Many of you have asked how things are going at city hall. Here is a list of what we have put in place or accomplished since November of last year.
Building and Public Works departments
We hired a new head of building and public works, Mr. Tom O’Brien. O’Brien brings to the building and public works area years of experience in the local area with positions of managing departments at Manatee County, being a magistrate, as well as a lifelong career as an architect. Our previous department head resigned and the building inspector had been fired shortly before I took office. We have tightened up the building codes and added ordinances to foster the type of buildings that will fit more into the character of the Island impacting what we heard from many of the constituents who were concerned about the Island losing its old Florida character. To affect these changes we instituted a moratorium with a maximum six-month time frame. It was finished approximately two months early.
We also have made major improvements in the uniform handling of construction by eliminating exceptions and loose interpretation of the codes, making a level playing field for all contractors. Susan Lonzo, Susan Corsi, and David Greene have been working very well as a team with O’Brien rounding out a very strong building department. Robin Kinkopf has recently been added to the team to help with both building issues and code enforcement.
Public works is now meeting on a regular basis and has a formal checklist of projects and responsibilities being overseen by O”Brien. Gary Blunden and his public works team continue doing an excellent job in the public works area.
Administration We have process flowed all departments to analyze how paper flows through the operation and what can be done to improve each department’s efficiency. This work continues to go on, and we expect to have many improvements in all areas of city hall as we go forward.
We revitalized an FDOT grant from 2008 that was scheduled to expire in July 2013. FDOT contacted us soon after I took office to alert us the potential loss of this grant, and we responded immediately to finalize an agreement with them over a few meetings. The value of the grant is just over $500,000. We also contracted with Mary Buonagura as our human resources manager to help with the job descriptions, reviews, process flow, grant writing and a variety of other needs that we have to make city hall run more smoothly.
Stacey Johnston and Lori Kee continue to do an excellent job at their roles and are working well with Buonagura on continuous improvement in all administrative areas. Under Buonagura’s direction, we have revised job descriptions for all employees. Some had no descriptions some were in need of updating.
We are rewriting the employee handbook to add important state and federal updates. We have reinstated grievance procedures and also established employee recognition programs. We instituted a written annual review process for all employees. Our first review will be toward the end of the fiscal year or end of this calendar year.
We have a new updated policy manual in the works for all employees.
Financial We are under budget for all departments year to date even with the legal predicament that we inherited with regard to city problems in the building department i.e. Mainsail, 27th. St. lawsuit and other unexpected issues with which we had to deal.
We instituted a monthly profit and loss review with all department heads so as to know how they are doing in their respective areas of responsibility budget wise. According to many department heads, they had never reviewed the budget in their respective areas for the past 15 to 20 years. Lori Hill, treasurer, is working well with all the department heads to review the budgets with them monthly as well as working toward putting our new fiscal budget together for next year.
Police and Code Enforcement
We recently hired a new Police Chief William Tokajer. Tokajer comes with many years of experience as a manager, self-starter and leader. I think in the very short time we have had him in office, we have already seen the fruits of his efforts. Tokajer has promoted from within two sergeants to better cover our day and night shift schedules with regard to supervision. He has changed the hours or shifts to 12 hours for better coverage as well.
Our code enforcement officer, David Forbes, was to report to the police department under Tokajer, but will be leaving us to take care of some family issues in Ohio. He will be on a leave of absence for approximately three months, and his position will be filled with a contract employee due to the needs of the department. This position has a dotted line responsibility to the building department and works closely with O’Brien and Greene when the code issues deal with building.
Other We ended the legal dispute regarding 27th. Street with our sister city, Bradenton Beach, and the Sandpiper.
Our next six months
We will be finalizing our overall vision for the city. We will be focusing on what we call city center. One of the visions for the city is to make the downtown area a more pedestrian and bike friendly area with a better traffic flow that lends itself to being safer and easier for our visitors and locals to shop our retails outlets, restaurants and other facilities. We will coordinate our efforts with local businesses, the Chamber and our citizens.
We have already started by adding more crosswalks, pedestrian signage and making the town safer and more pedestrian and bike friendly. In tandem with the city center effort, we will be working on some beautification and branding efforts for the city to coincide with our vision.
We will pursue conversations and ideas with our two sister cities to try to find more ways to work together. Ideas like signage and branding of the Island together ways to deal with the congestion. We will evaluate more sustainable methods of using electricity, and power in our city hall and other ancillary buildings i.e. solar, LED lightning.
We will try to devise ways of getting more people to the Island to visit without their cars that carry so many of our tourists here, i.e. boat taxi, better and more use of the trolley, thereby dealing with our congestion problems. We will investigate ways to get people to move to the Island instead off the Island, as the trend has been for the past 10 years. This also means efforts to try to get some companies that could generate jobs without being tied to tourism locating here in paradise.
We will make more efforts to work with various non-profits to help generate funds for them via community activities in our common areas, such as the park next to city hall.