New Look Council Implements Changes

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    The Town of Fort Myers Beach Council said ‘Goodbye’ to one member, ‘Hello’ to another, celebrated with cake, elected a new Vice Mayor and made substantial changes to its future meeting dates, before wrapping up its session in a spiffy 3 hours and 1 minute.

    Mayor Dennis Boback started by saying, “We begin on a sad note, saying goodbye and thank you to Rexann Hosafros,” as the outgoing Vice Mayor did not seek reelection on March 7. “It was wonderful to serve the Town,” Rexann said, “and wonderful to work with such an outstanding group of employees as those who work for this Town.” Immediately after that, the Honorable Judge James R. Adams swore in new Council member Bruce Butcher; Anita Cereceda to her reelected seat and then Joanne Shamp, appointed last December, to her first elected term. Following this, Council celebrated its outgoing and incoming members with cake in the lobby.

    New Town Councilmember Bruce Butcher, sworn in by the Honorable James R. Adams.

    Upon reconvening, Council elected the Town’s Mayor and Vice Mayor. Butcher nominated Cereceda for Mayor, while Council member Tracey Gore nominated Boback to serve another term, with Boback winning 4 to 1 with Cereceda against. Following this, Cereceda nominated Butcher for Vice Mayor, while Boback put forward Gore, who won 3 to 2 with their votes and Shamp’s, making her the Town’s third Vice Mayor in the last 100 days.

    Park It!

    Council then turned to the Second & Final Public Hearing for the Surplus Parking Amendment for businesses that have in excess of 10 spaces, to rent these out for public parking unrelated to their primary use.

    Shamp noted the Local Planning Agency recommended Council approve surplus parking without a property survey, and wondered how Town staff would know relevant information without that document. Gore noted some businesses “park on residential sidestreets and we need to protect our residential areas, and I am not sure this does that. If you have 10 spaces and only need 8 for your business, we are creating a lot of problems just to take two cars off the road. If we allow this, there must be a survey to ensure you have enough spots and will stay away from residential neighborhoods.”

    Butcher said, “We already can use surplus parking, as it is in the Comp Plan. This is sort of odd because we have requirements for restaurants and hotels and businesses to have required parking spaces, but now you could rent them all as a result of this action, so there is a disconnect between the two policies.” Mayor Boback stated, “It seems like we are telling people what to do with their own property. I don’t understand what we are trying to accomplish other than registering people.”

    Anita Cereceda, Town Council member
    Town Council member Anita Cereceda, sworn in to a new term.

    Cereceda felt that “every car on the road looking for parking is an inconvenience to someone who lives on the island and to our visitors who we value. At a minimum, we should try this but make the mechanism a sunset provision that we can reexamine in a year or two to see if it is working.” Shamp said, “This policy must comply with the Sign Ordinance for consistency, and this is the perfect time as we have a new Estero Boulevard. Council must mitigate parking with consistent signage so people know what they are looking for. When you go to Disney World, you know long before when you get to your lot where you will park, so we have to look at the big picture and take the lead.” Butcher added that many cities with similar parking issues solve their problems now by using an app.

    Mayor Boback suggested that surplus parking businesses “purchase their signs from the Town for consistency,” with Gore insisting on a survey, “as staff needs to know the square footage and number of spaces.” Following this, Council unanimously tabled this until its April 3 meeting.

    No Evening Meetings

    The Honorable James R. Adams swearing in Town Councilmember Joanne Shamp.

    Under Agenda Management, Cereceda suggested Council meet in a planning session once a month, rather than having Workshops proceed Council meetings, as the current system produces long days that “does a disservice to those on the agenda, as by the time you get around to them, everyone is exhausted. I recommend we have two regular meetings a month, and a planning session once a month.” Shamp stated that “there are so many big things going on, and we are rebuilding this town pretty dramatically right now, and we need to be proactive to get ahead, so I support this.” Mayor Boback added that “it’s worth a try,” with Gore saying, “I love the idea!”

    As the discussion continued, Council ended its evening sessions, usually held on the third Monday of each month, with all meetings effective Monday, April 3, starting at 9 a.m., with the first planning session on Thursday, April 6, at 9 a.m.

    In his report, Interim Town Manager James Steele said that Council rated the 77 Town Manager candidates that produced a relatively-clear top ten list, and suggested Council conduct speaker-telephone interviews the week of April 3 to reduce that to the final 3 or 4 applicants to meet in person, with a new Town Manager in place by May 1. He asked that council members not submit their interview questions prior to that, as those immediately become public records that candidates can request in advance, nor should that session be televised live so they cannot watch it to hear their competitors.

    Cereceda suggested that viable candidates be on the short list of at least three councilmembers, as that immediately reduces the list to five people, but Gore felt that was too small, because “I don’t know how some of these candidates got on this list,” with Cereceda stating, “I could not agree with you more, Tracey.” Mayor Boback suggested the Town conduct telephone interviews “with no more than 3 or 4 at the most,” with Shamp saying they “should not speak with any below the top ten.”

    Manager Candidates

    Mayor Boback thought Council should “ask the same questions of everyone,” with Gore countering that “I have specific questions for some people.” The Mayor felt each Councilmember could “ask one specific question of each candidate.” Upon reviewing schedules, Council will conduct the telephone interviews with the top ten candidates on Wednesday, April 5, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

    In other matters, Council reorganized its liaison representatives to the Town Advisory Committees, with Cereceda on the Anchorage Advisory Committee and the Cultural and Environmental Learning Center Advisory Board; Shamp on the Community Resources Advisory Board and Marine Resources Task Force; Butcher on the Audit Committee and the newly-reactivated Public Safety Committee; and Gore on the Bay Oaks Recreational Campus Advisory Board.

    On Council Representation of Outside Committees, Rae Blake, the Environmental and Stormwater Technician, is on the Charlotte Harbor Natural Estuary Program Policy Committee and the Coastal Advisory Committee; Gore on the Beach Elementary School Youth Council and Metropolitan Planning Organization; Mayor Boback on the Horizon Council; and Butcher on the Southwest Florida Regional Planning Council.

    Town Council unanimously approved the Marine Resources Task Force to undertake dune vegetation planting at Newton Park; to purchase a new $55,900 Bay Oaks Pool geothermal heater; and to move the topic of Homestead Exemptions per the recently passed State Amendment 5 to the April 3 meeting for the first of two public hearings; with Council adjourning at 9:31 p.m.

     

    Gary Mooney