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Date of Issue: March 17, 2005

Commission delay causes withdrawal of grant writing offer

An offer by grant writer Angela Brewer of Bradenton to the Anna Maria City Commission to write a grant proposal to fund a variety of city stormwater-drainage- improvement projects for a federally funded program has been withdrawn, just about 12 hours after it was offered to the city.

Brewer said she has been a grant writer for 33 years and runs a grant-writing service that, according to her, has brought in more than $4.2 billion in grant funding to local municipalities.

She told commissioners at their April 22 meeting that several city drainage projects would be "ideal candidates" for the program, but the deadline for application is May 31. Brewer said she and Baskerville Donovan Inc., the city's engineering firm, could write the grant for no more than $10,000, including the necessary engineering input from BDI.

Mayor SueLynn said the money was available from the public works department contingency fund of $17,000 and would only involve a line-item transfer if commissioners approved. Even Public Works Director George McKay believed hiring Brewer was a good idea.

But Commissioner Dale Woodland said there was "no way" he would ever vote to spend city money the first time he's seen a funding proposal and suggested a special meeting Monday, April 26, to discuss the issue.

While Commissioners John Quam and Duke Miller were in favor of the offer, Commissioners Linda Cramer and Carol Ann Magill were absent from the discussion and the city charter requires at least three commissioners to approve a measure. That put the issue to the special meeting.

"This is a chance to save tens of thousands of dollars," noted Miller.

But on Friday, April 23, just about 12 hours after the commission meeting ended, Mayor SueLynn said she was informed that Tom Wilcox of BDI said Brewer "had withdrawn her offer.

Apparently, said the mayor, Brewer "perceived" that there wasn't enough commission support for the project.

"Frankly, I'm surprised she didn't wait until the special meeting for the commission to make it happen," SueLynn said. She thought all the commissioners would support the proposal, once it was discussed and no reserve funds were needed.

Re-publication of city codes
Woodland also argued against voting to spend $8,800 in a line-item transfer from the maintenance budget to codify 27 ordinances and 300 pages of city codes until he's had a chance to review the proposal.

"You are not going to see me spending the city's money the first time I see something," he said. "I need time to think and get public input."

The proposal from the Municipal Code Corp. of Tallahassee calls for five new code books, plus an update of the online version of the city codes, along with compact disc versions that staff can use to easily copy and review appropriate sections.

While commissioners agreed with Building Official Kevin Donohue that the city codes need updating and codification, the issue was placed on the May worksession agenda.

Parking fine reduction
Mayor SueLynn asked commissioners to consider reducing the $30 fine for parking with tires on the pavement or facing the wrong direction.

City staff have faced a number of hostile offenders, said the mayor, and most, if not all, are just upset about the amount.

"The bad publicity generated [by the fine] is not equal to the punishment," said the mayor. The fine used to be $15, but was doubled by the city commission several years ago. SueLynn pointed out she was only asking for a fine reduction on those two offenses, not all offenses in the parking ordinance.

But Miller said the city should just post a sign at the city limit on Gulf Drive warning motorists about the offenses and the subsequent fine.

Woodland, however, thought the $30 fine might be excessive and agreed with the mayor.

Quam asked SueLynn to find out how much it would cost the city to amend the ordinance just for those two items. She'll report back at the May 13 commission workshop.

City hall renovation
With Cramer absent, commissioners gave short shrift to her proposal that the commission direct the mayor to obtain a full structural inspection of city hall, along with an official estimate for a new roof and windows (The Islander, April 21).

SueLynn did present a "free" estimate from Bringman Roofing Company that a new roof would cost approximately $22,800, and commissioners agreed that should be addressed in the next budget.

The consensus was to spend no more money on structural evaluations this year.

The mayor did report that she was waiting on estimates from Southern Cross Construction on the cost for asbestos and mold removal that would be beyond the scope and contract of $151,000 for city hall renovations.

There was also good news from the Island Baptist Church. Church officials have offered the entire second floor of its classroom study building to Anna Maria as a temporary city hall for $1,700 per month while city hall is being remodeled.

With a four-month estimate for renovations, SueLynn said that offer would save the city just under $10,000 as opposed to renting a double-wide trailer for about $16,000. Additionally, the church is already wired for computers. The city would have to pay around $2,500 to wire the rented trailer for electricity and computer hookups.

County fireworks ordinance
The commission had the first reading of adopting the Manatee County fireworks ordinance that would prohibit the roadside sale of fireworks in Anna Maria.

But Magill wondered why the city should pass the ordinance if it's going to cost the city extra money for enforcement, and the city is going to arrest families for setting off fireworks on July 4. That's an Island tradition, she said.

"That's not the purpose of the ordinance," replied Quam. "The ordinance is to halt roadside sales."

It's already illegal by state statute to set off fireworks without a permit, said Sgt. John Kenney, the deputy in charge of Anna Maria's substation of the Manatee County Sheriff's Office.

"We'll use our discretion, but it would be impossible to enforce on July 4. We would need 200 officers."

The second reading and public hearing of the ordinance will be on May 27.

SueLynn proposed to document locations of traffic signs on the city's streets not in the beach access zone using volunteers, rather than paying BDI for the information. The documentation is needed for a new parking ordinance, according to City Attorney Jim Dye.

The commission agreed with the mayor and Miller and Quam both volunteered to assist.

SueLynn also suggested that commissioners look around the city for traffic signs they would like to eliminate or move.

Chilson Avenue drainage
Commissioners agreed to give this item "high priority" in the next budget, but 85-year-old Chilson Avenue resident Margaret Jenkins said she's been waiting a long time for Chilson Avenue to be fixed and "it keeps getting put off. I hope to see it before I die."

Jenkins and her family have lived in Anna Maria since the 1950s.