Draft consolidation referendum heads to Island city commissions
|Do we or don't we?
Anna Maria Mayor SueLynn explains the language in the draft referendum on proceeding with Island consolidation at the July 20 Coalition of Barrier Island Elected Officials meeting. Islander Photo: Rick Catlin
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To be or not to be, that is the question.
Or, as the Coalition of Barrier Island Elected Officials said at its July 20 meeting, to go forward with consolidation or not, that is the question.
Anna Maria Mayor SueLynn presented draft referendum language on consolidation to the BIEO that she and the other two Island mayors prepared that only asks Island voters if they want the three Island governments to examine the possibilities of consolidation.
"Should the (city of) continue the process to explore the feasibility of the consolidation of the three Anna Maria Island cities?" reads the draft.
SueLynn said she along with Holmes Beach Mayor Carol Whitmore and Bradenton Beach Mayor John Chappie are under no illusions that each respective city commission will not automatically agree with the exact language, but at least it's a starting point.
The mayors agreed there was no point in talking about consolidation issues at this point. That will come if the referendum passes, SueLynn observed.
The issue now is simply whether or not Island voters want the three cities to "explore" the process. If any commission decides to opt out of the proposed non-binding referendum, or if the referendum fails to pass in any one city, the deal is off and consolidation becomes a dead issue.
But time is of the essence.
The draft language has to be approved by all three cities and reach the Manatee County Supervisor of Elections Office by Sept. 19 for inclusion on the November ballot.
"Our concern is we only have 60 days and we really need to stay on top of this," SueLynn said.
Voters have to understand that if the November vote is to go forward, the three cities will have to hire an outside consultant, conduct studies on specific issues, and have the three city attorneys prepare a proposed draft charter.
"So, it will cost some money, but our proposal is that we only ask the voters if they want us to go forward and explore the possibilities," she said.
This is not a vote on a consolidation, the mayor emphasized, just a vote on whether or not the cities should "spend the time and money" to determine if consolidation is feasible.
She envisioned a one-to-two-year process to prepare all the documents before any final vote on consolidation might take place.
Chappie said he would take the draft to his city commission and "see what they say."
Likewise, the draft will be on the next agenda for the Holmes Beach city commission meeting said Chairperson Sandy Haas-Martens. SueLynn said the Anna Maria commission would take up the proposal at its July 28 meeting.
Holmes Beach City Commissioner Don Maloney presented draft referendum language that he and a group of private citizens had prepared that was "essentially the same" as that of the mayors, SueLynn said.
Maloney, who has been in favor of consolidation for the past 10 years, said his desire in meeting with the group and preparing the draft was only to help the process.
In other business, Longboat Key Town Commissioner Jeremy Whatmough said the U.S. Coast Guard has agreed to put a notice of change to the current bridge opening times of the Anna Maria Island Bridge and the Cortez Bridge into the federal registry on Aug. 1. Citizens then have 90 days to file objections to the new opening times. If not, the Coast Guard could change the opening times from the current 20 minute intervals to every 30 minutes on Nov. 1.
But be advised, Whatmough warned. "They're not promising anything," he said.