REDINGTON BEACH – Discussions and presentations aside, the town of Redington Beach appears unready to sever its 15-year relationship with the Pinellas County Building Department as evidenced by the Town Commission’s 3-2 vote on Oct. 16.
Mayor Nick Simons and Commissioner Fred Steiermann cast the dissenting votes.
The town has maintained an interlocal agreement with the PCBD since 1998, which, in conjunction with the town’s own building official, provides Redington Beach with the issuance of building permits, enforcement of the town’s zoning codes, ordinances and ensures compliance with the State and Federal pollution controls. The contract provides for a 45-day notification of cancellation.
However, according to Mayor Nick Simons from his point of view as well as other city officials, the relationship with the county building department over the last six months or so has been that of “frustration” with the level of service being provided. As he explained, “It’s been building to a point to where the responsibilities were being deflected onto the Redington Beach staff … nobody checked with us to see how things were going.”
Also present at the meeting was Glenn Wardell of the Pinellas County Building and Development Review Services who told the commission he had not been made aware of any problems between the town and county.
“This whole situation caught me very much by surprise. I want to apologize. We are in the process of making some changes on our end,” he said, adding he was now in the position of having to perform “damage control.”
Toward that end, it was acknowledged a recent personnel change has been made within the PCBD with a goal toward improving services.
In view of these ongoing issues, the commission had convened a workshop in September to probe the option of hiring a private firm to handle the day-to-day running of the department.
Among the firms invited to attend the workshop and present a proposal was M.T. Causley, Inc., a private building and government department service agency based in Homestead.
Causley representative, John Travers, came before the board on Oct. 16 to again present his company’s proposal, based on information gleaned at the workshop, that would provide the town with a building official accessible to residents five days a week during regular business hours, run the department on a day to day basis and keep digitalized records available on public record.
Also discussed was the possibility for the town to share in a percentage of the revenue stream generated by permitting fees, an arrangement that does not and never has existed under the terms of the interlocal agreement with Pinellas County. Such fees, according to Mayor Simons, amount to approximately $60,000 a year or about $300,000 for the last five years.
Travers said there are several fee structure options available but in order to make it workable and cost effective, Redington Beach, due to its small size, would likely need to pursue an interlocal agreement with one of the nearby municipalities such as North Redington Beach, which also currently contracts with county for its building permit and code enforcement services.
Travers said his company would set a permit fee schedule based on the overall construction costs within Redington Beach based on that of nearby communities such as Treasure Island which happens to utilize the services of M.T. Causley.
However, not all board members favored making the switch from a public agency to a private one.
“I’m not familiar with all the problems we’ve been having with the building department. I think they do an excellent job and have qualified people. If things can’t be resolved, then we can to talk to private firms,” said Commissioner Mark Deighton.
Also coming before the commission with a proposal for private building services was Shaun Brooker, president of Quorum Services in Tampa. He mentioned in an introductory letter that his company had not received any notification of the September workshop nor had it been solicited for a competitive bid to which Simons responded that the town, in this instance, is not required to solicit bids from competing companies as affirmed by the town’s attorney.
With the possibility of hiring a private firm a moot point at least for now, the next step will be for town officials to pursue a dialogue with the county, iron out any grievances and perhaps tweak the existing agreement so it might financially benefit the town to a greater degree. The results of the meeting will likely be discussed at the board’s regular meeting next month.