BELLEAIR BEACH – Since being elected in March, four new City Council members have been actively working to change the face and processes of city government.
They are questioning long established procedures and proposing new and different ways of approaching municipal activities, a ranging from police to financial reporting, council meeting formats, work sessions, city board and committee content and reporting, and even the time of monthly council meetings.
Council Members Marvin Behm, Glen Gunn, Nicholas Pavouris and Jody Shirley ran on a common campaign theme of a promise to bring new leadership and a fresh vision and change.
The changes were apparent in the content of the July 2 City Council agenda. The talk was of establishing “best practices” finding and implementing optimal ways of running the city.
The meeting began with a lengthy presentation by Captain Mike Leiner of the Sheriff’s Office. He dicussed new policing procedures that are being used as a result of a work session council held with sheriff’s representatives on public safety. New patrolling routines, the use of “decoy” (unmanned) police cars to slow traffic on Gulf Boulevard, and tracking processes were among some of the practices being followed as a result of the joint council/police workshop.
City Finance Director Melanie Kruszona, in her new monthly financial report, explained the detailed and extensive financial analyses she does to assure the city’s funds are well managed and controlled. Kruszona said one of the goals of her report is to educate the new council members and answer some public concerns about the city’s financial controls and auditing.
Kruszona said there is “a lot of internal control” of the city’s finances and they are open to the public upon request. As to concerns her financial report is not current and reflects data from two months before, Kruszona said some financial information for the past month does not come in until the second week of the month, past the council meeting date on the first Monday of each month.
Kruszona reported the revenues and expenses to date for the city are running close to expectations. Revenues for October through May should be 67 percent of the budget and they are 59 percent, which she said is "on track,” while expenses are at 59 percent of the budget, which Kruszona said is close to what they should be.
Kruszona’s financial report, contained in the meeting packet given to council members, was 14 pages long. It provided a detailed analysis, filled with graphs and pie charts, of “where the city’s money comes from, and where it goes.”
Mayor Leslie Notaro commended Kruszona for giving a “very informative” report.
Another change in the meeting format made by council is the addition of a “consent agenda,” in which routine items are passed without comment to save time and needless discussion. This is a practice which Council Member Gunn said was picked up from other city commissions as a “best practice.”
Regular reports from city boards and committees will be added to the agenda so, in Gunn’s words, “we keep these things in focus and make sure we are kept informed so we can make informed decisions.”
Pavouris said recent work sessions, another “best practice,” on the subjects of code enforcement, finances and the budget, were “very successful.”
Shirley said “a lot was accomplished” in the sessions on items that need attention.
The work sessions “institutionalize best practices,” Pavouris said. He proposed and got council’s approval for monthly workshops on best practices, strategic planning, finances, budget and revenue strategies, infrastructure and beautification, and safety, security and code enforcement.
With the work sessions, Pavouris said, “we’re not going to reinvent the wheel, just make it shinier.”
The work sessions will be held at 5:30 p.m. on the third Monday of each month, starting in August.
Board members needed
Members are needed for the Parks and Recreation Board, Planning Board and the Board of Adjustment, City Manager Lynn Rives said. Residents wanting to serve the city by joining a city board can pick up an application at City Hall or go on-line to www.cityofbelleairbeach.com.
Fireworks banned, but continue
Resident and former Commissioner Stan Sofer reminded residents that the use of fireworks, except sparklers, by individuals, is against the law in Florida without a special permit.
Sofer said fireworks “traumatize a lot of animals that we own and endanger birds and bring the potential for fire and other damage to personal property.”
Sofer’s message to residents was, “Don’t do fireworks in the city, in your yard or on the beach.”