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Date of Issue: May 04, 2006

Holmes Beach continues consolidation exploration

How do you consolidate a city of one?

Even though Bradenton Beach has now dropped out of the consolidation study effort and Anna Maria was never in it, the Holmes Beach City Commission wants to continue at least preliminary studies of the measure as mandated by city voters last November.

At its April 25 meeting, the commission directed Mayor Carol Whitmore to get figures from each department head on costs, manpower and equipment to deal with a city encompassing the entire Island.

Whitmore had said she would like to continue the effort to have a professional organization prepare a feasibility study, but the commission winced at the $25,000 estimate, opting instead to have the mayor get figures from each department head.

The mayor balked at having department heads spend city time providing the data and Commissioner Roger Lutz wondered if Whitmore was opposed to a study on consolidation.

On the contrary, responded the mayor.

"I'm the only one who has pushed. I supported working on this even though it was an uphill battle" with Bradenton Beach Mayor John Chappie, she said, although she would prefer the study be done by professionals, not department heads.

"But that's OK," she said, after commissioners agreed with Lutz. "I'll get the numbers from the department heads."

Commission members agreed that they were just following the mandate from the November elections, in which a large majority of the city electorate wanted the city to look into the cost and feasibility of a study on consolidation.

In other business, the commission approved an application from R.G. Partners for a fourth commercial antenna array on the cellular communications tower at Smith Realty on Marina Drive and agreed to spend $124,700 for the city's annual road repaving project.

The commission also held discussions on the AmSouth bank site plan on Manatee Avenue.

While some commissioners had a problem with the size of the proposed building, most applauded AmSouth for designing the building with an "Islandstyle" appearance.

Commission Chairperson Rich Bohnenberger, however, pointed out to his colleagues that their only function was to determine if the site plan met the city codes, not to discuss the "social issues" involved.

Formal discussion and approval of the AmSouth site plan will be on the commission's May 23 agenda, Bohnenberger said.

The commission also gave preliminary approval to an annual fee of $408 for anyone renting a boat slip in the Sunrise boat basin. Bohnenberger was careful to point out the fee was only for slips in Sunrise, not the T-end canals.

Lt. Dale Stephenson of the Holmes Beach Police Department reported to the commission that the money to pay for extra police retirement benefits is now available in the state-controlled excess insurance premiums fund. A formal vote on approving those benefits was scheduled for May 23.

The commission also held discussion on enforcement of the city's sign ordinance, noting the brouhaha that developed several weeks ago when the code enforcement officer began removing signs located illegally on residential properties.

"There are a lot of sign issues," said Bohnenberger, suggesting the commission put complete enforcement of the ordinance on hold while it considers any changes. Commissioners agreed they need to look at the number and size of signs allowed. The sign issue will be discussed again at a future commission worksession.

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