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Date of Issue: March 18, 2009

Commission, attorney review varied issues

Days after the Bradenton Beach City Commission set a 12-minute shortest meeting record, the commission may have set another.

On March 5, the commission opened and closed its meeting in 12 minutes. On March 10, the commission forged through 18 agenda items in under two hours during a workshop with city attorney Ricinda Perry.

The meeting March 10 was held to provide an update on some projects and to assign direction to other projects. The range of issues discussed was broad, from how staff communicates with the city attorney to how the city wants to proceed with “hardening” city hall for a weather-related disaster.

The issue discussed at most length was the first item on the agenda — assignment and scope of work to the city attorney.

The question was how might the city staff most efficiently and economically communicate with the city attorney?

Commissioners, the mayor, Perry and several department heads agreed to a test period in which each department head will file a request for legal servicesat the start of the month to deal with general legal issues — up to four hours per department per month, but will continue to file project-specific RLS to cover ongoing matters.

Previously, requests for legal services had to be filed for each contact with the attorney.

“We don’t want to slow down department heads’ access to you when they need you,” Commissioner Janie Robertson told Perry.

However, she and other commissioners added that they don’t want to increase the city’s legal costs.

“We’ll find the pitfalls when we get there — if there are any,” Robertson said.

Other issues included:

  • Holding a class on the community redevelopment agency. The CRA, which plans for improvements to the city’s historic commercial district, recently was expanded to include a resident of the district, Connie Drescher, and a business owner in the district, Ed Chiles. The city commission also has a relatively new member, Bob Bartelt.

Perry suggested a session on CRA responsibilities and procedures and the commission agreed.

  • Expanding the role of a special master. Perry said the city had accomplished this with a recent vote. She informed the board that special master Harold Youmans would proceed with holding a variety of hearings at city hall and city clerk Nora Idso would establish a master calendar.
  • Hiring a planner. The city is currently accepting proposals from firms interested in helping clean up city codes, as well as possibly working on additional planning projects.

Perry said a firm could be hired by the city as early as April.

  • Determining what to do with street-end docks. There are about four street-end docks on city rights of way for which Perry said the status is in question.

She and building official Steve Gilbert recommended they draft a report to the commission on when the docks were built, what licenses or agreements exist in connection with the docks, the condition of the docks and what should be done with the structures.

“We need to clean up the dock issue, and that’s a major undertaking,” Perry said.

  • Codifying city ordinances. Perry suggested the city review whether it wants to continue using the Municode.com system to publish its ordinances or use a system to place ordinances on the city Web site, as does Longboat Key.

“We wanted to know if it was OK to explore how much it would cost to put it on our Web site,” Perry said of the codes.

The commission gave the go-ahead to investigate costs.

  • Revising fee schedules. Commissioners, staff and Perry agreed that fees, especially in the building and planning department, do not adequately cover costs, especially for board hearings.

“We need to look at our fee schedule and revise it to appropriately reflect the cost,” Perry said.

Gilbert suggested the city review Anna Maria’s new fee schedule.

“Go ahead and do that,” said Mayor Michael Pierce.

  • Establishing a policy for collecting delinquent accounts. The city has seen a spike in the number of overdue accounts for trash removal, water and other services.

Perry recommended, and the commission agreed, exploring whether a collection agency might be hired.

Perry also said she would review Florida statutes as to what responsibilities property owners can be assigned to make sure services are paid.

“We’re trying to look at creative ways to solve this problem,” Perry said. “We have more than doubled our outstanding unpaid accounts.”

  • Maintaining canals. The city needs to find out from Manatee County “who owns the canals,” Perry said.
  • Operating electric cars in the CRA. The city has a policy against golf carts and other such vehicles, but is looking into relaxing the regulation to allow carts in the commercial district.

The purpose would be to allow an employee shuttle from Coquina Beach parking to businesses in the Bridge Street area, said Bradenton Beach Police Chief Sam Speciale.

That, he said, keeps parking spaces in the Bridge Street area open for customers.

Perry said she is working on an ordinance allowing the limited use of the carts.

  • Establishing parking for the mooring field. Last year, the police department received some complaints that it was encouraging boaters to stop in its mooring field, but provided no parking for accessory automobiles.

Speciale said the number of complaints was limited and the issue would be addressed when the city adopts its master boating plan later this year.

  • Planning for improvements to the land south of the BeachHouse Restaurant. The city owns property west of Gulf Drive and the BeachHouse also owns property south of the restaurant. Gilbert said the city and BeachHouse owner Ed Chiles continue to discuss a possible private-public development agreement that might lead to parking, landscaping and improved beach access in the area.
  • Implementing recommendations in a parking plan for the CRA. Robertson said with the exception of adding signs to direct drivers to public parking, the city has acted on the recommendations.

Speciale said would work at getting the signs erected.

  • Foreclosing on code enforcement liens. “We have a number of outstanding code-enforcement liens,” Perry said.

She added that the commission could expect a report on how much money is outstanding to help decide how to proceed.

  • Managing code enforcement. As part of a review of the code enforcement department’s operation, Perry said she is analyzing the city’s sea-turtle protection ordinance.
  • Using eminent domain. The group briefly discussed eminent domain related to a property at 201 Gulf Drive S.

The 201 Gulf Drive S. property, owned by Steven Noriega, has been cited by the city as a threat to public health and safety.

Perry said the city could proceed with the code-enforcement case and, in the end, possibly file a lien, or the city could seek to take the property through eminent domain.

The eminent domain process, she said, would cost at least $15,000 in addition to a fair price for the property.

Pierce joked, “I don’t think we’ll give them any money. Just go ahead and take it.”

The commission agreed that the case should be put through the code enforcement process.

  • Tracking contractual obligations. Perry asked whether commissioners were aware of any contracts she needed to review to make sure obligations and terms had been fulfilled.

Robertson said there was one contract associated with the renovation of the Historic Bridge Street Pier she wanted reviewed.

  • Planning for a “hardened” city hall. Gilbert said the city is required to take steps to “harden” city hall against a hurricane or other weather-related event in the next several years.

Perry suggested that as the city looks at improvements, it consider all its options — including whether city hall should remain at 107 Gulf Drive.

Robertson suggested that perhaps the planning and zoning board could consider the options, and the rest of the commission agreed.

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