Manager’s Minute – The Budget and Covid-19
As we get ready to roll into the dog days of summer, your Board of Commissioners and city staff are hard at work crafting the Fiscal Year 2021 (FY2021) budget. As you may know, government years begin on October 1st and end on September 30th. By state law, the city must have a balanced budget approved by our commission and submitted to the state by Sept. 30, 2020. City staff began working on the proposed budget months ago, and the Board of Commissioners began holding budget workshops in July.
Developing the budget is always a complex process, with differing priorities expressed by elected officials, city staff, and of course, the community. The FY2021 budget is even more of a challenge because of Covid-19, and the financial impact on our community. In the short-term, it is easy to take a “sky is falling approach” and consider cutting everything from office supplies to people. The long-term vision reveals a clearer picture of the financial impact of Covid-19, and how we can recover without reducing the level of service our community expects.
Madeira Beach has previously been through a similar scenario. In 2018 it was not Covid-19, but Red Tide that ground our tourism-based economy to a halt. The beaches, stores, bars, and restaurants were empty, and yet we made it through that crisis, just like we will make it through this one. It is a little different this time around as the federal government has stepped up to the plate with financial help. Also, city staff has applied for numerous grants and the city’s bond rating has remained healthy and stable.
During our preparation for these budget discussions, we have also discovered some good news. According to our Interim Director of Finance Andrew Laflin, the city is a good shape financially, and we have ample reserves to cover the short-term losses. While the state reopening beaches and businesses may have presented risks from the public health perspective, it also drew thousands of people back to Madeira Beach and they spent money. At the end of the day, we are projecting an estimated $600,000 impact from Covid-19 compared to the previous fiscal year but through cost-cutting measures and not filling vacant positions, we were able to lessen that impact.
We know we can’t rely on property taxes and parking fees to sustain us. That’s why I have directed staff to focus on finding different revenue sources and the Board of Commissioners set a vision of a new high-tech High and Dry boat storage facility. Right now, the concept is for it to have a restaurant and enough storage for up to 200 boats. A feasibility study is just starting to detail the finances and revenues that can be projected. With one brand new hotel in town (Cambria) and at least two more in the planning stages, we can expect increased revenues from tourists and other sources generated by these buildings.
None of this will be easy, and we still must watch every penny carefully, but it’s important not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. We must still be mindful of the services our residents have come to expect. There is one issue each of you can help us resolve. That is capturing an accurate number of our population by participating in the 2020 Census currently being conducted. Many of the grants for which we apply utilize a formula for funding that is directly tied to our population. That final Census number could have a huge impact on not only how much funding we get, but also if we are approved at all. Help us help you and our community by participating. It takes less than 10-minutes, and you can do it online at www.my2020census.gov or by calling 844-330-2020.
As of July 31, 2020, the Board of Commissioners has held 38 meetings in 2020. All meetings are open to the public. During the emergency declaration, for safety concerns, public access to meetings in-person 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:
Board of Commissioners Meetings – City Hall, 300 Municipal Drive, Madeira Beach, FL 33708
- Workshop Agenda Setting2nd Wednesday @ 5:45 p.m.
- Regular Meeting2nd Wednesday @ 6 p.m.
- Regular Workshop Meeting4th Wednesday @ 6 p.m.
Meeting dates and times are subject to change due to holidays, etc.
Public Works Director Jamie Ahrens reports the City of Madeira Beach has a limited number of sandbags available for residents. However, due to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) regulations, the city is not able to guarantee sand will be available. You can call Public Works at 727-543-8154 to schedule a time to pick up your sandbags. In the event of a flood emergency, the city will make its best effort to provide sand.
Residents can find additional flood control options by searching the web for “Home Flood Protection Barriers”. There are several methods and systems available that might fit your particular home flooding protection needs.
Pinellas County has sandbags available at certain times before flooding emergencies. Residents can monitor http://www.pinellascounty.org/emergency/sandbags.htm for up to date information.
