ST. PETE BEACH – Code violators in St. Pete Beach will soon be receiving a greeting from a Pinellas County Sheriff’s deputy instead of a city code enforcement officer.
City Manager Mike Bonfield said Oct. 8 that the city is eliminating its code enforcement position and will be contracting the service to the sheriff’s office.
Additionally, homeowners found in violation by a special magistrate will not receive a fine or lien on the property. The city will now abate the issue and place the amount owed on the homeowner’s tax bill.
“What you’re putting on there is whatever it costs to mow that yard or secure that pool,” said Bonfield. “You don’t have the ability to fine people and assess them that. You go through (a special magistrate).”
He said the new system will have many advantages. Among them will be the ability to do more code enforcement work on nights and weekends.
“We have always had code enforcement as a big priority in the city,” said Bonfield. “We’ve always looked for ways to do things a little better, a little more effective. In many ways, it will be like having two community police officers. It’s just that one of them will be focusing on code enforcement.”
He said similar programs in Madeira Beach and Dunedin have been working out well.
“The sheriff has been providing code enforcement in Madeira Beach for almost a year now and they’re very pleased,” said Bonfield. “They’ll specifically look for an officer that has a background in code enforcement. So we’ll be working on that over the next two or three months. At the same time, we’re working with the city
attorney and the attorneys for Madeira Beach and Dunedin to look at bringing forth a program that we will use assessments for code enforcement fines versus liens. With assessment, you put that on the tax bill versus a lien, which we had problems with. In theory, it will make it easier for us to collect.”
City Attorney Mike Davis said he and Bonfield discussed the success of the Madeira Beach program with Madeira Beach City Attorney Thomas Trask, who reported good results.
“(Trask) said the keys for their success were two-fold – one for using the sheriff’s office to do the enforcement and secondly, having this program,” said Davis, “because people pay you before it even gets on the tax roll.”
Commissioners Jim Parent and Melinda Pletcher endorsed the idea.
“It’s a great solution for the neighborhoods because it actually does something,” said Parent.
“I like the idea because I think with the sheriff there’s going to be a lot of folks that aren’t going to want that on their door,” Pletcher said.
In other action, commissioners:
• Selected Mayor Steve McFarlin as the city’s nominee to represent the beaches on the new, combined Metropolitan Planning Organization/Pinellas Planning Council. McFarlin’s name will be presented to the Barrier Islands Governmental Council for consideration, along with nominees from other beach communities. The merged MPO/PPC will make recommendations on transportation and land use issues in Pinellas.
• Approved 14-hour street closures on 15th and 16th avenues for the 83rd annual Fish Broil Oct. 19 in Pass-A-Grille.
• Approved a street closure on 16th Avenue for the second annual Cupcake 5K race on March 22, 2014.
• Approved an agreement with Risk Management of Florida for renewal of the city’s insurance policies during fiscal 2014. The city’s premium for property, liability, workers compensation and boiler/machinery coverage is $478,036.
• Authorized $11,881 for the city’s annual software maintenance contract with Tyler Technologies for financial accounting software.
• Passed ordinances adopting minor changes to the city’s firefighters, general employee and police officer retirement systems to comply with Internal Revenue Service code.