Thursday, August 29, 2013

August 28 Workshop Meeting Summary

by Sue Nielsen and Jeremy Weinsier

This month's workshop meeting opened with a presentation by Angela Hutschenreuter, Community Service Officer (CSO) for the Belle Isle Police Department (BIPD). Ms. Hutschenreuter has been employed by Belle Isle on a part-time basis since March 2013 and has worked on the Neighborhood Watch and Senior Watch programs. At Wednesday's meeting, she reported on the Senior Watch Program, a proactive approach by the BIPD to address the special needs of Belle Isle's elderly residents. The program is an attempt to prevent potential manipulation, defrauding and abuse of our elderly population. You can view a copy of Ms. Hutschenreuter's presentation here. City Manager Keith Severns announced that Ms. Hutschenreuter's upcoming move to full-time employment at the BIPD will be funded under the City's proposed budget. He stated that the $27,000 increase in her salary will come out of reserves and be added to the BIPD funds in the new budget.

The Delia Beach storm water project is still in planning and design stages but all documents should be complete soon, according to Mr. Severns.  Structural and geotechnical engineers have to be involved in designing in order to overcome the design flaws in the earlier system of retention pools that lie upstream from the waterfall. In short, the flawed design will hopefully be replaced in the near future by a system actually able to filter out pollutants before they are released into the lakes.

The new city solid waste contract with Republic was discussed at Wednesday's meeting, and City Attorney Frank Kruppenbacher made some recommendations to include a "really strong termination clause" to protect city interests. Other minor changes were also discussed at the meeting. While the proposed changes seemed beneficial, or at least harmless, to our City, some residents as well as at least one commissioner expressed their general concern for the way contracts and proposed ordinances are modified up until the last minute, prohibiting residents and Commissioners alike from being able to review the proposed changes in advance.

The mayor ended the waste management discussion with comments regarding trends in the waste management industry towards a "pay as you go" model in which charges for garbage pickup will vary according to amount of refuse each household puts out for disposal.

Attorney Kruppenbacher said that he wants to make a presentation at next week's council meeting about Florida's Sunshine Law, the gifts law, and public records, reminding the Council of the stiff potential penalties for even minor infractions of these laws. The mayor, who sets the Council meeting agendas, agreed  to this request.

Several commissioners reported on concerns within their districts. The recommendation was made to put neighborhood grant money into the City Budget to assist Belle Isle neighborhoods with projects like Lake Conway East's playground project. Commissioner Pisano reported that the application date for neighborhood grants is coming up in October and suggested that interested residents contact her for the details.

Commissioner Readey brought up a charter amendment proposed by one of his constituents requesting a Charter amendment that would require filling vacated council seats by special election, rather than by mayoral appointment. At least one other Commissioner has informally voiced support for such an amendment.

In transportation news, Attorney Kruppenbacher suggested getting Orange County involved in the Orange Avenue beautification project between the approach to Belle Isle and the planned metro Sunrail station. Chief Jackson reported that vehicle inspections are in the works as a way to limit truck traffic on Hoffner Avenue while the Council pursues methods of eliminating this traffic entirely. Finally, Mr. Severns reported that speed limit signs will soon be installed to create a uniform speed limit within the Lakes and Landings neighborhood.

Although it took place before the meeting began, readers may be interested to learn that resident Charline Kennedy requested that Mayor Brooks revive the tradition of putting out a sign in front of City Hall to announce on upcoming Council meetings. This was always done by Belle Isle's prior mayor, although not required by law, to ensure that residents knew about upcoming meetings. Despite the minimal costs associated with printing a couple reusable signs to announce meetings, Mayor Brooks refused Mrs. Kennedy's request outright, stating that City Hall is not on a thoroughfare and that residents already know when upcoming meetings are scheduled. Dissatisfied with this response, many residents, and at least a couple Commissioners, have expressed interest in putting up such signs in their own yards to announce upcoming meetings.

It was great to see so many residents in attendance at the recent workshop meeting, and we hope to see more at next Tuesday's meeting! The Council meeting scheduled for Tuesday, September 3 at 5:30 p.m. will host the first hearing on our City's proposed budget for the fiscal year starting in October 2013. The second budget hearing has been scheduled for Friday, September 20 at 5:30 p.m.


  1. Why does the mayor not want to use every available tool to let the residents know when meetings are??? Does he have something to hide? I think he has forgotten he was put in office to serve ALL the residents.
    Time to vote this power hungry/controlling mayor out of office!

  2. Amen to that. He and the City Manager need to go and a qualified City Manager needs to hired.


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