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Holmes Beach mayor offers state-of-city report

By Kathy Prucnell, Islander Reporter

As the fiscal year comes to a close at the end of September, Holmes Beach Mayor Rich Bohnenberger last week announced the state of the city.

        “I am pleased to report that our city is closing out the year under budget and without debt and, for the first time in our city history, we have five consecutive years without a tax increase,” he wrote Sept. 14.

        Bohnenberger, who is running for a fourth-term Nov. 6, said in the report that the city has a healthy reserve fund, and that Holmes Beach received $3.9 million in public and private grants in the past six years.

        Even in the economic downturn, he said the city has not reduced services.

        The city built a new public works building and the Veterans Memorial Pavilion on the city field at 59th Street and Flotilla Drive. A stormwater project to improve the city’s drainage to help alleviate flooding and comply with the Federal Clean Water Act was completed, he added.

        “Recently our building department underwent two independent audits,” Bohnenberger continued.

        A community rating service audit upgraded the city in the category of floodplain management and “our residents are now eligible for an increased flood insurance discount,” he wrote.

        The second audit rated the department staffing, plans review and inspections. According to Bohnenberger, it scored above most departments in the state.

        During the past year, he continued, the city oversaw a road resurfacing and curb replacement program funded by the gas tax, was recognized by Tree City USA as a Tree City “due to our park expansion using unopened rights of way and donated land” and authorized a city dog park.

        “Recently there has been much criticism of our building department for allowing larger homes to be built,” Bohnenberger continued.

        “The city codes have limited the size of homes to 30 percent lot coverage since the 1950s. What is now being built still is limited to the 30 percent rule. Keep in mind that the founding fathers established the zoning we have today and the R-2 district was always intended to be no less than 50 percent rentals.

        “The city commission in recent years limited the R-2 short-term rentals to no less than one week.” However, he said, the Florida Legislature last year “imposed severe restrictions on our ability to address some of the current issues.”

        Bohnenberger also pointed to 2011-12 upgrades in digital recording equipment and software systems, audio systems, the city’s server and a new email system.

        He commended the police department for its work in processing more than 100 felony charges and receiving several honors.

        In code enforcement, he said maintenance workers and police officers are now carrying citation books to enforce noise, trash and parking infractions if matters cannot be resolved amicably.

        Looking to the next fiscal year, “I will be asking the commission to support placing newly hired police into the state pension plan. This action will in the long term save our tax payers a significant amount of money and protect the current plan for those on pension.”

        Other plans include making stormwater improvements to 30th and 31st streets, opening Grassy Point Preserve to the public as soon as pathways are shelled, and advancing a Grassy Point boardwalk project on the Florida Department of Transportation grant list.

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