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Code enforcement costly proposition
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MADEIRA BEACH – Hiring a police officer to handle code enforcement cases, seen as a necessity in the city of Madeira Beach’s tough neighborhoods, will not be cheap.

Costs associated with the deputy/code officer will be $93,600 vs. $55,000 to pay the current code enforcement official. That person will be transferred to the building department.

Financing of the new position was discussed at the Nov. 7 City Commission meeting. No money has been budgeted for the job, so the funding options are limited, said City Manager Shane Crawford.

The money will be taken from sources where surpluses exist, Crawford indicated.

About $51,000 will be taken from workers compensation and general insurance accounts, and another $42,000 from the general reserve fund, where revenues exceed expenditures.

In justifying the added expense, Crawford said the city has not filled a lot of open positions “and this isn’t one we are staffed to handle.” However, he said hiring a police officer to do code enforcement duties is “an absolute must,” considering the city’s current crime situation.

The job may not be needed when the city’s nuisance ordinance fully has an impact, Crawford said. He advised the commission to “try it for a year and see what happens.”

For now, the position is viewed as a necessity.

“This is what we need,” said Community Policing Officer Shawn Heffner.

Conditions in the city right now demand a police deputy in the job, he said, telling of one resident whose 13-year-old daughter cannot go outside without being heckled by neighborhood toughs.

Heffner said the police officer/code enforcer would do “double duty,” looking for code violations while checking out a domestic dispute, for example.

The job also has “huge administrative duties,” Heffner said, because of the need to track the number of incidents within a defined time period. The deputy will spend part of the day handling administrative reports and then go out into the field, he said. Cases will be handled “all the way through to the special magistrate,” where situations that cannot be resolved will wind up.

The new police deputy/code enforcer will be on the street by Dec. 1, Crawford said.

The police officer hired for the position will attend training courses while on the job, but will be fully ready to go to work from the start, Heffner said.

“There shouldn’t be any concerns – the deputy will already have the experience and will be trained,” he said.

New elevator at John's Pass Village

The mostly empty second floor corridor in the central section of John’s Pass Village could see an inflow of new businesses when an elevator is installed early next year.

The commission approved a design for the elevator following assurances by the Community Development Director Lynn Rosetti that it meets code requirements and had been approved by the building official.

Developer Jack Bodziak said the elevator would provide ADA access, and open up the second floor to new businesses, which he said would be focused on night activities.

“Businesses have come and gone there before. Now this gives us the opportunity to revive the upper area of a group of buildings within the village,” Bodziak said.

Clerk position may change

In a cost saving move, the commission is considering removing the city clerk’s designation as a charter officer and have the job become a staff position reporting to the city manager. The position is currently open, following the departure of former city clerk Ginger Stilton last month.

The city currently has three charter officers – the city manager, city attorney and city clerk – that report directly to the commission. They are higher paid than staff employees, and Mayor Travis Palladeno said the change in designation would provide the city an opportunity to save money when hiring a new city clerk.

A salary of around $40,000 a year could be offered, which would be a substantial savings over the $63,000 paid to Stilton, Palladeno said. Safety Harbor and St. Pete Beach have made similar changes to their city clerk position, he said.

“We could be saving some money by doing this,” Palladeno said.

Commissioner Terry Lister agreed. He said, “Saving $23,000 or so is a lot of money. I’d like to see it happen.”

Commissioner Nancy Oakley said offering less pay would mean lower quality applicants for the position. City clerks who undergo extensive training to perform their jobs well demand higher salaries, Oakley said.

“I don’t think we would get a quality person if we pay that much less,” she said.

Changing the city clerk position would require revising the city charter, City Attorney Thomas Trask pointed out. That would involve public hearings and a referendum vote, which is a lengthy process.

Vice Mayor Robin Vander Velde said she is reluctant to change the charter.

“The way the charter is set up is a very stable and careful set of checks and balances so that not too much power resides in one person (the city manager),” she said.

Palladeno asked Trask to prepare a list of the city clerk’s duties. The issue will be discussed again at the commission workshop on Nov. 27.

The city clerk’s responsibilities are being divided on an interim basis between the fire chief’s administrative assistant Aimee Servedio and City Manager Crawford’s office. Crawford said that arrangement “hasn’t been easy” and urged the commission to hire an interim clerk.
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