INDIAN ROCKS BEACH - Not much has changed at Indian Rocks Beach City Hall since the former city manager resigned and accepted a job at another city. A search is being conducted for a new city manager and some folks are still waiting for a refund check from the former city manager for about $15,000 (allegedly wrongfully paid for moving expenses.)
Vice Mayor R.B. Johnson believes the entire mess is "most unfortunate." "He should never have asked for that check to be paid to himself. We've never had this happen before, so I think it is likely not to happen again. I don't think we should micromanage this situation by creating new rules just because of this incident. Further, if the city attorney was copied on the e-mail requesting payment I would expect him to say the payment request was inappropriate. I'm not sure the attorney was actually copied on the e-mail request."
Regarding the issue with the Whitehurst street boundary with the city of Indian Shores, "I think we should get a new survey and title search. This is not a new issue, it was reviewed in 2003. Good gracious, this goes back to the days when Indian Shores was a part of Indian Rocks Beach about 1920 or so. Yes, we ought to know the boundary of our city property... the same is probably true for Indian Shores."
Regarding the proposed Pinellas County development of a parking lot near 22nd and 24th Avenue, the vice mayor believes the property should have accessory uses. "Maybe a YMCA or wellness center with parking spaces would be a better use of the property according to our current city code. We need to work this out with the County."
As far as reasons why the Publix project failed, the vice mayor explained that the size of the Publix project was too large for the property, " The size of the building was the negative to people who lived around that area... just too big."
When speaking with IRB commissioner James R. Palamara, he also felt the former city manager took advantage of his employment contract. "When you think the person is honest and this happens... well, it's upsetting. It was stupid, a mistake by the city treasurer, who is a good employee." What about all the city e-mails on this topic? "I stay away from all that e-mail stuff. I see the mayor and commissioner Coppen fighting each other and I just stay away from it all. They need to cool the e-mails."
Regarding Whitehurst street issue commissioner Palamara sees it as a black and white issue, "We need to get a survey that resolves the issue once and for all. Maybe the expense can be shared between our two cities to determine the southern boundary line of Whitehurst. We should get this done and end the issue."
The intention of Pinellas County building a parking lot at 22nd 24th Avenue is a concern of commissioner Palamara, "I'd like to see that area as green-space parking space." According to Palamara the county wanted the land for beach renourishment purposes (public beach access requirements) and a new parking lot would help them meet some of the beach access requirements.
The future of Indian Rocks Beach?
"Maintain what we have," said Palamara, "Stick with our density code and not add more density. It's getting too expensive for working people to live in this town and we need to help save what we have."
Contentious city commission meetings?
"No more than perhaps other places. We vote after discussion, sometimes too long of a discussion, and move-on to other things. There are differences of opinion, much like other city meetings, then we vote," explained the vice mayor. "Our official city meetings aren't bad."
Commissioner Palamara believes all the city e-mails between at least two elected officials need to "lighten-up." "There's too many of them."
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