the sale of Cross Bar Ranch are collectively turning their backs on Pasco's desire to buy the property. However, those same Pinellas County commissioners say they will not turn their backs on their obligation to pay Pasco the property taxes on the land.

"As I said when this started, pay our bill and work out the legal details -- we pay our bills," Roche said.

2 2 LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE
Read or Share this story: http://www.wtsp.com/story/news/investigations/2014/05/27/pinellas-to-pasco-cross-bar-ranch-is-not-for-sale/9637897/