Traffic turns onto northbound Gulf Drive from Marina Drive in an area being proposed for a new crosswalk by Holmes Beach Police Chief Bill Tokajer as part of a larger plan to improve pedestrian safety. Islander Photo: Mark Young
At a May 28 city commission meeting, Holmes Beach Police Chief Bill Tokajer was asked to present a code-enforcement philosophy following Mayor Carmel Monti’s move to place code enforcement directly under the police department.
Monti said enforcing code violations has been moved out of city hall and into the police department, where code enforcement officials will retain their responsibilities.
Tokajer said the real change is that his department will handle the enforcement side of the issue.
“My philosophy when it comes to code enforcement is that we will enforce codes respectfully, fairly and firmly,” he said. “If we can gain compliance with a warning, then that is the intention. If not, then we go to the next step, which is fines. That’s the basic snapshot of code enforcement.”
Tokajer also cleared up any misunderstandings surrounding the departure of code enforcement official Dave Forbes, who temporarily left his post May 31.
Tokajer said Forbes took a family emergency medical leave, which protects his position under federal law.
“Dave is leaving on family medical leave and hopes to be back in 12 weeks,” said Tokajer. “There has been some statements made that if he returns, he would have to come back as a new employee. That is not true. If he returns within 12 weeks, he returns under the tenure he already has.”
In the interim, Tokajer said Forbes’ position is being advertised.
“We are advertising for someone who can hit the ground running, so we don’t fall behind,” he said.
Commission Chair Jean Peelen said she didn’t understand why the city would advertise for a position if Forbes’ intention was to return to his job.
Tokajer said the long-term goal of code enforcement under his watch is to be proactive and, “to have two people in that position. The whole thing about code enforcement is to be proactive and not reactive. It’s a very tedious job for one person to do.”
Tokajer said with budget discussions starting soon, he would like to see two people doing the job.
Salaried positions in the city have increased under Monti’s watch.
“We are coming up to budget time and we’ll see what funds are available,” said Tokajer.
Commissioner Marvin Grossman said the city has discussed charging a fee for re-inspecting rental units.
“Those fees could cover the cost for a second person,” he said.
Commissioner Judy Titsworth said a request to increase and add fees to inspecting rental units has been submitted and “we need to get that back on the agenda for discussion.”
In other matters, Tokajer is seeking to increase the number of crosswalks in the city.
“We’ve done studies on the crosswalks we have here and found we don’t have an adequate amount,” he said. “We are all about pedestrian safety.”
Tokajer said the city needs 10 additional crosswalks and to change the signs at crosswalks that currently read “Yield to pedestrians.”
He said the law is for traffic to “stop for pedestrians, so we want those signs to be more succinct to state law.”
One area Tokajer is suggesting is the intersection of Marina and Gulf drives. He said Manatee County is preparing to install new traffic lights there and wants to see if the county can also install “don’t walk” and “walk” lights.
The city is allowed to install or remove crosswalks on city roads at its will, but is responsible for all maintenance and liability issues if crosswalks are installed without approval of the Florida Department of Transportation.
Only the DOT can approve crosswalks on state roads, Tokajer said.
Other areas Tokajer would like crosswalks include:
• 28th Street and Gulf Drive.
• 3200 block of East Bay Drive.
• 3900 block of East Bay Drive.
• 59th Street and Marina Drive.
• 63rd Street and Marina Drive.
• Palm and Clark drives.
• 72nd Street and Gulf Drive.
• 81st Street and Palm Drive.
• Flashing light in the 5300 block of Marina Drive.