Disruptions Gone, IRB Board Gets Down to Work
By Leo Coughlin
INDIAN ROCKS BEACH – In contrast to recent times when City Commission meetings were noisy and disruptive from a claque of apparently disgruntled (but organized) citizens, City Hall is now quiet and placid on commission meeting night, enabling business to be done in an orderly manner.
Gone are the yammerings, interruptions, personal attacks. Taking their place is reasonable and quiet discourse.
The top staff of the city is new – Chuck Coward, the city manager, quickly wearing off the tinges of newness with quiet efficiency, and Sandy Sanders, the financial officer, have taken the reins from what was a very muddled situation.
Tuesday night the commissioners dispatched a routine agenda and got the good news from Sanders that a couple hundred thousand in funds that seemed to have gotten lost were just where they were supposed to be.
The money was “miscategorized,” Sanders said, but sure enough, $100,000 in reserves and another $100,000 in the sewer fund were located on the books and corrected.
That’s a long way from the week after week, month after month confusion perpetrated by Sanders’s predecessor, a man hired with the injunction by the former mayor, that “we want a treasurer without municipal experience.”
John Coffey, a former city manager, testified to that, and gave a picture of the history of those turmoil-filled days under the regime of Bill Ockunzzi that led to what many regard as calamitous situations.
That is all over now and the commission can better get down to work, like setting for itself the task of scheduling three work shop sessions in June to get the EAR done.
That is the Evaluation and Appraisal Report required by the state every seven years in which the progress is assessed in a municipality’s comprehensive plan which measures conditions in the community.
A pilot program tried in the public works department of having employees work four 10-hour days has been abandoned and, at the workers’ request, there will be a return to the conventional five eight-hour days in the work week.
The commission approved on second and final reading an ordinance that allows city employees to leave the city’s group health and life insurance program in those cases where the individual is covered by a spouse’s insurance.
It costs the city $530 monthly for each employee’s insurance. As an incentive, those employees who opt out are given $200 a month, thus a savings to the city of $330 per individual.
One innovative proposal came from Commissioner Terry Hamilton who said she is working with Dean Scharmen, the public works director, in trying to establish an organic garden in the 2300 block of Gulf Boulevard.
The land there was bought by the county which planned to build a parking garage, but city ordinance did not allow that. Hamilton wants to use the space for a garden which would certainly add diversity to an already diverse city.
A comment by Commissioner Cookie Kennedy caught her colleagues off guard and left them a little bewildered with her query as to when incentives for businesses in the “triangle” were going to be established.
Commission members were unaware of any such pending plans and the comment left them shaking their heads.
One observer pointed out that Kennedy has a business in the area she mentioned.
One small restaurant in that area, La Cachette, said that it is not going out of business as had been erroneously reported but instead is moving to Clearwater.
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