BELLEAIR BEACH – The City Council chose Community Services Director Lynn Rives to be city manager March 5, ending a process that included telephone interviews, question-and-answer sessions and evaluations by a selection committee.

Rives, a former Belleair Beach mayor, has also been acting city manager for the past seven months. The vote to hire Rives was one short of unanimous. Council Member Pamela Gunn supported Terry Henley, the acting budget director for the city of North Miami for the job.

The City Manager Selection Committee’s top candidates were Rives, Henley and Bryan Scott King, the safety and training officer for the city of St. Petersburg’s Water Resources Department.

Rives and Henley were at the council meeting and were invited to give five-minute presentations of their qualifications to be city manager. King was not present. He had told the mayor his son had a baseball game that he wanted to attend.

Rives said he has had 18 years of grant preparation experience, and has obtained more than $11 million dollars in grants. This included his time as leisure services director for the city of Oldsmar, where he said he got grants from a variety of state regulatory agencies. At Belleair Beach, where he has been community services director for the past year, he got the grants for Morgan Park and the tennis courts at city hall.

Rives cited his work in creating budgets and managing projects for the city’s stormwater activities and seawalls. He also said he is a certified flood plain manager.

“Based on the job description that was put out, I feel I meet all the qualifications for city manager,” Rives said.

The council agreed, selecting him in a 6 to 1 vote.

Rives told the Bee after being selected as city manager that “it’s a tremendous opportunity for me to work with the mayor, council, residents and city staff where I live for the future betterment of the city. I look forward to helping the community capitalize on opportunities and meet the challenges ahead successfully.”

Henley called Belleair Beach a premier city because it is almost entirely residential and nearly totally dependent on property taxes for revenue. As city manager, Henley said he would look for ways to diversify the city’s revenue base. That can be done by looking for money available at the federal, state and county levels, such as grant money, Henley said.

‘Final step’ taken in utility undergrounding process

Cheered on by an overflow crowd of residents from the Bellevue Estates Island neighborhood, the council unanimously passed the final assessment resolution, which had been considered a critical step in achieving the residents’ long-sought goal of undergrounding the wires in their neighborhood.

This “ratifies and confirms” the initial assessment resolution, which the council passed last month.

The assessment resolution was seen as crucial to the undergrounding effort, as it sets out the terms and conditions for the resident assessments that will pay for the project.

Consultant Thomas Rowe explained the resolution’s content. It establishes the assessment area, sets out the assessment costs to each resident (approximately $11,000 per dwelling unit plus connection costs, if needed), and payment terms, and specifies how the assessments will be collected.

Around 90 percent of the residents in the Bellevue Estates Island neighborhood signed petitions in favor of the undergrounding effort, far more than the 50 percent approval required, Rowe said.

In a presentation prior to the resolution’s approval, Bellevue Estates Island Advisory Committee member Glen Gunn said the undergrounding of utilities offers safety, reliability and beautification benefits. He also stressed the project’s cost will be paid for entirely by residents of the area being undergrounded.

“This should serve as a trial run for the city, and hopefully it will expand to other areas,” Gunn said.

A number of residents urged the council to approve the undergrounding resolution. The unanimous vote in favor was greeted with thunderous applause.

Political email uses city seal illegally, city attorney says

An email sent to city residents promoting four candidates running for council seats uses the city seal illegally, City Attorney Paul Marino said. He was responding to Council Member Mitch Krach, who questioned the mailer, which prominently displays the city seal.

“This is an improper use of the city seal in violation of state law,” said Marino, who added the matter is under investigation by the Sheriff’s Office.

At Krach’s request, Marino said he would prepare an ordinance for council’s approval “that would protect the city seal.” That will be on the April council agenda.

In a separate statement on the issue, Marino said in a letter to Krach that use of the city seal “without the express approval of the governing body is a second-degree misdemeanor.”

Community Center use fees

to be lowered

Two years ago, council raised the fees charged to non-residents who rent the city Community Center at City Hall. The move was an effort to cover the costs associated with the center’s use. But the fee hike has resulted in a drastic drop in reservations, said Rives.

“It’s very slow today. Since the rates were raised, we’ve had a lot less rentals,” Rives said.

He cited a recent period where “we’ve had few to no reservations,” in contrast to the high level of rental activity prior to the fee increase.

Rives proposed lowering the rental fee for the Community Center from $2,300 back to the previous $1,800. Clean-up fees and a damage deposit will remain unchanged.

The council voted unanimously to allow Rives to reduce the rental charge. Residents are charged a $450 fee, rather than $1,800.