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St. Pete Beach hopes to build up its reserves

Published May 1, 2005

ST. PETE BEACH - City Manager Mike Bonfield had some good news Tuesday when offering a prognosis of the city's budget process this year: The city is saving money.

"This is going to be a challenging year," he said, before adding, "We're in a better position than in previous years."

Bonfield said the city had a surplus of about $250,000 and would be replenishing its reserves, aiming for a cache of some $2-million, about 15 percent of the city's $13-million budget.

"It's good to see things turning around, as opposed to dipping into reserves," said Mayor Ward Friszolowski. He noted, however, that the city still has projects to fund, including the community center across 75th Avenue from City Hall. Commissioner Nancy Markoe asked Bonfield whether he thought the city would need additional staffers as it grows. Bonfield said he had not yet discussed that with department heads.

Markoe had her own suggestion.

"I don't think we're doing the best job we could at getting information to the public," she said in urging the city to hire a part-time public information officer. She praised Bonfield, city staffers and her fellow commissioners for their efforts to explain city work to the public, but said it still fell short of needs.

Markoe said residents feel left out of the loop and feel as though the city is doing to them rather than working for them. Commissioner Deborah Martohue agreed that the city's hard work doesn't meet the public's demand to know and understand. She said a full-time information employee might be better still.

Martohue said having such a staffer develop a consistent relationship with all homeowners associations would be useful, as would a database of residents' e-mail addresses for quicker communication. She also talked of having a new information employee track city business online, update the city's Web site more often, write press releases and other documents for dissemination, and even lay the groundwork for an e-mail system all residents could use, perhaps tied to a citywide wireless network.

Commissioners took no action on Markoe's suggestion.

In other commission action:

Commissioners argued over a zoning variance for a planned home at 2405 Pass A Grille Way. The owner, building on a lot 122 feet wide, was seeking to place air conditioning and other equipment 7 feet from the property line, instead of the required 12 feet. Because the lot is large and the house is only a design, commissioners Ed Ruttencutter and Markoe would not allow the variance. After nearly an hour of discussion with an architect for the owner, Friszolowski, Martohue and Commissioner Deborah Nicklaus voted to allow the variance.

[Last modified April 30, 2005, 23:59:18]

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