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Date of Issue: January 18, 2007

Anna Maria city hall moving again

While most newly elected officials get a bit of a honeymoon before a crisis strikes, it would be hard to say that to Anna Maria Mayor Fran Barford. In fact, it looks like she doesn’t get a honeymoon after her November election, just another crisis.

Barford told city commissioners at their Jan. 11 worksession that city hall has to move this week into temporary quarters at the Island Baptist Church because, according to environmental inspectors, the mold problem caused by a leaky roof last summer is now a potentially serious health hazard. She plans on having the repairs begin this week.

"We need the staff to be out by Jan. 16," Barford told commissioners and asked for authorization to sign a lease with IBC.

City commission and board meetings will be held for the interim at Holmes Beach City Hall, 5801 Marina Drive.

The mayor apologized for bringing the issue to the commission on such short notice, but cited the health concerns involved.

"I really hate to come to you with this, but this is a health hazard and we consider the situation very serious and we have to move out as soon as possible," she said.

She anticipated the city would utilize space at IBC for about four to six weeks, but the commission voted to approve the $300 per week rental for space at the church for an indefinite period.

Commissioners also approved up to $5,000 to move the telephone and computer lines to the IBC.

Island Baptist Church was used as a temporary city hall two years ago when city hall was remodeled.

But the mayor wasn’t done with the "moldy" issue.

She reluctantly had to inform the city commission that the Florida League of Cities has denied the city’s insurance claim for repairs caused by mold after water poured in through a temporary roof covering last summer during a severe thunderstorm.

That occurred while Roof USA of Weeki Wachee was installing a new roof on city hall. The company had placed a temporary shelter over the roof, but the covering collapsed during the storm, causing water damage to the interior of city hall and eventually creating the mold problem.

The contractor and its insurance carrier covered the actual damage caused by the water but not the mold, which environmental specialists have estimated will cost $18,000 to remove.

City attorney Jim Dye, however, said he believes the city would have a good case to recover its costs, including moving expenses, if it sued the contractor.

Commissioners agreed to discuss that issue when the total cost to repair city hall is known.


Lot split ordinance

Commissioner Jo Ann Mattick placed herself squarely in opposition to a proposed ordinance that would require a formal plat process if two or more parcels were split, in addition to requiring a minimum amount of frontage on a public road.

Mattick said the city is adopting a "father knows best" role in the issue and the proposed ordinance would take away property rights and diminish some property values. She also had a host of questions related to the ordinance and what would happen if it passed.

Harry Lockwood of North Shore Drive spoke in opposition, noting that his 1.25 acres would be directly affected by the ordinance. He said he had no plans to sub-divide his property, but wanted to retain that right for any new owners in the event the property is sold.

Commissioners John Quam, Christine Tollette and Duke Miller favored the ordinance, while Commissioner Dale Woodland said he needed to see the information requested by Mattick before making a decision. He also wanted to know how many lots in the city would be affected by the ordinance.

Barford said she would assemble that information, but cautioned that with city hall moving to temporary quarters, it might take longer than a few days for staff to complete the assignment.

Commissioners agreed to postpone further discussion until their Feb. 8 worksession. Barford said the material should be available by that date.


New FPL contract

Barford reported that there was little interest by Holmes Beach and Bradenton Beach in joining forces to negotiate a new contract with Florida Power & Light to provide electrical power to the city. The current agreement expires this year.

The commission agreed to have the mayor and Quam look at the proposed new contract and "determine any leverage" the city might have with the power company.


Anonymous complaints

Commissioner Woodland suggested the commission revisit its current policy to allow anonymous complaints about code violations, but commissioners were reluctant to make any changes.

Currently, anonymous complaints are allowed and the city’s code enforcement officer is only "reactive" to complaints and does not seek out offenses.

Code enforcement officer Gerry Rathvon said that’s been the city’s policy in the five-and-a-half years she’s been on the job and she would "not want to see that taken away" from the public.

She said she’s seldom found any complaint without merit. She also noted that all cities allow anonymous complaints.

Woodland’s suggestion that the mayor review all complaints to determine which ones could be anonymous and which would have to be signed was dismissed by the remaining commissioners as "placing way too much on the mayor," according to Miller.

After discussion, the commission agreed to retain the current policy on anonymous complaints and the city’s "reactive" stance on code violations.


Mold forces AM city hall closure

The Anna Maria city staff and all office functions are expected to move to temporary quarters at the Island Baptist Church this week, according to Mayor Fran Barford, while mold problems are "mediated."

City meetings will be held temporarily at Holmes Beach City Hall.

The Manatee County Sheriff’s Office substation also will relocate to the church.

Telephone numbers will remain the same, said city clerk Alice Baird. The offices will likely be located on the second floor of the church annex in the same location as they were two years ago when city hall had to utilize the church for its headquarters during remodeling.