HOLMES BEACH – Commissioners last week discussed and implemented a number of changes to commission processes and operations that were suggested by Chair Jean Peelen.
The first was to hold weekly work sessions every Thursday until the backlog of issues has been resolved. In the first work session on Nov. 29, commissioners will discuss applicants for the position of public works superintendent/building official. At the second work session on Dec. 6, commissioners will discuss imposing a building moratorium. Both are at 7 p.m.
Commissioners Judy Titsworth and Marvin Grossman agreed on extra work sessions, but Commissioner David Zaccagnino disagreed.
“It’s a slippery slope,” Zaccagnino said. “It will wreak havoc on our budget. A lot of issues we talk about, we have to have the attorney present.
“We may have to have the city planner and department heads, there will be advertising expenses. I’m willing to try it, but it could run up a huge attorney bill.”
Commissioner Pat Morton said they could do it on a short-term basis until the major issues have been resolved, and Mayor Carmel Monti said the attorney does not need to be present for every work session.
They agreed to add work sessions every Thursday at 7 p.m. and continue with their regular schedule of meetings every second and fourth Tuesday at 7 p.m.
Audio and videotaping
Peelen said she wanted to explore the possibility of having audio and videotape of the meetings on the city’s website and said someone is taping the current meeting as a trial.
City Clerk Stacy Johnston said the city has BIS digital software, which is capable of streaming meetings online, and she got a quote from BIS for $5,000 to $6,000 to get it started.
Monti asked about putting meetings on YouTube, and Johnston said there could be an issue with the Government in the Sunshine law.
City Attorney Steve Dye pointed out, “If you do it yourself, you have to do it correctly.”
Monti said he would work with Johnston to get options and costs to bring back to commissioners.
Grossman said the current taping would appear on YouTube, and Johnston advised officials not to respond to anything on YouTube.
Commissioners agreed that each one would spend two hours a day between 10 a.m. and noon in city hall for citizens to visit. They agreed on the following days: Titsworth, Monday; Zaccagnino, Tuesday; Morton, Wednesday; Peelen, Tuesday and Grossman, Friday.
Commissioners also agreed to:
• Dispense with the swearing in of citizens who want to speak at meetings and work sessions;
• Advertise for board positions on the city’s website and have the clerk issue a press release;
• Offer coffee prior to a meeting once a month as a trial;
• Encourage citizens to develop neighborhood groups;
• Create guidelines for groups to make presentations to the board.
Changes in operations
Operations was another area where commissioners differed from their predecessors.
They agreed that commissioners could contact the city attorney any time for answers to questions. Periodically, the policy will be reviewed to see if it is too costly. Previously, they needed the mayor’s approval to call the attorney.
“I’m all for the open communication with the attorney, but you should apprise me if you want to call her, so we can keep the bills down and have a little dialogue,” Monti said.
“Maybe there’s an awareness on my part (about what you want to talk to the attorney about). I think its common courtesy that goes both ways to try to communicate.”
Peelen agreed, but noted, “Sometimes you don’t want to hear things second or third hand, if it’s an issue of particular importance to you.”
Monti emphasized that commissioners should “try to get the answer within first.”
The practice of rewarding employees with gift certificates from local businesses begun by previous Mayor Rich Bohnenberger was scrapped.
Peelen said the practice should stop because “It gives the appearance of impropriety.”
Monti agreed and said rewards should be tied to performance. He suggested they develop an incentive program for employees.
Commissioners also will require department heads to attend commission meetings, so they can be available for comment on issues the commission is discussing.
After the long session, Peelen told the board and audience, “This is the most exciting thing that’s ever happened to me in my life – to be able to be the head of this commission.
“People are very strong in their beliefs, and now it’s time to come together and all talk to together. I’m delighted to be here in this time in history and I thank you all.”