Manager’s Minute – The Color of Money
In September, the Board of Commissioners will approve our Fiscal Year 2021 (FY2021) budget. While most of us operate on a calendar year (January – December), most municipal governments operate on a fiscal year (October – September). In FY2020, the City of Madeira Beach Board of Commissioners approved a budget of $26,515,400. In FY2021 staff is proposing a total budget of $28,436,240.
Work on this budget began months ago with department directors, managers, and other senior-level staff providing information about operating expenses, prospective projects, capital expenditures, contingency funds, etc. All this information was gathered and presented to a Budget Review Committee, a group of volunteers made up of your neighbors, friends, and others. They go through every line item on every page and ask the question; why are we spending money on that?
Recently we received an email from a Madeira Beach resident who was upset that city staff had proposed, and the Board of Commissioners approved, spending $775,000 to expand City Hall by building out the bottom floor of the building. The reasoning for this expansion is simple, we have run out of space. Office space, storage space, meeting space, – there is no more space!
Have you ever heard the saying “The Color of Money”? I’m not talking about the 1986 movie starring Tom Cruise and Paul Newman, or what colors the Federal Reserve uses in the production of paper currency (many more than you might think!). In government, municipal, state, and federal, “The Color of Money” refers to how money can be spent.
Understandably, taxpayers think every dollar spent by their government comes from the taxes they pay. It’s a common misnomer. In the case of the City Hall expansion, the $775,000 is coming from something called the Building Fund. The Building Fund is where all the money spent by developers to file for permits, have plans reviewed or pay any of a dozen other fees associated with building, renovating, or demolishing any type of structure in Madeira Beach is stored. These funds did not come from homeowners, retail businesses, or tourists.
I know some of you are saying, “why don’t you use that money to lower my taxes or help small businesses that are struggling?” The truth is under Florida law any money in the Building Fund can only be used to build things. We can’t give employees raises, use it to lower property taxes, or sponsor a community event. We can only use the money to build a facility used or operated by the City of Madeira Beach.
If you want to learn more about the city’s budget, the Board of Commissioners are required to hold two public hearings to vote on the budget before the beginning of the next fiscal year, Oct. 1, 2020. You can come to City Hall to see these meetings, watch them on Spectrum Ch. 640 (in Madeira Beach), or as most of our audience does these days, watch the meeting live on our YouTube channel which can be accessed directly from the front page of the city website. The final approval of the FY2021 budget is scheduled for 5:05 p.m. on Wednesday, September 23, 2020.
One more aspect of money is Grants. Grants are awarded for projects from the federal, state, and county governments. We are using grant funds from FEMA, the state of Florida, and Pinellas County to pay for the majority of our City Hall generator which will be installed in the coming weeks. Most of these grant funds are distributed through a formula using our Census population as a qualifying criterion.
This is why it is so important that every full-time resident or second homeowner in Madeira Beach take a few minutes to fill out a Census form. This is how the federal government decides not only proper representation in Congress, but how much funding to appropriate for projects in our community. You can access your Census form online by clicking the “Make Pinellas Count” button on the front page of the city’s website.
Make your voice heard by being counted!
City Clerk Clara VanBlargan reports as of August 31, 2020, the Board of Commissioners have held 44 meetings in 2020. All meetings are open to the public. During the emergency declaration, for safety concerns in-person public access to meetings is limited. The public can view meetings by webcast or on Spectrum Ch. 640 and public comment is accepted by email in advance of each meeting. Regularly scheduled meetings are held at City Hall, 300 Municipal Drive, Madeira Beach, FL 33708 on:
Workshop Agenda Setting 2nd Wednesday @ 5:45 p.m.
Regular Meeting 2nd Wednesday @ 6 p.m.
Workshop Meeting 4th Wednesday @ 6 p.m.
Meeting dates and times are subject to change due to holidays, etc.
The Board of Commissioners approved six proposed Charter amendment questions that are on the November 3, 2020, General Municipal Election’s ballot for the qualified voters in the City of Madeira Beach to vote on. Two Town Hall meetings are scheduled for 6 p.m. on Wednesday, September 16th, and Wednesday, October 7th on the proposed Charter amendments. The City Attorney and City Clerk will answer questions on the proposed amendments.
The six questions can be found here.
Community Development Director Linda Portal reports she and her staff recently worked closely with the owner Madeira Bay resort, located at Gulf Boulevard and 131st Avenue. Construction on the project was recently completed and the project engineer was allowed by state authorities to self-certify the proper functioning of the stormwater pond. However, city staff was concerned the engineered drainage would not perform up to standards.
