INDIAN SHORES — Mayor Patrick Soranno opened the July 14 Town Council meeting with the Pledge of Allegiance. Nothing unusual about that — except that the meeting was being held online via the Zoom platform.
Town Hall has been closed since mid-March and reopened briefly for a week in June before shuttering its doors again due to an increase in coronavirus cases. During this time, meetings and workshops have been held virtually. Administrative staffers continue working electronically and public service personnel address issues masked and in person.
Despite the challenges, staff and councilors are still conducting town business. Here are some of the highlights from the town’s July 14 meeting.
• Parking fines were doubled from $25 to $50 in an ordinance that passed unanimously 5-0 on its second and final reading. A resolution authorizing parking rates at paid parking stations throughout the town was also approved unanimously.
• Town Engineer Robert H. Brotherton is retiring and was recognized for his “17 years of service excellence, commitment and dedication to the Town of Indian Shores.” Earlier, the mayor presented Brotherton with an engraved, commemorative crystal bowl at a private ceremony in Town Hall. Brotherton said he was proud to have worked with the town.
• Following the acknowledgement of Brotherton’s service as retiring town engineer, the council approved 5-0 a new agreement for engineering services with Larry Fluty of the Engineering Sciences Group in Brooksville. “I’m glad you know I had a passing grade from Bob (Brotherton),” said Fluty referring to Brotherton’s contribution to his selection process.
• Town Administrator Bonnie Dhonau requested a promotion for the town’s administrative specialist, Darlyn Stockfisch. In addition to her duties as administrative specialist and public information officer, Stockfisch will now also serve as public services coordinator effective July 18. The promotion passed 5-0.
• The annual local agreement between the town and the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office and Sheriff Bob Gualtieri for ancillary services to support the Indian Shores Police Department for fiscal year 2021 was unanimously approved 5-0. Chief Rick Swann explained that the contract was essentially “the same contract that we’ve signed before.”
• Corporal Matt Ehrhart’s letter of resignation was accepted by the council. Swann explained that Ehrhart was relocating to the Panhandle to work for the sheriff’s office there.
• Swann’s request for the purchase of safety equipment for the department in the amount of $7,200 was unanimously approved. The 13 sets of safety equipment were not originally budgeted. However, “the ongoing threat of increased close physical exposure resulting from the coronavirus and civil issues throughout Pinellas County have created an increased potential need for a crowd-control response from the police department and the need for specific safety equipment,” explained Swann.
• A proposal from Natural Designs Landscaping for landscaping work on the medians in the town was unanimously accepted. Since a lawsuit was recently settled between the town and Ameriscape, the town wants to use the settlement dollars to replace the plants that died while under Ameriscape’s warranty.
• Council took consensus of proposed Penny for Pinellas III and Penny IV projects. The monument selection between “Reclining Whelk” shell and the Tocobaga tribe “Guardian” is still undecided. Dhonau suggested an alternative monument that connects the Tocobaga tribe, such as a Tocobaga woman and child, might be more suitable. The Arts Council is currently short two members. Until the members have been replaced, new selections for the project are on hold. Educational materials at the bus shelters in the town were also recommended as well as improvements to the area as a walking park while making decisions on the statue’s appearance. The monies must be spent within five years (2021-2025). Council consensus was 4-1 with Petruccelli voting against.