The Indian Rocks Nature Preserve is the likely site for a new Community Garden to be established in Indian Rocks Beach.
INDIAN ROCKS BEACH – Indian Rocks Beach commissioners unanimously agreed Sept. 5 to keep the tax rate for the coming fiscal year at 2 mills. The rate has remained the same for five consecutive years.
Mayor R.B. Johnson said keeping the rate steady was challenging at times.
“For the past number of years things have been pretty tight,” he said. “We have managed to keep the rate unchanged and hope to be able to continue to do it in the years ahead, and who knows maybe even lower it.”
City Manager Chuck Coward told the commissioners at their Sept. 5 meeting that he was hopeful the drop in property values might be bottoming out.
“In the past six years we have seen a decrease in property values of 35 percent,” he said. “This year however they dropped only 4 percent so we hope the decline is over.”
The city operates on a budget of just over $7.1 million. This year’s budget includes a 2 percent increase in salaries for city employees, their first in five years, and the expenditure of $60,000 for the purchase of a new bucket truck for the Public Works Department. Commissioners had already approved buying the new truck to replace the current one, which is 25 years old. The truck will be a used vehicle purchased at auction.
The second and final reading of the ordinances setting the millage rate and the final budget will be at the Sept. 19 commission meeting, which begins at 7 p.m.
Commisson OKs community deputy
Commissioners approved the hiring of a community-policing deputy at a cost of $89,245 for the year. That money is part of the $949,828 to be paid to the Sheriff’s Office for law enforcement for the coming year.
The community-policing deputy was described by City Manager Chuck Coward as “the missing link between regular patrol duties and issues which need more attention and follow up.” He recommended that the city try it for a year before deciding to sign a longer contract with the Sheriff’s Office.
Lt. Joseph Gerretz of the Sheriff’s Office told the commissioners that the community-policing deputies are different than the regular patrol deputies.
“They wear different uniforms,” he said. “They wear gray polo shirts with shorts and often will ride bicycles. And they are hand-selected. We make sure they are the right fit for the position. They don’t bid on or off this job; they interview for it and they stay in it.”
Gerretz said the arrangement with Indian Rocks Beach is unique.
“We will be melding the deputy’s community work with having him or her do some regular patrol work so you have two deputies patrolling at all times,” he said. “Otherwise, the deputy will have a flexible schedule to be able to attend special events, go to meetings and attend to any other special needs.”
Mayor Johnson said he likes the idea because the new deputy will be able to give the type of personal service that regular patrol deputies cannot. The new deputy will start work on Oct. 1.
Crackdown on tobacco related litter to begin
Commissioners took the first step toward eliminating smoking in some of the city’s parks and in controlling the amount of cigarette butts littering the beach and other public areas.
The ordinance, which passed first reading at the commission meeting, would ban smoking in all parks where children play. That includes Kolb Park, Campalong Park, the Skate Park, the tennis courts and the three children’s playgrounds in the city.
As for controlling litter the commissioners also agreed to have new signs posted at all beach walkovers, along with butt receptacles encouraging people to leave their butts in the receptacle. If caught littering, the beach, the offenders would be subject to a $93 fine. Florida law prevents cities from banning smoking on the beach, and Johnson noted that enforcement of such a ban would be practically impossible.
The second reading of the ordinance will be on Sept. 19.
Community garden explored
Vice-Mayor Terry Hamilton-Wollin has long been lobbying for the establishment of a community garden in Indian Rocks Beach. She may soon be getting her wish.
Commissioners heard from Bob Brotherton the developer of the Community Garden in Indian Shores. He proposed the garden use large earth boxes for residents to plant in.
“The sandy soil here on the beach isn’t great for growing,” he said. “These earth boxes come as a kit complete with soil and fertilizer.”
Hamilton-Wollin had identified a part of the Nature Preserve as the potential site of the Community Garden.
“I don’t see any false notes here,” she said. “There is an advantage to doing things as a community. The constituents I talked to all want this.”
Hamilton-Wollin was given the task of talking to various civic groups to see if she can raise the money needed to prepare the land for the project. It is estimated to cost about $5,000, which is not in this year’s budget.
Kennedy likely to return to office
Although she remains a member of the Indian Rocks Beach Commission, Cookie Kennedy has to resign, effective in November, because she ran as a candidate for the District 66 State House Seat. Florida Law forces the resignation. However, it appears she will be reappointed to her seat.
Commissioners were told that in November they could appoint a replacement for Kennedy or they could reappoint her. Kennedy made it clear that she wanted to remain on the commission and there was a consensus among the commissioners that they wanted her back. At the Sept. 19 Commission meeting she likely will be reappointed effective her Nov. 6 resignation date.