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Date of Issue: September 30, 2009

Anna Maria to prepare position on offshore drilling

Anna Maria Mayor Fran Barford told city commissioners at their Sept. 24 meeting that the Florida Legislature will soon consider allowing offshore drilling and wants input from Florida cities.

As a member of the ManaSota League of Cities, Barford is charged with presenting city positions to the MLC, and meeting with area legislators to share the MLC position with municipal members.

Barford asked each commissioner to study an information packet on the proposed legislation and be prepared to offer comments and an opinion at a future commission meeting.

“We have to establish and present our priorities,” she said.

City pier money

Barford also told commissioners that funds to improve the Anna Maria City Pier could be forthcoming from Manatee County if county commissioners elect not to rebuild the Manatee Pier at Manatee Public Beach.

The estimated $1 million the county has for Manatee Pier pier construction could be reallocated, possibly to the Anna Maria pier.

She said engineers are currently compiling a structural report on the city pier and that would be forwarded to the county commission as soon as it’s presented to the city.

While the county would have the final approval to use its funds for city pier improvements, Barford noted that the city pier is the No. 1 attraction for visitors to the area and is in need of improvement.

Long-serving staff

The mayor recognized city clerk Alice Baird and public staff member Gary Thorpe for their just-completed nine years of service to the city. Both were hired the same week in 2000.

Stormwater drainage

Commissioners authorized the mayor to sign a $299,000 contract with Woodruff and Sons for Phase 2 of the master stormwater drainage plan.

The amount is $97,800 less than what Woodruff bid, and city engineer Tom Wilcox explained that the city will use that difference to make direct purchases of much of the equipment and supplies that will be used by Woodruff.

“The city will save about $16,500 by direct purchase,” he predicted.

Wilcox said Woodruff & Sons is one of the biggest drainage contractors in the area and normally doesn’t take a job this small.

“But times are tough, and they have another job in the area at the same time,” he said.

Construction should begin around Nov. 1, although surveyors will be in the city during October, Wilcox said.

Resident Jim Conoly asked that there be substantial oversight of the project, considering some of the flaws in Phase 1 and pre-Phase 1 construction.

Wilcox said the city control group for the project, composed of himself, city treasurer Diane Percycoe, public works director George McKay and the mayor, will meet regularly to oversee the project.

The commission also approved a one-year extension of its contract with the engineering firm of HDR of Sarasota. Wilcox is an engineer with HDR.

However, Barford said she will send a letter to area engineering firms during the coming year to determine if there is any interest on their part in bidding for the city’s engineering needs.

Boat slips

An amendment allowing boat slips unaccompanied by a single-family residence to hookup to water and electricity services was unanimously passed by the commission.

The ordinance affected several boat docks near the Anna Maria Island Community Center that were platted more than 50 years ago, before the city passed an ordinance requiring a house to accompany a boat dock.

In the same ordinance, commissioners moved the distance of mooring pilings for a dock from no more than 20 feet from the seawall to 35 feet, but kept the requirement that the pilings must still be 20 feet from the water’s centerline.

Commissioners agreed with architect Laura Gee, who represented two clients on Pine Avenue, that getting boats out of the water better serves the environment than having them remain in the water to leak fuel, waste, garbage and sewage.

Flood protection

Building official Bob Welch presented several amendments to the flood protection ordinance that bring the city into compliance with Federal Emergency Management Agency regulations.

The amendments establish several definitions, codify the policy on outside toilet facilities, require a demolition plan be submitted to the city when part of a structure is being torn down, and require that demolition be a maximum of 50 percent of the structure.

The revisions passed unanimously.

Cell towers

Concerned that technology has passed the city’s 2003 ordinance establishing procedures for companies to construct wireless communications facilities (cell towers) in the city, commissioners agreed to have city attorney Jim Dye spend five hours updating the ordinance.

Commissioner Chuck Webb, an attorney who was on the city commission when the 2003 ordinance was adopted, argued successfully that the word “should” in the ordinance be changed to “shall.”

“This makes something mandatory,” he said, while “shall” is not a requirement.

A cell tower company could apply to the city to construct a facility and ignore all the “should” portions of the ordinance and master wireless services plan, Webb said.

Dye agreed, noting that wireless expert Ted Kreines, who wrote the city’s master plan for wireless communications, has the ordinance favoring construction of smaller cell tower systems, such as the direct antenna system (DAS), rather than the large towers such as in Holmes Beach. The small antenna systems is what the city wants, he indicated.

Commissioners agreed to retain Kreines if Dye runs into issues that can’t be resolved without consultation.

Dye reminded the commission that in the six years since the ordinance and master plan were adopted, no company has made a formal application.

Several companies have made presentations to the Coalition of Barrier Island Elected Officials, but none have followed through with an application.

The most recent presentation was in July by a company advocating the DAS service.

Future meetings

Commissioners moved the November regular meeting to Nov. 19 to avoid a conflict with Thanksgiving, and the December meeting to Dec. 17 to remove any problems with the Christmas Eve holiday.

The city’s Christmas party for volunteer workers and helpers in the city will be Dec. 16.