Upon further inspection the staff’s concerns proved correct, the pond would not drain properly. Because of this issue staff informed the property owner that a Certificate of Occupancy (COA) for the building could not be issued by the city until the issue was fixed. The owner acknowledged the problem and began to redesign and remodel the pond to the proper specifications. By the time you read this, it is our expectation the issue will have been resolved and a COA approved.
Building codes (state and local), along with other guidelines are there for a reason; to make sure the public’s health, safety, and welfare are protected. Our local Building and Code Enforcement staff are tasked with monitoring a project from its inception to completion. As demonstrated in this case, the codes and the oversight process worked exactly as intended.
The average citizen may look at that small drainage pond and think, “what’s the big deal?” On a warm sunny day, it is not a big deal. However, when we get into the rainy season it can become a very big deal if that pond is not draining properly. As the local agency tasked with floodplain management Community Development staff coordinate with FEMA, state, and county agencies in managing floodplain-approved development and flood insurance.
Check out the Development Resources web page for information about protecting life and property in the event of emergencies.
Madeira Beach Fire Department
Fire Chief Clint Belk reports his department recently had to find a creative solution to a potential problem on Crystal Island. The Crystal Island Roadway and Drainage Improvement Project is one of the most ambitious capital improvement projects ever undertaken by the city. As the work crews make progress every week, many factors, including public safety, become impacted by the construction. Simple things such as being able to park a car in a driveway to the way emergency services are provided to residents become a bit more complicated.
Recently, as part of the project, Pinellas County Utilities installed a new water main on John’s Pass Avenue that required a temporary interruption in water service. This shut down of water also meant no working fire hydrants. Since water supply is an essential factor in fire emergencies the Madeira Beach Fire Department had to seek other alternatives for supplying water in case of an emergency.
Chief Belk was able to secure a water tanker from another department, East Lake Fire Rescue Station 58, in Tarpon Springs. He and Inspector Perez drove up to Tarpon Springs on the day before the water shutdown was scheduled to pick up the tanker, officially called “Water 58”. This necessary resource could not be obtained without the help of Chief Jamison and the members of East Lake Fire Rescue. This gesture shows how all Pinellas County Fire Departments work together to achieve a common goal of public safety regardless of the area assigned.
The tanker was staged at MBFD Station 25 with a crew member from the Madeira Beach Fire Department assigned to it during each shift. Surrounding fire departments who provide emergency services in our area were also notified of the temporary resource. This cooperative effort among the emergency services should serve as a reassurance to all residents that your safety is our priority.
Human Resources Coordinator Karen Paulson reports we have two new additions to city staff. Luis Suarez joins the Fire Department and Nick Schweitzer fills a vacant position in Parking Enforcement. These positions were already in the current FY2020 budget and not part of the COVID-19 hiring freeze which is still in effect for any newly created positions.
Congratulations to Raul Perez on his promotion to Fire Inspector, after the promotion of Clint Belk to Fire Chief. Raul has been with the City as a Firefighter/Paramedic since 2015. Congratulations to Todd Ermscher who retired after 36 years in the Fire Department.
Are you or someone you know interested in joining our team? Be sure to check the Human Resources page on the city’s website for any currently available open positions.
Marina Manager Brian Rau and Asst. Manager Brian Crabtree report that the Marina is busy with a steady stream of recreational and charter fishing vessels coming and going. During the dog days of summer fishing options are limited, but there are still a few prime opportunities for the angler willing to wake up before sunrise.
Snook fishing on the beach and around the pass is your best bet. Early morning is the key with cooler temperatures and less traffic leading to fish being more active and willing to eat. We prefer artificial lures because they cover more ground and mimic the baitfish that are in the area. For instance, if there are a lot of small glass minnows in the area a MirrO-Lure 9M or small bucktail jig will allow you to still make long casts with relatively light tackle.
Using a size 3000 spinning reel with a 15-lb braid and 25-lb test fluorocarbon leader will allow you to make a stealthy approach. Be sure to use light drag and finesse to carefully land these fish and release them safely back to the surf.
As always, the Marina staff is here to help with all your boating and fishing needs. Be safe and enjoy the paradise we live in.
Public Works Director Jamie Ahrens reports that his team has been working hard to keep storm drains clean during the current rainy season. Keeping the drains cleared of debris is vital to helping keep the Gulf of Mexico, Intracoastal Waterway and any tributaries free of pollutants. Clogged storm drains mean rainwater backs up into years and parking lots and becomes polluted with chemicals, animal waste and other contaminants before entering the storm drains. Those now polluted waters then travel through the storm drain system and into the gulf.
