Picks Hosafros to Negotiate Manager Contract
At their meeting Monday afternoon, the Town Council of Fort Myers Beach spent the bulk of its time hearing an appeal on stormwater utility fees for a south end condo that was eventually tabled.
George Repetti, representing Islands End Condos on a Stormwater Fee Appeal, presented a detailed report on the drainage of the Islands End property. Challenging the stormwater fee earlier this year resulted in a review of the property by Tetra Tech and an approximately 29% fee reduction to a $3.23/unit/month charge. Islands End had requested an approximately 80% reduction, according to Repetti.
Danny Nelson, P.E. of Tetra Tech provided a history of the storm water ordinance and how fees were determined and said a credit policy will be brought back to the council. He concluded that Tetra Tech does not have any basis for recommending a further credit for Island’s End.
Council discussed the ordinance, which is up for review, and the requirements of appeal before concluding that the appeal should be tabled to allow Interim Manager Jim Steele to review the ordinance and what is required of someone wishing to challenge their fee.
During Public Comment, Frank Heron asked council to stop all fees for storm water and stop the stormwater project entirely until after Estero Blvd is complete. He said the water he gets in his yard is from Estero Blvd and much of the island does not need stormwater improvements.
Jim Stevens told the two newest council members that they should understand that 60% of voters didn’t vote for them. “Seven people ran. We want the majority to speak up and be heard on that.” Stevens also commented that he’s never seen a family in Crescent Beach Family Park and added that the park should be used to enhance the Times Square project. He encouraged council to argue less and accomplish more.
In other business, Council approved Rae Blake, Fort Myers Beach Environmental Coordinator as the Town’s representative to the Lee County Restore Act Advisory Committee. The committee advises the County on the utilization of $5.2 million from a settlement with BP related to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill of more than 200 million gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.
Senior Planner Megan Will requested council approval of a setback for 57 Flamingo St. Due to its corner location and lot size, setbacks as required by the LDC are problematic for existing structures. The owner plans to tear down the existing structure and essentially rebuild a similar size property on the location. Council approved 4-0. Vice Mayor Summer Stockton was absent. Later in the meeting, Council member Rexann Hosafros asked that Steele direct Community Development that they do not need to continue to bring administrative approvals for corner lots to the council.
Mound House Museum Director Alison Giesen asked council for permission to apply for a Tourist Development Council Arts and Attractions Grant for Mound House and Newton House. She told council that the grant could be used to market the properties. Council member Anita Cereceda mentioned that a cohesive application with multiple beach entities working together might assist in obtaining funding. Hosafros added that after the morning workshop meeting, she learned that Friends of the Arts had applied for this grant in the past and been turned down for unknown reasons. The grant cycle closes on June 27, 2016.
The Florida League of Cities (FLC) will hold their 90th annual FLC conference in August and has asked that each municipality designate a voting delegate. Mayor Dennis Boback said that he would not be attending the meeting. Council member Anita Cereceda said she was planning to attend and will represent the Town.
Added to the agenda by Cereceda was the Interim Manager Contract Negotiation. At last Friday’s meeting, Mayor Boback had volunteered to work with the Town Attorney and Interim Manager Steele to negotiate a contract for Steele. She asked that the council representative for contract negotiation be reconsidered.
Cereceda explained that she wanted to revisit this for the benefit of both Mayor Boback and Interim Manager Steele.
“After our Friday meeting, I have had many, many calls about a pre-disposed affection for Mr. Steele by the mayor. I just think there should another council member negotiating the contract.”
Boback didn’t object, but stated he didn’t understand the reason.
“I just figured that when we terminated Mr. Stilwell, to not have anyone in place would be irresponsible. I just looked for the best person who would be available. All I did was just bring his name to the council.”
Cereceda added, “At some point in the (Friday) meeting, you did say, ‘I’ve been speaking to him.’ I just recommend we choose another person for the contract.”
Hosafros indicated that she had also had many questions voiced to her about the issue, but Gore said she didn’t mind if Boback handled the contract.
Council voted to reconsider and then voted 4-0 again to choose Hosafros to negotiate the contract with Steele.
Town Manager Jim Steele thanked council for appointing him as Interim Manager, noting, “We have a lot of work to do. I’ll do my best.”
Steele also told council that he is already working on a communication protocol for communication between council members and staff to make sure that questions and requests are answered appropriately.
During Agenda Management, Gore said Fire Commissioner Bob Raymond had approached her asking about using Town Council chambers for meetings. She said that Raymond provided her with information showing that the Fire District waived $34,000 in fees for the Town and asked if council was interested in a discussion on the Fire District using chambers.
Cereceda said that the council had already had this discussion and decided that they didn’t want to get into a reciprocal waiving of fees with other tax districts. If the town owes the district a fee, they’ll pay it and vice-versa she said.
Tom Torgerson’s offer of Coastal Protection System plans to the Town was brought up by Hosafros, who asked that it be put on the June 20th meeting agenda so council could vote on it.
During Council member items, Boback said he wanted to make it clear after Mr. Stevens’ comments and others who have written letters to the paper that the town did not stop Mr. Torgerson.
“Mr. Torgerson never submitted a plan and until he does, we have no control over what he does. There’s been no effort on council’s part to stop his plan because he’s never submitted any. In my opinion, he should have come to the folks who make the decision.”
Hosafros interjected that Mr. Torgerson did in fact meet with each council member prior to the election and sought their input.
Boback replied, “But not in public.”
Town Council will meet Monday, June 13, 2016 at 10am for a budget session. Their last meetings before the July break will be a Work Session on June 20, 2016 at 2pm and a Council Meeting at 6:30pm the same day.