INDIAN SHORES – The City Council voted Aug. 13 to accept a new retirement system that will save thousands of dollars each year.

The new agreement is with the International City Management Association and applies only to elected officials.

Currently the mayor and councilors have their retirement plans with the Florida Retirement System. All employees of the town are enrolled with FRS as are most municipal employees in the state.

The ICMA plan is only offered to elected officials.

Currently, the cost to the town for covering the mayor and councilors is just more than $18,000 annually. The FRS cost would be $5,800, a saving of $13,000 each year.

“To me it is a win-win,” said Mayor Pat Soranno.

Soranno is the only one eligible to enroll with ICMA because it is within six months from his last election. He was elected in the March election this year.

Two others, if re-elected this coming March, will be able to change plans if they wish.

Councilors Mike Hackerson and Michael Petruccelli are due for re-election then.

Joining the ICMA plan is entirely voluntary; councilors can opt to stay with FRS if they wish but most will likely change over because of the savings to the town and increased benefits.

The Mayor and Councilors will remain in FRS with their current investments no matter what they decide. They just won’t be able to make any new contributions.

Police department to get oversight

The council agreed to engage the firm Lexipol to provide customized policy management and updated training for the Police Department.

Chief Terry Hughes, in a memo to council, said professional direction is needed for his department and others around the State.

“The Indian Shores Police Department is among many Florida Law Enforcement Agencies that are struggling with the challenges to produce and maintain comprehensive policies and procedures,” he wrote.

He said those policies and procedures would limit risk to the department, reduce liability and enhance officer safety.

Hughes said Lexipol, out of Frisco, Texas, has a team of specialized lawyers who will keep those policies and procedures up to date in accordance with the latest state and federal legislation.

According to Hughes, the company usually charges a $12,000 startup fee and an annual cost of $6,900. He said in this case Lexipol will not charge the $12,000 and will lower the annual cost to $6,200.

Councilors unanimously agreed to give Hughes the go ahead to engage Lexipol.

Councilors also gave Hughes the green light to sign an agreement with the Sheriff’s Office to provide various services in the year ahead. Those services include such things as dispatch and forensics.

Total cost of the service is just over $17,500, an increase of $750 from this past year.

Administrator’s activities

The council gave Town Administrator Bonnie Dhonau permission to proceed with a number of items that needed to be dealt with.

She can proceed to spend up to $2,000 to have a consultant prepare a grant application to submit to the Florida Department of Transportation for matching funds to be used for beautification along Gulf Boulevard. The grant application must be submitted by Oct. 1st.

Dhonau was given the green light to proceed with spending $11,000 for a handicapped beach mat. The mat, made of hard plastic, would be placed over the sand at the 193rd Avenue Beach Access. It would extend out onto the sand to permit wheelchair users and others to get closer to the water.

If successful the plan is to add another mat at the Tiki crossing further up Gulf Boulevard.

Dhonau got approval to spend up to $20,000 for a new mobile, solar powered electronic sign for the town. She said in addition to warning motorists of the speed limit, the sign could help direct traffic in times of storms and reminding motorists that there is “no passing on the right,” an ongoing issue in Indian Shores.

Councilors also agreed to allow Dhonau to close the Town Hall to the public on four Fridays in the year ahead, one in each quarter.

Dhonau said the staff would be able to “catch up on loose ends, go through and purge old files, work on special projects and hold group training.”

She said those days would be a morale booster for the staff and would save on overtime costs.

Flag flies abroad

Mayor Pat Soranno showed off a picture during the meeting of the Indian Shores flag flying in Switzerland. The mounted picture was sent to him by Urs W. Huber, a Swiss resident who has property in Indian Shores.

The picture shows the flag flying high over a lake with hills in the background.

“We’ve annexed a little piece of Switzerland,” said Soranno, obviously proud to show off the picture.