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Anniversary plans plans move forward
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A preliminary design of the Belleair Bluffs 50th Anniversary seal.
BELLEAIR BLUFFS – Plans for a party to kick off the city of Belleair Bluff’s 50th anniversary celebration were announced at the Feb. 11 commission workshop.

The event will be held Monday, March 18, following the regular meeting of the commission. The meeting time will be moved from 7 to 6 p.m. to accommodate the party.

Commissioner Taylour Shimkus, who is chairing the anniversary planning committee, said the kickoff would be a “first-class event” that would be catered by the upscale Marlin Darlin restaurant and featuring wines provided by the commission.

Each commissioner was asked to donate one bottle each of red and white wine to the affair. Mayor Chris Arbutine offered a case each of red, white and pink wines, with six “bigger bottles” per case.

Commissioner Jack Nazario questioned whether alcoholic beverages would be allowed at the affair, which is to be held at city hall and sponsored by the city.

No special permits or approvals are needed so long as the city is not selling the drinks or requiring a door fee for the event, City Attorney Thomas Trask replied.

The commissioners decided to hold the kickoff party after the commission meeting, rather than before, considering the availability of alcohol.

A timeline for other anniversary related events are being developed, Shimkus said. She mentioned a July luncheon, and also a booklet on the city’s history that would be available by mid-year.

Policy for business ‘special events’

City businesses holding special events will be required to obtain a permit and be given guidelines for the activities, City Clerk Debra Sullivan said.

Sullivan said questions have arisen in the past regarding city versus business responsibilities during the events, as well as availability and cost of resources provided by the city.

Covered in the guidelines are issues such as insurance, public safety, garbage disposal, parking, outside vendor sales, outdoor cooking, alcohol sales and consumption, signage and road closures.

“We want to encourage people to do these events,” said Commissioner Suzy Sofer.

But guidelines are needed so all parties know their commitments and responsibilities, she added.

A fee schedule for the use of city-provided items such as tables and chairs, traffic cones and barricades, tape and extension cords, as well as city personnel man-hours was also discussed.

Upon Sofer’s urging, the commission decided not to charge rental fees for the resources, but rather assess the businesses for any items lost or damaged.

A revised events policy will be presented and voted on at later commission meetings.

No financing needed for fire pension payment

The city has sufficient reserve funds to pay an estimated $1.5 million in pension benefits to its former firefighters and will not need to finance any part of that cost, Mayor Arbutine told a resident.

George Lawton had questioned whether the city had looked at payment alternatives for the pension costs, which will become due shortly.

“This is a huge amount of money to be paying out,” Lawton said.

Arbutine said the city’s reserves would likely be reduced from 18.4 months to about 6 months after making the pension payment, and that legal fees may push that down even more. But the reserve money left will be more than recommended by government advisory agencies, which suggest a three- to nine-month cash cushion, Arbutine said.

“We saved all the money when taxes were going up. We were prepared for this day,” Arbutine said.

The pension payout will be coming soon, Sullivan said. A directive from the state ordering the city to pay the amount is due “any day now,” she said.

The conclusion comes after months of battles with the pension board over amounts due and methods of payment.

“We are very near the end in this matter,” said Sullivan.
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