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Belleair Bee
Indian Rocks Beach to keep dock master
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Photo by BRIAN GOFF
Dock Master Bob Castor helps boaters at Indian Rock Beach’s new floating docks at Keegan Clair Park.
INDIAN ROCKS BEACH – There was little question that the new floating docks at Keegan Clair Park in Indian Rocks Beach would be successful. The one unknown was whether or not the presence of a dock master to man the docks during the busy periods was a good idea.

The City Commission found out Jan. 22 that having the dock master made sense.

Public Services Director Dean Scharmen presented the commission with a report that showed the presence of the dock master was beneficial on a number of fronts.

“Boaters who used the docks were pleased that someone was on site to provide docking assistance and information on the area,” Scharmen wrote in his report. “Safety awareness and dock, park and waterway cleanliness were improved.”

He also noted that local rules and regulations could be enforced with the dock master and that it created a sense of community pride.

The commission agreed to continue to employ a dock master on the weekends from March to October at a cost of $5,000.

In addition the commission asked Commissioner Cookie Kennedy to get together with local Triangle business people to formulate plans for a kiosk to be constructed in Keegan Clair Park to help the visiting boaters find their way around town.

The commission is also planning for an April or May grand opening of the docks, the improved park and the new history museum. Once the museum is back in operation then the official opening date will be set.

City attorney grilled after evaluation

City Attorney Maura Kiefer had to defend herself after Commissioner Terry Hamilton-Wollin took her to task for what Hamilton-Wollin considered was negligence in her duties.

The discussion began after Kiefer was formally evaluated by the commission as part of her annual review. Hamilton-Wollin said she had some concerns about Kiefer’s performance.

“When we interviewed Maura, Ed Peck was supposed to be her backup,” she said. “He vanished, I thought he was dead. He was supposed to replace her when she couldn’t be here. Only once did another lawyer replace her when she didn’t come to a meeting. One time she didn’t show up for a meeting and didn’t even tell anyone she couldn’t make it.”

Hamilton-Wollin didn’t stop there.

“At one time we found she was overbilling us, she admitted it and paid us back,” she said. “She’s not a crook but she is too busy with not enough staff. She’s representing two cities and trying to run a private practice. She was supposed to get two attorneys for a meeting on the BP oil spill matter; she did not do that.

“I don’t think she is a bad attorney, I don’t think she means to do us any harm, but she clearly doesn’t have enough staff.”

Kiefer was quick to defend herself.

“As for the billing, that was a mistake by my bookkeeper. I apologized then and I apologize now for that,” she said. “I missed only one meeting last year, in May; it was a personal matter. Another meeting was changed at the last minute and I couldn’t change my schedule, but I checked with the mayor and the city manager and they advised me that it wasn’t necessary for an attorney to be there.”

As for the BP incident Kiefer said Hamilton-Wollin had it all wrong and she was never instructed to have two attorneys at the same time.

“In fact it was because of me that we are proceeding with this,” she said. “If I hadn’t brought it up in the first place we wouldn’t be pursuing this matter at all. I worked with the new attorneys and have produced a contract that is protective of the city.”

Hamilton-Wollin remarked that the matter of the overbilling wasn’t a one-time thing.

“The overbilling went on for months,” she said.

Kiefer interrupted.

“Some of this is sensationalism,” she said.

“It is not sensationalism, I’m trying to protect the citizens who appointed us,” Hamilton-Wollin said.

Commissioner Jim Labadie, who brought up the notion of evaluating the city attorney two weeks ago, said he was happy with Kiefer’s work.

“I have not found any reason to be concerned,” he said. “She is always on time and is helpful when I have a question. I’ve not been dissatisfied at all.”

Commissioner Phil Hanna agreed.

“I concur with Jim,” he said. “I have found I can rely on her on a personal basis. She takes my calls and takes the time to answer any questions. I see no reason to go out and look for another attorney.”

Mayor R.B. Johnson echoed similar sentiments.

“I’m not interested in looking for another attorney,” he said. “She answers questions whenever I have any. Maura does a lot of work behind the scenes; she keeps us out of court.”

Commissioner Labadie added that money management was also in Kiefer’s favor.

“She comes in under budget, for several years in a row.”

Kiefer, who represents the city of Treasure Island as well as Indian Rocks Beach, is paid a retainer of $3,100 a month and gets $110 an hour for any court appearances or work relating to such appearances.

The consensus of the commission was to drop the matter and Kiefer will continue to represent the city as its attorney.

Pocket park remains a no-name park

The new park at Walsingham Road and Gulf Boulevard will remain nameless for the time being. Hamilton-Wollin asked the commission to consider naming it in honor of recently deceased former Mayor Jim Driscoll.

“Mayor Driscoll contributed to this city in a big way,” she said. “He was a leader for 30 years in this community, not just his time as mayor. He was a war hero; he was the whole package, we were incredibly lucky to have him living here.”

Mayor Johnson agreed that the former mayor was an asset to the community, but he disagreed with the idea of naming a park after him.

“It is such a subjective matter,” he said. “We don’t do this so people will name parks after us. I’m always cautious about naming parks after former politicians. There are a lot of former mayors who have done great things for this city.”

Johnson noted that the two parks in town named after people, Kolb Park and Brown Park, are so named because they donated the land to the city.

Other commissioners agreed with Johnson. After considerable discussion they agreed to wait until they see the new plans for the pocket park before deciding if they might want to honor Driscoll with a tree or a fountain or some other symbol of thanks.
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