If you do use sandbags, please dispose of the sand and the bags properly. Sand and sandbags that have been in contact with floodwaters may be contaminated with sewage, animal waste, oil and gasoline residue, lawn chemicals, or other hazardous materials. Caution should be used to avoid direct human contact when handling sand or sandbags. Wear gloves and a dust mask, as there might be loose or blowing material. Do not place used sand in or near bodies of water, on the beach, playgrounds, sandboxes, or other areas of direct human contact.
Welcome to our newest employees Johana Marinello who filled a vacant position in the Fire Department and Elizabeth Peck who filled a vacant position in Parking. These were positions were already in the current budget and not part of the COVID19 hiring freeze which is still in effect for any newly created positions.
Congratulations to Clint Belk on his promotion to Fire Chief, after the retiring of Derryl O’Neal. Clint has been with the City as a Firefighter/Paramedic since 2013. His most recent position was as Fire Inspector before filling in as Interim Fire Chief. The City is very lucky to have such a dedicated and capable crew of firefighters ready to move up in the ranks as needed.
Parking Supervisor Sue Tofthagen reports parking revenue for June was healthy with $294,338 collected. In the ongoing effort to protect the general public and city staff from Covid-19, parking staff continues to clean and disinfect the parking kiosks every morning. The new light bars have been installed on all machines and are working very efficiently.
The Community Development Department is awaiting a response from FEMA regarding the City’s final Community Rating System (CRS) score. The score recommended by the FEMA consulting group did not include credit for many current city programs, but instead reviewed programs from 8-years previous. The city’s consulting attorney is optimistic the review will be corrected, and the score adjusted in the city’s favor. The staff provided additional copies of all the requested material and analysis, and the attorney continues to pursue the resolution of the matter.
Community Development staff continue to update the collateral material used to inform homeowners of their flood risk and flood insurance options. Property owners can expect information by mail and are encouraged to visit the department website or the Pinellas County flood information site at http://www.pinellascounty.org/flooding/default.htm.
The City is required each year to include local realtors in the effort to keep the public informed of flood risk information efforts and will contact those professionals within the month.
The Planning Commission and the Board of Commissioners are reviewing the Levels of Service (LOS) for city facilities to adopt impact fees for future development. Data and analysis to support the comprehensive planning effort are also being developed. A community input process respective of pandemic concerns is being developed.
City Building Official, Frank DeSantis reports that economic development continues at a fast pace in our community.
The Madeira Bay Project at 13101 Gulf Blvd. is close to being completed following some concerns about drainage on the property currently being addressed.
The Madeira del Mar Condominiums project at 15305 1st Street East now has the 4th floor and the masonry work is scheduled to begin soon. The blockwork on the 2nd floor is complete and the 3rd floor is in process. Trades will begin “rough-in” work on plumbing and electrical in the coming days. Work on the stairs and elevator shafts is continuing. The project is at 50% completion.
The Gulf Grille project at 14080 Gulf Blvd. has roof sheathing installed and has been “dried-in”. Stormwater drainage has been connected to the existing system and Pinellas County Utilities is scheduled to install fire/water taps soon. The foundations for the retention ponds have been poured. Work continues on the slabs, walks and curbing are partially complete and the traffic apron and trench drains have been installed in the right of way. Interior framing is nearing completion. All trades (plumbing and electrical) have started their “rough-ins”. The project is at 65% completion.
The Harbor at Town Center Condominiums project at 212 150TH Ave. has cut approximately 80% of the pilings and approximately 60% of the pile caps have been poured. Following the initial review, plan revision sheets have been submitted for processing. The project is still operating under a foundation only permit and work allowed under that permit is approximately 75% complete.
City Hall Generator Structure, 300 Municipal Drive. The permit is awaiting pick-up. The underground utilities are being located. Construction set-up will begin in August.