Residents are also reminded that Pinellas County Code prohibits pollutants from entering the surface waters, the drainage system, or roads leading to the storm drains. Additionally, no connection can be made to the storm sewer without proper permits. Any illicit discharge (yard debris, oil or other automotive fluids, sediment, gravel, or masonry materials, paint and any other chemical) or connection is punishable by fines up to $10,000 per day if not proactively reported.
Meanwhile, on Crystal Island, works crews have been dealing with daily rains which make both working and traveling on the dirt roadways a challenge. Crews have been putting in time on the weekends in the attempt to dry out the roads as much as possible. The City is working with the contractor to try and come up with alternative approaches to address the current condition.
City Building Official, Frank DeSantis reports that our redevelopment/economic development continues at a fast pace including several large condominium projects under plan review.
- The Madeira Bay Project at 13101 Gulf Blvd. is addressing front retention drainage concerns. The engineer is waiting on supplemental design information and documentation to verify the job is complete.
- The Madeira del Mar Condominiums project at 15305 1stStreet E. has completed block work on the lower floors, with roof blockwork to be completed soon. Roof truss installation will start in September. Metal framing on the second floor is complete and nearing completion on the third floor. Mechanical, plumbing and electrical trades are continuing installations. Work on the stairs and elevator shafts is near completion. Fire and water taps are complete. Site work continues. The total project is at 60% completion.
- The Gulf Grille at 14080 Gulf Blvd. has on-site sewer and water hookups continuing. Fire and water taps have been completed. Mechanical, plumbing and electrical trades are continuing installation. Windows have been installed and exterior siding is nearing completion. The project is at 70% completion.
- The Harbor at Town Center Condominiums at 212 150TH have cut approximately 95% of the piling and approximately 85% of the pile caps have been poured. They are still working under a foundation only permit.
- City Hall Generator Structure at 300 Municipal Drive – Foundation work is complete. Support column steel is erected, formwork is being installed. The fire alarm panel/controller has been relocated to its permanent location and is in full service. The electrician is preparing for core drilling and the transfer switch has been delivered. Excessive rain has been an issue causing localized flooding on the project site.
- 80 different types of permitswere issued
- $25,722 in permit fees collected
- $1,173,319 in estimated permit value or cost
- 246 completed inspections
- 8 new code compliance cases were created
- 7 code compliance cases being resolved
- 30 open/outstanding code compliance concerns with the help of the Special Magistrate.
Community Policing and Code Enforcement:
- 4 new code compliance cases were opened
- 7 existing code compliance cases were resolved
- 40 code compliance cases remain open
Recreation Director Jay Hatch reports he and his team are already getting ready for the change of season. Fall is right around the corner and the Recreation Department is ramping up activities in and around the Recreation Center.
Fall sports have returned with Madeira Beach Youth Baseball and Softball practices already taking place. More than 25 teams are registered for the fall season, which will make for a busy few months on the diamonds. The Youth Soccer League is also set to begin in the next few weeks for children ages 3-13. It looks like the popularity of soccer continues to grow as registration filled up quickly and the program continues to operate with strong numbers.
Inside the Recreation Center, the After-School Program has returned! Students from Madeira Beach Fundamental School and Orange Grove Elementary School benefit from a quiet environment to do homework assignments, as well as enjoy all kinds of indoor and outdoor activities that promote physical fitness and good socialization skills. The added benefit of the program is that is gives working parents peace of mind knowing their child is in a safe and supervised setting after school each day.
For adults, fitness classes are also available at the Recreation Center with plenty of options for those looking to be more active! Seriously Fun Fitness takes its participants through a full-body workout Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings to get that blood flowing bright and early. If a more relaxed approach is to fitness is what appeals to you Madeira Beach Yoga has a full array of classes throughout the week for those looking to get centered. More information is available here.
Looking to get fit while grooving to a beat? Zumba activities happen on Tuesday and Thursday! Lastly, the Recreation Center welcomes back Cardio Drumming as Robin brings the beat every Saturday morning! More information on all the classes can be found here.
- September 18: Music & A Movie: The Highrollers and School of Rock – Recreation Complex – 6 p.m.
- September 26 – 27: NSA Softball – Recreation Complex – All Day
- October 3: Trash Pirates Beach Clean Up – Archibald Memorial Beach Park – 8 a.m.