BELLEAIR BEACH - A city manager can bring a cohesiveness in looking at a city's future that focuses elected officials on making a priority among goals.
Such an endeavor is underway in Belleair Beach. With the scare of losing City Manager Reid Silverboard to Dunedin seeming to have abated, Mayor Rudy Davis and council members are breathing easier and ready to implement what the future needs.
The goals for Belleair Beach grew out of a strategic planning session in early May. Strategic planning sessions are what city managers are good at orchestrating.
While the council had a list of more than two dozen topics to address at its planning meeting in May, top priority went to code enforcement.
This topic rises to the top of any list in a community like Belleair Beach which has no businesses, no public buildings (other than the city hall), but plenty of residences ranging from modest abodes to fancy digs.
So property values are very much on the minds of Belleair Beach burgers and these are supported by code enforcement. That is, if you live next door to a home that looks like a "dump," it hurts your chances of selling. The theory, and well taken, is that everybody benefits from code endorcement.
Council members made creating a separate code enforcement function their top priority. That job has been under the jurisdiction of the police, where it definitely does not belong in any kind of responsible government thinking.
But when Mike Kelly took office as mayor in 2001 almost his first act was to destroy the code enforcement procedure in place at that time, get rid of the man who was doing a creditable job in enforcing the code, and turn it over to the police department.
Now elected officials have seen the light and realize that was a big mistake.
To back up the new system, the council will be deciding whether to pursue code violations through the process of a special master or by a code enforcement board.
Belleair Bluffs is working on a similar scheme and the city lawyer there, Tom Trask, has produced an ordinance that could possibly become a model for Belleair Beach.
The third priority on council members' minds was to increase community policy presence.
This actually ties into another priority listed by the elected officials which was to affirm the commitment to the police department.
There has been sporadic talk over the years of turning police duties in Belleair Beach over to the Sheriff's Office. But a referendum is required on that subject and when it has come up Belleair Beach voters have opted to keep their own police department.
And they pay a pretty penny for that luxury with a police force that has a higher per capita cost than any other police agency in Pinellas County.
Fortunately, Belleair Beach has been relatively crime free and police duties boil down to giving tickets to speeders on the only road through the village.
If there should be a real crime, the Sheriff's Office then comes in.
Other subjects given high priority are to maintain the current millage rate. But even with that, it doesn't mean that a property owner will pay lower taxes. Values go up each year so on the bottom line there is usually a tax increase.
Another is to increase communication efforts with the community. One item of communication that is probably not getting through to the populace is the zooming cost of the planned city hall that is now well above $3.6 million.
With a strategic plan, the city manager has some guidelines to work on to achieve goals and the elected officials have more of a sense of where the city is and where they would like it to go.
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