- 89 different types of permits were issued
- $48,489 in permit fees collected
- $2,003,044 in estimated value or cost
- 174 inspections completed
- 4 new code compliance cases were created
- 6 code compliance cases are in the process of being resolved
- 27 open/outstanding code compliance cases will move to the Special Magistrate
Community Policing and Code Enforcement processed:
- 13 new code compliance cases were opened
- 23 existing code compliance cases were resolved
- 43 code compliance cases remain open
From Memorial Day weekend through July water rescue emergency calls doubled in Madeira Beach in comparison to the same time in 2019. The calls include traumatic injuries due to collisions involving personal watercraft, drownings, the rescue of persons in the water, and sinking boats. In addition to the Light Marine 25 (LM25) unit which consists of a jet-ski response with two paramedics serving in the capacity of an operator and a swimmer, the department implemented Special Rescue 25 (SR25) to assist with response time and patient contact.
SR25 is a side by side Polaris All-Terrain-Vehicle (ATV) that features all-wheel drive and a custom bed that allows our rescue crews easier and more efficient access to soft sand areas during water rescues. Thousands of people come to Madeira Beach every year so the need for quick access, shaving off minutes that could save a life, is of vital importance.
SR25 can gain access to the beach via Archibald Park and travel either north or south depending on the location of the call. Previously the crews would have to take the ladder truck onto Gulf Boulevard, walk down to the location while carrying multiple bags with all the necessary equipment. SR25 allows us to have direct access to locations previously unreachable with other equipment. Being on-site also enables us to provide an accurate location to direct other responding units.
Placing the unit in service has made a significant impact on our response to beachfront water rescue emergencies.
Marina Manager Brian Rau and Assistant Manager Brian “Crabby” Crabtree report a steady flow of customers, charter, and recreational coming into the Marina. Fishing during the hot summer months is different as fish react to water temperatures just like we do. Fish will be more active at night due to the high temperatures. Snook on the beaches and in the passes will gather in the outgoing tides. Mangrove snapper will hang out offshore near large structures such as artificial reefs, rock piles, and ledges.
This time of year you always need to be on the lookout for thunderstorms. If you can hear the thunder you are within the lightning strike range and need to seek shelter. Fortunately, most of these storms don’t last long, and after they pass, fish can become more aggressive.
If you have any questions about fishing, boating or the marine waterways feel free to call us at Madeira Beach Marina seven days a week, 727-399-2631. Our knowledgeable and friendly staff members are always willing to help.
Recreation Director Jay Hatch reports as the summer of 2020 is wrapping up at the Recreation Center summer camp and limited activities are beginning to wind down. While camp looked a little different this year thanks to Covid-19, campers enjoyed their days at the Rec Center through field trips and activities each day.
With the start of schools being delayed until August 24th, the summer camp excitement will be extended two more weeks for the families of children who chose to attend. In addition to the two extra weeks of camp, the After School Program will begin to accept applications for the 2020-2021 school year. Through all of it, the Recreation Department will continue to utilize its Covid-19 protocols which have lasted all summer, to ensure the safety of the children who attend.
Outside the Recreation Center, activities have slowly begun to emerge much to the public’s delight. Recreation staff hosted another ‘Drive-In Movie’ on July 31st with a viewing of ‘A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood’. The third movie in the series, ‘The School of Rock’ and will feature a special opening act as ‘The Highrollers Band’ entertains the crowd. Want the best seat on the field? Get it before it’s gone as reservations are available at MadeiraBeach.gov/Recreation.
Finally, athletics is still going strong with the usage of the ballfields being a mixture of Madeira Beach Youth Baseball and Softball, NSA Softball, and the Madeira Beach Kickball League. Covid-19 protocols have been implemented and continue to be in place to ensure the safety of the participants.
- August 21: Music & A Movie – The Highrollers and School of Rock – Recreation Complex
- August 24: First Day of School and After School Care – Recreation Center