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Date of Issue: March 02, 2006

Anna Maria 'good old days' return - almost

In a scene reminiscent of the "good old days" in Anna Maria, when city commission meetings often degenerated into name-calling and spitting contests, not to mention past-midnight marathon sessions, Mayor SueLynn and city commissioners got into a spat at the commission's Feb. 23 meeting over the separation of legislative (commission) and administrative (mayor) duties.

Well, almost a good spat.

The battle developed over procedures for the recently passed $1 million line of credit the city will use to fund stormwater drainage and road projects.

Commission Chairperson John Quam and Commissioner Dale Woodland argued for a resolution establishing procedures that the city will utilize for all aspects of the loan, including balance, payments, bid process, draws and interest, and keep the commission informed regularly.

Sorry, replied SueLynn, but the commission is over-stepping the boundary between legislative and administrative duties with such a resolution. Doesn't the commission trust the city staff and herself?

"With all due respect, I believe the commission is crossing the line and showing a lack of trust in myself and staff. The procedures are redundant," she said.

The mayor said the line of credit would operate similar to how the city prepares the budget. There are no established procedures in the city charter for the budget, but it gets done every year in the same fashion and the commission is informed throughout the process.

"My issue," the mayor told Quam and Woodland, "is that your procedures already exist. There's no reason to suggest these won't be done. You are crossing the line and it feels like micro-management."

Maybe, replied Quam, but the procedures are still not written down. "I'm looking for a formal procedure. I need something final," he said.

"But we're already doing that," replied SueLynn.

"Then where is it?" countered Quam, suggesting that a new administration might change the "procedures."

"I do feel this is administrative," he added, but the procedures just need to be developed by the commission for future city leaders to follow.

Agreed, said Woodland. "We need to have our hands on this for the life of the line of credit."

Woodland's proposal was that information on the current state of any line of credit be funneled regularly to the commission, while Quam was more interested in guidelines to ensure successive administrations follow the procedures.

"But you're both talking about what we'd be doing anyway," responded SueLynn.

Maybe, but commissioners eventually approved - without dissent - a resolution combining Quam's guidelines and Woodland's record-keeping as city procedures for the line of credit, a decision reluctantly accepted by the mayor without a major cat-fight.

"It's just what we're already doing," she said with a sigh.


County gas tax increase

But the mayor and commission weren't at odds on every issue at the meeting.

Neither side could support a request from Manatee County for a commission resolution in support of the county's proposed gas tax increase from 1 to 5 cents per gallon to finance more road improvements in the county. The current county gas tax is 4 cents per gallon, a figure that has not been increased since 1985.

SueLynn said county officials have said Anna Maria's share of any new gas tax would be about $25,000 per year.

Commissioner Duke Miller led the charge against any support, noting that 3 percent of the county population (Anna Maria Island) provides 20 percent of the ad valorem tax revenue, but doesn't get the same return. The vast majority of tax revenues go to support Lakewood Ranch development and infrastructure.

"When the county considers giving us the same proportion of return as we pay in ad valorem taxes, then I'll consider supporting the increase," he said.

Woodland suggested the commission pass its own resolution against the county resolution.

In the end, the county's request died for lack of a motion from any of the five commissioners.


Trailer ordinance

A suggestion to have City Planner Alan Garrett look into an ordinance regulating the storage of trailers on private property was defeated by a 3-2 vote.

Miller said the city needs to control the front-yard storage of trailers, including RVs and boat and travel trailers and personal on demand storage units called PODS.

Both he and Quam said they'd received calls complaining about the long-term storage use of trailers such as PODS, but Building Official Kevin Donohue said no code enforcement complaint has been filed. He noted that the current code does not regulate trailers on private property unless they are in the right of way or used as living quarters.

There's no language in the code prohibiting a storage trailer on private property, he said.

Miller said he didn't think the ordinance covered PODS, but could not gain a majority of commissioners to proceed with an ordinance.


City committees/boards

SueLynn said planning and zoning board chairman Chris Collins has resigned for health reasons and vice chairman Doug Copeland will assume the chairmanship. She also said she'll ask the commission in the near future to reduce the P&Z board size from seven to five members and request that the city use an outside magistrate for administrative hearings.

Additionally, the mayor said there are two openings on the environmental education and enhancement committee and she's looking for volunteers.