Two Island cities progressing on consolidation
Bradenton Beach Mayor John Chappie and Holmes Beach Mayor Carol Whitmore are moving ahead with gathering information on consolidation of the two cities.
Following the lead from the results of a non-binding referendum on consolidation in both Holmes Beach and Bradenton Beach in the November elections, Chappie and Whitmore held a conference call last week with Harry Hayes of the University of Georgia's Carl Vinson Institute of Government.
"It's still early in the process," said Whitmore, "but we had a long talk with Hayes and his staff. They've done a number of consolidations in Georgia, Kentucky and throughout the south. He took some information from us and said he'd send us back a proposal along with costs on ‘information gathering' for consolidation. So, we're progressing."
The Islander newspaper asked Hayes for advice on consolidation of the three Island cities in 2005, and reported the results in September. Hayes was asked then by The Islander to review the budgets of all three Island cities for areas of potential savings through consolidation.
Based on that preliminary study of the budgets, Hayes concluded that Bradenton Beach gets the most revenue per capita from its residents and also spends the most, despite having the lowest population.
Hayes told The Islander, "The materials we reviewed gave us a sufficient picture to conclude that the issue of tri-city consolidation may be worth further exploration."
Whitmore said Hayes could not give a date when his proposal will be submitted to the two cities, but once that's received, Whitmore said she and Chappie will go to their respective commissions to discuss the proposal and associated costs.
According to Whitmore, Hayes' proposal is to determine how the two cities could consolidate and how much money taxpayers would save living in one city.
Anna Maria Mayor SueLynn has been attending the Whitmore/Chappie consolidation meetings strictly as an observer because that city commission declined to even put the non-binding referendum on the November ballot.
Mayors' meeting Sunshine Law violation?
At the Barrier Island Elected Officials meeting Feb. 15, Holmes Beach City Commission Rich Bohnenberger questioned the legality of the three mayors meeting in closed session, saying he thought the meetings should be in the "sunshine" in accordance with Florida's Government-in-the-Sunshine Law.
Whitmore responded that anyone, including Bohnenberger, could attend the meetings, but the meetings did not violate the Sunshine Law as the respective mayors do not sit on the same elected board.
That was also the opinion of Holmes Beach City Attorney Patricia Petruff, according to Whitmore.
"She said I could meet with anyone since I don't have a vote on the commission," said Whitmore. "Rich is certainly welcome to attend any of our meetings on consolidation."
Bohnenberger has long been an opponent of consolidation and voted against placing the non-binding referendum on the November 2005 ballot.