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Date of Issue: March 17, 2005

Wastin' away in Holmes Beach?

Holmes Beach City Commissioner Don Maloney has not spent the last few weeks "wasting" his time. He's been busy negotiating details of a proposed new contract with Waste Management Inc., the city's contracted trash and waste hauling service. The contract is up for renewal at the end of March.

The proposed new contract will be discussed at the Feb. 22 commission meeting, and Maloney believes all objections to the previously proposed - and controversial - WMI automated pickup system have been addressed and answered.

At the commission's Feb. 8 meeting, Maloney said WMI will offer city residents their choice of either a 64- or 32-gallon container for automated pickup, or they can simply put their trash in a plastic garbage bag by the curb on pickup days.

But the cost of service, regardless of what option a resident chooses, is going up. WMI has proposed a $1-per- month increase per residential customer for basic service. Currently, the base rate for a single-family home is about $13 per month. WMI is also allowed to raise its fees based upon increases in the consumer price index.

Maloney believes the new WMI proposal answers residents objections last year that would have forced them to utilize a "too large" container, whether they wanted it or not. A number of residents had objected that they couldn't handle such a large container, but the trash bag option appears to solve that problem.

"I believe it's the best solution for everyone," he said, noting that no other firm bid for the trash and waste hauling service. "Everyone else dropped by the wayside."

"I also think it's a good solution," said Commissioner Roger Lutz.

Commissioner Rich Bohnenberger agreed, noting that he recently spoke with Palmetto Mayor Larry Bustle about WMI's automated service in that city. "He said complaints about pickup have almost disappeared. They're really pleased with the service," Bohnenberger said.

In other business, the commission agreed to a suggestion by Bohnenberger that the city establish a five-year capital improvements plan by resolution, rather than following the comprehensive plan. It would allow the commission to update the improvements list every year by resolution, rather than a comprehensive plan amendment.

Bohnenberger said this plan is a "reincarnation" of a policy he introduced as mayor in 1996, but has fallen by the wayside.

Instead of following a plan, the commission simply added or deleted capital improvement projects during budget discussions.

Under Bohnenberger's proposal, the mayor would submit a priority list of capital improvement projects to the commission every year before the budget hearings. Commissioners, along with the mayor and city staff, would then meet and discuss the list to establish priorities for inclusion in the upcoming budget.

Mayor Carol Whitmore agreed that while the budget always has included capital improvement projects, it's easier for the city to follow a five-year plan adopted by resolution.

The commission will discuss the resolution at its Feb. 22 meeting.

Sunrise canals

City Attorney Patricia Petruff said preparation of the draft ordinance to establish ownership of docks in the Sunrise boat basin is nearly complete, but there are still several issues to be resolved before a final draft is presented to the commission. "It's still a work in progress," she said, but she anticipated completion by mid-March.

Lutz, also an attorney, agreed that giving Sunrise residents a "net, net, net lease" is the "next best thing to ownership," and likely absolves the city from any liability.

Skateboard park fees

The commission agreed to consider a proposal by Whitmore that the $30 annual fee for non-Holmes Beach residents to use the skateboard park be reduced to $10, the same as city residents. She said this would make the park more usable to other Island residents and winter visitors.

County charter

The commission agreed to hold several public forums in the city in the near future to discuss technical aspects of the proposed Manatee County charter. The forums would not be for debate, said Bohnenberger, but a means to educate the public.

Whitmore noted that the charter is on the Feb. 15 county commission worksession agenda and urged elected officials and the public to attend.

The Holmes Beach City Commission, along with its Bradenton Beach and Anna Maria counterparts, are unanimous in their opposition to the proposed charter.