INDIAN ROCKS BEACH — City employees will receive a 3% raise that was postponed by COVID-19 uncertainties.

In a unanimous vote on first reading, the Indian Rocks City Commission agreed to the raise for 23 non-contract positions at its Jan. 12 regular meeting in City Hall. According to a spreadsheet from City Finance Director Dan Carpenter, the $23,000 budget increase for non-contract workers raises the city’s annual payroll from $1.217 million to $1.249 million. The commission, in a second motion, also approved 3% pay raises for City Clerk Deanne Bulino O'Reilly and City Manager Gregg Mims, who are contract employees.

The raises require a second reading and approval by the commission; the money should appear on paychecks as early as Feb. 17, Carpenter said. The pay increase is not retroactive to October 2020, the beginning of the fiscal year.

The raises were postponed during 2020-2021 budget talks in September when the city was still unsure how the pandemic would affect city coffers. Since then, state sales tax and other revenue Tallahassee shares with towns helped, Carpenter said. Not only that, the city reduced expenses by transferring its building and permit functions to Pinellas County in May.

“In April and May, you remember, it was doom and gloom, the beaches closed and everything,” Carpenter told Tampa Bay Newspapers. “We predicted a 20% decrease in revenue, but actually we saw only a 10% decrease.”

City officials “are pleased to provide the city’s employees with the raises they didn’t get in October,” Carpenter said.

Houseberg is new city commissioner; Hanna retakes seat

The commission approved a resolution Jan. 12 canceling the March 9 municipal elections because Commissioner Phillip J. Hanna ran unopposed while Commissioner Diane Flagg’s term ends and her successor, Denise Houseberg, also ran unopposed. The two will be seated for two-year terms in March.

“I really did enjoy being on the commission,” Flagg said. “It gave me an opportunity to learn more about how our local government operates and it makes me truly appreciate the great city team we have in Indian Rocks Beach.”

She will be involved in the town’s future, especially with the community action group that benefits the town’s quality of life.

“I still plan on being an active board member of IRB Action 2000 and will continue to volunteer whenever possible,” said Flagg. “I will also help with all our beautification projects and of course, our annual Oktoberfest fundraiser.”

City approves the beach parking decals

The commission approved on second and final reading changes to city rules governing residential decals and beach access parking.

The changes limit residential parking decals to full-time residents only and bans overnight parking at beach access sites without special permits. The ordinance would also raise parking fines from $40 to $75.

The first reading of the ordinance, which the commission passed at its Dec. 8 meeting, would allow only residents with a driver’s license showing an Indian Rocks Beach address and a vehicle registered to the address to obtain the much-sought parking “by permit-only” decals.

The hope is the new policy will be in place when decals are handed out in early February.

Mims told commissioners that owners of vacation rental units and short-term renters — even some from out of town — have obtained thousands of decals simply by going to City Hall and asking for them. The new rules require the resident to fill out an application and submit it under oath. Two or more of the following documents must accompany the application:

• A Florida driver’s license identifying the driver’s address

• A valid automobile registration reflecting the residential address within the city

• The applicant or a member of the immediate family being listed on the current real property tax rolls at the residential address within the city

• A copy of one utility bill, bearing the residential address within the city.

Paul Phillips, who lives on Long Beach Trail, said there’s no process for getting an overnight parking pass when City Hall is closed if visitors stay over at the last minute.

“I just want to know how the administration of getting this pass will be at the last minute, how we date and time it. It’s very hard to do,” he said. “It’s not well thought-out. I would suggest rethinking the process.”

City Attorney Randy Mora told Phillips the city works the details out after an ordinance passes, and that the language in ordinances often doesn’t address process.

“This puts an undue burden on property owners like me who live in a restricted-parking situation,” Phillips said.

The ordinance passed on second reading, with Commissioner Joe McCall voting no. He argued during the Dec. 8 commission meeting that parking permits should be issued to part-time renters and visitors, arguing that winter visitors are important to the town.

“I don’t necessarily agree on the residential part of this,” he told fellow commissioners Dec 8. “Vacation rentals are a vital part of our economy.”

Flood information participation

In approving Resolution 2021-2, the city moved toward adopting the Program for Public Information (PPI) for the community flood rating system. The Federal Emergency Management Agency created the program as a new planning tool to provide a step-by-step coordinated approach to flood hazard outreach, to improve communication with citizens, and to provide information about flood hazards, flood safety, flood insurance, and ways to protect property and natural floodplain functions to those who can benefit from it.

In exchange, the city could see reduced flood insurance rates.

“The city participates in the Community Rating System (CRS) to obtain reduced flood insurance rates for properties in the city limits,” Mims wrote the city commission. The rating system credits communities with floodplain management practices that exceed the minimum requirements of the National Flood Insurance Program. The higher the rating, the lower the flood insurance premium.

“As a condition of continued participation in the rating system, the city is required to have a PPI committee to maintain the city’s current CRS Classification, which is a 6,” Mims wrote.