Gag grouper migration starts

Officials weigh in a 41.28-pound kingfish during a past Old Salt Foundation King of the Beach tournament in Madeira Beach. The city will likely host the tournament for at least the next five years after the City Commission agreed March 16 on a new five-year contract with the foundation.

MADEIRA BEACH – The city will likely host the Old Salt Fishing Tournament for at least the next five years. The City Commission made that decision at a special meeting March 16, unanimously agreeing with Commissioner Terry Lister “that a proposed five-year contract with the Old Salt Foundation be passed.”

Mayor Maggi Black opened the discussion by recommending only a six-month contract that would allow the upcoming King of the Beach Tournament on April 26-28 to be held. She said the city needs to get more data, then do an evaluation “and come to a better conclusion on how long the contract should be and what should be in it. Then we can look at a multiple-year contract.”

At that time, Commissioner Nancy Oakley said she agreed with Black.

But the majority of a standing-room-only crowd of residents and business owners disagreed. A number of them spoke passionately about the tournament’s value to the city, and urged approval for at least a five-year contract.

Commissioner Terry Lister, who earlier learned of his narrow defeat for re-election, said he strongly wanted a new contract that would keep the Old Salt Tournament in Madeira Beach “for five, 10, or even 20 years.”

City Manager Jonathan Evans said he had worked with officials of the Old Salt Foundation to come up with a contract “that would ensure the Tournament stays in Madeira Beach.”

“This (contract) will solidify Madeira Beach as the home location of the fishing tournament,” Evans said. “We understand its economic value and the tourism that it generates to the region.”

Under the terms of the agreement, the Old Salt Foundation agrees to pay all the actual costs associated with the tournament, including fire, EMT, sanitation, etc. Evans said. “We will track the hours of who was actually out there, and bill appropriately,” he said. He also said if the Foundation asks for any additional support during the event “we will track that and make sure the city does not incur any additional costs.”

In return, the city agrees to waive the recreation fees normally charged, which would amount to $9,000. The contract is cancellable by either the city or the Foundation by giving a year’s notice.

The foundation also will put money in escrow “to ensure the fields are protected and returned to the pristine condition in which they were before the event,” Evans said.

Evans spoke of the many benefits the tournament brings to the city.

“It’s a great marketing tool to use in future promotions of the city,” he said.

The city gains much for hosting the Old Salt Fishing Tournament, Evans said, including opportunities to join in cross promotion and cross branding and be involved with their award-winning presentations.

“There are many marketing and press opportunities,” Evans said.

Citizens and business owners spoke, strongly urging the city to approve the Old Salts contract for at least another five years.

Sue Patzschke said the tournament gives the city “hundreds of thousands of dollars in advertising – this is the cheapest advertising you could ever get.”

“The King of the Beach Tournament is well known everywhere,” said Robert Preston. “It’s unreal what they can do for the city. Madeira Beach is a fishing village. The citizens want this tournament, and the (five-year) contract, cancellable with a year’s notice.”

Missy Hahn, president of the Treasure Island and Madeira Beach Chamber of Commerce, said the economic impact of the tournament is “so much.”

“If they leave the area, it will hurt all our businesses,” she said.

Incoming Commissioner Deby Weinstein said she agreed. The Old Salt Tournament has been in the city for a long time “and everybody wants to keep it here.” But she also said the Foundation has not provided a profit and loss statement for a number of years.

“It is extremely critical that we know where the money they give to charities goes, and how much they gave, and to make sure the monies are paid,” Weinstein said.

Old Salt Foundation President Tom Verdensky said the fishing tournament “is a win-win situation for the entire city.” The event takes about 18 months to put together, he said, adding “a six-month contract would really tie our hands.”

After the public comment, Lister was the first to speak from the dais, praising the proposed five-year contract.

“This is a well-written contract, and it’s written by this man, Jonathan Evans, who is the new city manager. He brought this to us in all confidence knowing that this is the best deal for the city of Madeira Beach. It doesn’t get any better than this,” he said.

Lister made the motion, seconded by Commissioner Nancy Hodges, that “the proposed five-year contract be passed.”

"I just want to say, I certainly want the Old Salts to stay. I was trying to make a compromise because I know other people feel differently. And if that’s not a good compromise, it’s not a good compromise,” Black said.

When the roll was called, the commission unanimously voted approval, giving Lister one last victory before leaving the commission in April.

Weinstein wins commission seat

A recount of the votes in the race between incumbent Terry Lister and Deby Weinstein for the District 1 commission seat showed Weinstein the winner by five votes, 600-595. She had been ahead by four votes at the end of the final count on election night, making the race too close to call.

The recount at the Board of Elections on the Friday after the election showed Weinstein gained one vote, and she was declared the winner. The election results were announced at a special meeting of the Board of Commissioners on March 16, but Weinstein was not sworn in. That will happen at the next regular commission meeting on April 10.

In the other contested seat, District 2 Commissioner Nancy Hodges was re-elected by a margin of more than 100 votes, 647-540 (55 percent of the vote), over opponent Eric Breslin.