St. Pete Beach OKs manager contract

Wayne Saunders

ST PETE BEACH – City Manager Wayne Saunders will not retire for another five months, but city commissioners Oct. 23 unanimously voted to award him a generous thank you gift in the form of a 5 percent pay raise.

Saunders, who last received an 8 percent increase in October 2017, raising his salary from $152,250 to $164,430, will now earn $173,000 until he retires in March.

He was hired in November 2015 at a salary of $145,000, replacing former City Manager Mike Bonfield, and a year later received a 5 percent increase to $152,250.

During the Oct. 23 meeting, St. Pete Beach commissioners praised his tireless work ethnic and his efforts to improve city government.

Commissioner Melinda Pletcher said the city manager endured a great quantity of work when he came to the city “and made tremendous sacrifices; he’s never played golf ever since he started employment.”

“I have never seen anybody with a better work ethic and who cares more about our city than that man,” Pletcher said. “I think that every single increase we gave him was absolutely based on the efforts that he goes through to save us money, every single day; that’s why we went a little above last year in giving 8 percent, because he is so thoughtful in negotiating on our behalf every single day. “

Mayor Al Johnson said “Wayne did a wonderful job in putting a staff together.”

He told the city manager “when you leave, in six months, we are going to be well put together regardless of what we get for a city manager and I want to thank you for that.”

Commissioners also decided to choose the same executive search firm that selected Saunders as a top applicant in 2014, Colin Baenziger and Associates, to find candidates who will become the city’s next manager.

Commissioners praised the way Colin Baenziger and Associates handled the city manager hiring process five years ago, supplying information and suggesting meet and greets.

Commissioner Rick Falkenstein said, during the last city manager search, Colin Baenziger “was great from start to finish. They supplied us with so much information and so much lead time … They proposed having the community meet and greet … and then the one-on-ones.”

Commissioner Terri Finnerty said “I thought we were greatly satisfied. They’re proposal was so far and above everyone else’s with every area of their proposal. It’s really one of the best I’ve ever seen.”

“They have great insight into our culture and people and what we are looking for,” Finnerty said.

Commissioner Melinda Pletcher noted the “hiring process before was very daunting, because we had so many additional steps we don’t have now. They did a fantastic job and stood out, like they did today.”

Johnson said he is impressed by their professionalism and history the firm has, noting they were chosen by Treasure Island to help select its city manager.

In other action

Commissioners granted a conditional use for an unpaved commercial parking lot, providing 33 spaces at 5090 Gulf Blvd. and 51st Avenue West.

Since the entrance to the parking lot will be on 51st Street, commissioners heard objections from neighboring business people who voiced concern about traffic congestion along the narrow side street.

Kathy Collins, manager of Gulf Beach Resort, said her main concern is people who park in that lot and walk in the middle of 51st Street; “Somebody is going to get hurt.”

She also voiced concern about cars coming up the 51st Street having no place to turn around, except in the Gulf Beach Resort parking lot, which is at the end of the cul-de-sac

“Our guests cannot get in or out of the street,” she told commissioners, adding many times the parking lot attendant conducts business in the roadway further blocking traffic. In addition, pedestrians traveling to and from the parking lot try to use their restroom facilities and shower hoses.

In its report, city staff noted Chris and Cathie Taktikos already received two temporary use permits for the commercial parking lot. A temporary use permit was approved from May 6, 2017, to Aug. 3, 2017, and had an extension to Sept. 2, 2017. The most recent temporary use permit was approved from May 6 to Aug. 3. The applicant will be required to install a permanent bathroom facility once the sanitary sewer moratorium has been lifted.

Cathie Taktikos told commissioners they purchased the property in 2005 hoping to develop it. “We are also working with one of our neighbors, hoping to combine our properties, and hopefully bringing an investor in. Seeing the way things are with the sewer situation right now, where you can build but not occupy, that might be a problem finding investors to sell.”

Johnson noted because of a building moratorium “you actually can’t even build right now, without having the sewer in. It’s just another example of what that is doing to us.”

Taktikos said they “took the initiative to put a Porta-Potty in and added shower facilities to wash off.”

Commissioner Pletcher said, “I can understand where our sewer situation has created a financial hardship on property owners. I think we need to be understanding of that and somewhat accountable to that, as much as we can be.”

In approving the conditional use for the beach access parking lot, commissioners noted the parking lot attendant should not be conducting business in such a way that it blocks traffic in the street and adequate signs should be installed.