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Date of Issue: March 17, 2005

Budget changes belong to mayor

An effort by Anna Maria Commissioner Dale Woodland to form a committee to revise the format in which the annual budget is presented fell flat when Commission Chairperson John Quam and other commissioners at the Feb. 12 workshop agreed it was an administrative, not commission, matter.

"This is not policy," said Quam. "The mayor presents the budget. I suggest you discuss this with the mayor. I don't think we should be involved."

Some of the changes proposed by Woodland "seem like overkill," said Commissioner Duke Miller, but Mayor SueLynn agreed to meet with Woodland and discuss his proposal.

She did agree that at the least, the draft budget should include year-to-date figures for line item expenditures when presented to the commission.

Anonymous complaints
Woodland also addressed the city's policy of allowing anonymous complaints, and suggested that a complainant who wants to remain anonymous meet with the mayor and the mayor would sign the complaint.

"There was a time," said Woodland, "when we didn't allow any anonymous complaints."

He did agree that some people filing a complaint might have a fear of retribution if signing their name to the complaint, so "I understand both sides."

But Miller agreed with city resident Charlie Daniel that any meeting with the mayor is a matter of public record and it wouldn't take much for the media - or others- to find out who filed the complaint.

Quam said that more than 99 percent of anonymous complaints are valid, and all complaints are investigated by the code enforcement officer, who would sign any proven code violation notice.

Besides, he said, the mayor has more important business.

Miller said he agreed with the principle that a person should be able to face their accuser, but agreed to leave the current policy in place for now.

Bid process
SueLynn said the city has been in a quandary over the current bid process because it's difficult to get three bids on jobs under $2,500. She suggested that commissioners approve an administrative change that would allow the city to get three contractor bids at the beginning of the year on small projects for plumbing, carpentry, electricity and others.

Commissioners agreed with that suggestion as long as they see and approve the bid and contractor.

Public Works Director George McKay said he would get the names of three contractors for each type of job to the commission and use them on a rotating basis.

City Attorney Jim Dye noted that the mayor doesn't have the authority to sign checks for budgeted line items up to $25,000 unless the commission amends the bid process resolution.

Quam said his understanding of the bid resolution is the mayor should bring all expenditures to the commission, budgeted or not. Allowing the mayor to pay for line item projects under $2,500 without commission approval might require a change in the bid resolution, Dye noted.

"If it's under $2,500, use 'sale source' language" in the resolution. That way, the mayor can just write the check, Dye said.

Miller noted that this is just for approved line items under $2,500. All city expenditures above that amount, or not budgeted regardless of the cost, must still be approved by the commission.

The mayor said she would revise the administrative procedures on bids and return to the commission.

An amendment to the bid resolution may be needed, Dye observed.

Public land purchase
Commissioners agreed they weren't really interested in buying a lot on the north side of the humpback bridge on North Bay Boulevard after they saw an initial estimate of $90,000 for the property.

The mayor had looked into a possible purchase for the day when the city would have to build a new bridge and would need access to the seawall.

Quam suggested going back to the owner to discuss a possible donation to the city, but Miller said that's not likely.

A better idea, he said, is to see if the city can put in pilings along the seawall.

"If we can put in pilings, we won't need to acquire the property. It's not worth $90,000 anyway. It's an unbuildable lot and you can't get to it," said Miller. "It's useless property."

Miller also noted that the upcoming bridge renovations at that location should make the bridge safe for another 15 to 20 years.

Commissioners agreed to have McKay examine the feasibility of pilings.

Alcohol permit system
Commissioner Linda Cramer lobbied the commission to establish a regulatory procedure for businesses in the city that would include an inspection of the site plan for adherence, a safety and fire inspection and compliance with the issued business permit.

She had wanted the city to look into regulating consumption of alcoholic beverages at licensed premises, but Dye said that's reserved for the state.

"Well, we need a building permit system," Cramer argued.

It's an idea that's been brought up before and commissioners agreed to discuss the issue further at another workshop.

Gulf Boulevard parking
Commissioners turned down a request by Woodland for the commission to study the issue of allowing handicap accessible parking on Gulf Boulevard, citing safety issues. There is currently no parking allowed on Gulf Boulevard, which is between Palmetto and Magnolia avenues.

The next parking workshop was scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday, March 4. Commissioners will have to specifically identify each parking location on every street that will have parking, said Dye. Commissioners agreed they have some homework before that March 4 meeting.

What the heck
The story on parking in the Feb. 11 issue of The Islander incorrectly reported Miller as saying that if a plan goes to "hell" in a hand-basket, it could be changed. What Miller actually said was if the plan goes to "heck" in a hand-basket, it could be changed.

"But I did mean the other word," he added.