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Date of Issue: March 17, 2005

Commission sails with Columbus

The special Anna Maria City Commission meeting April 15 called by Commissioner Linda Cramer to discuss old and new business items began a lot like Christopher Columbus did when he sailed the ocean blue in fourteen- hundred-and-ninety-two.

"Chris" is the only man in history who, upon starting out, did not know where he was going; upon arriving, did not know where he was; and upon returning, did not know where he had been. And he did it all with someone else's money.

Commissioners thought they were starting out to prioritize the city's old business list and, at the same time, decide which items on the new business list should be on upcoming agendas.

But Cramer, who chaired the meeting, began the journey by saying she wanted to ask the commission for a motion or consensus to direct the mayor to obtain a complete structural report of city hall. She said she needed more information on the structural integrity of the building before she could reach a decision on continuing the planned city hall renovation project (The Islander, April 14).

Hold on a minute, intoned Commissioner Dale Woodland. That item's "not on my agenda, and I have a problem," he said. "You are asking us to vote on something that will cost money and it hasn't been advertised. This should be presented to the public and I'm not prepared to vote on it" tonight.

How about a consensus to put discussion on an upcoming commission agenda? asked Cramer.

That opened the floodgates for the commission to rehash the entire city hall project as Commissioner Carol Ann Magill said she had concerns and did not know how the city was going to proceed.

Mayor SueLynn joined in, saying that as directed by commissioners at their April 8 meeting, she had obtained an estimate of $750 from a licensed contractor for a roof and window inspection. She planned to present the estimate at the April 22 commission meeting.

The mold and asbestos problems cited in prior reports will be addressed in the renovations, according to architect Tom O'Brien and contractor Southern Cross Inc., the mayor said.

The issue, said the mayor, is that the city has to do something about the mold and asbestos for the health of city staff. A new roof might have to wait.

Commission Chairperson John Quam agreed.

"Even if we find we need a new roof, I don't want to delay the renovations."

Well, said Cramer, can we at least discuss a building inspection report at the April 22 meeting and get a recommendation for funding?

"Am I off base here? We are talking about problems and I'm stressing that we do the roof" at the same time as the mold and asbestos removal.

Woodland advised Cramer that a structural integrity inspection was outside the scope of work approved by the commission for the renovation project.

After an 80-minute discussion of the renovation project, commissioners almost returned to the night's actual agenda list.

Cramer said the commission wasn't there to micro-manage the mayor, but asked the mayor about an updated report on the city pier complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

She also asked SueLynn about a permit-fee plan that Building Official Kevin Donohue was supposed to complete, and the traffic plan prepared by Baskerville-Donovan Inc., the city's engineering firm.

"Hold on," said Commissioner Duke Miller.

"I thought this meeting was called just to see if these items should stay on the list, not to sit here and discuss them further," he said.

Miller suggested the mayor just give commissioners a spread sheet indicating the item, current status and upcoming action.

"I don't see us talking about each item, just whether to pursue it or not," he concluded.

That didn't stop Cramer from asking the mayor about prohibited advertising on the modular newsracks, plans and parking for the remodeled community center and staff performance evaluations. She said it was her understanding that the commission was to be involved in preparing those reports.

"Point of order," injected Magill, echoing Miller. "I thought this meeting was just to discuss the list, not our own ideas."

"In my mind, it was to discuss any new business," replied Cramer.

"Well, 90 percent of what you said [about the performance evaluations] is administrative. That's my responsibility, not the commission's," SueLynn said.

Hinting that she's not likely to seek a second term in November, the mayor said she plans on completing the performance evaluations in the next few months - "before I leave office."

Woodland agreed with the mayor. "That's administrative and if I have thoughts, I'll go to the mayor, not discuss them with the commission."

Quam and Magill sided with Woodland and suggested Cramer meet with the mayor to discuss her concerns.

Woodland did, however, say he appreciated Cramer's idea to discuss the old business/new business list and Quam added that the commission should meet once or twice a year to review the list.

After the meeting, SueLynn said she believed that the meeting went well, but a few of the items discussed were administrative in nature, not policy decisions.

"I believe sometimes it's difficult for the commission to separate what is policy and what's administrative" under the new charter adopted in February 2003.

"The commissioners now have the right to come to me and talk directly" about issues and concerns, she said, because the mayor is no longer a voting member of the city commission.

From the old/new business list, the commission eventually knew where they had been and where they hoped to go, and agreed to place these new business items on a future agenda, when appropriate:

  • Gulfront park management plan.
  • Fireworks ordinance.
  • Right-of-way use permit.
  • Historical Society lease to include Belle Haven.
  • Compensation increase for the office of mayor.
  • Review of current application fees for variances, building permits, vacations, etc.
  • City traffic-flow plan.
  • Standardized size for real estate signs.
  • City donation policy.
  • Modular newsrack advertising (new to the list).

Items that will remain on the old business list are:

  • Parking/signage ordinances.
  • Procedures regarding recommendations from a board or committee.
  • Permit fee/home occupation, rental, business.
  • City Pier ADA compliance project.
  • Waste Management Inc. automated service contract.
  • Code enforcement procedures.
  • Dangerous dog ordinance.

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