New vehicles drive canal discussion

 

New vehicles drive canal discussion

 

Date: September 18, 2013
by: Robin Hartill | City Editor

 
 

Gear up for a discussion on canal-dredging.

The topic wasn’t on the agenda of the Longboat Key Town Commission’s Monday, Sept. 16 regular workshop but came up when a discussion on funding new police vehicles and radios veered off in a different direction.

The commission ultimately reached consensus to forward the ordinance that reallocates funds to provide the $356,000 needed for new police vehicles and equipment.

And, commissioners agreed that canal funding should be a topic for future workshop discussion.

So, how did the paths of the two topics cross?

Both are funded by infrastructure surtax — i.e. Sarasota County’s one-cent sales tax.

The commission approved new police vehicles and radios last year, but town staff inadvertently left the cost out of the budget.

Town Manager Dave Bullock presented an ordinance to commissioners that would reallocate infrastructure surtax funds to provide for the $356,000 by reducing funds for other projects — including a reduction of $100,000 each for comprehensive beach management and canal dredging.

The debate ultimately turned in three directions.

Commissioners wanted a breakdown of the replacement schedule, which is based on a formula of both mileage and hours on the road, because police vehicles spend a large amount of time idling, placing wear and tear on the vehicles.

They also discussed whether alternative funds were available.

Bullock explained that other sources beyond infrastructure surtax funds and the general fund would be limited.

“The money has to come from somewhere,” he said. “It will either come from the general fund, which is unrestricted money, or it can come from a revenue source that is eligible for use here but has some restrictions on its use. Philosophically, my experience is the general fund will always face the most pressure.”

They also debated how funds should be spent, with Commissioner Phill Younger questioning whether the town should be funding canal dredging.

“The people in the condos and the high-rises don’t have a canal, so we’re basically charging them to clean somebody else’s canal,” he said.

Commissioner Pat Zunz argued, however, that the Key is a waterfront community.

“We take care of the Gulf front, and I think we have an obligation to take care of our canals,” she said.

The commission agreed to forward the ordinance providing for the allocation of $356,000 for police vehicles and radios to its October meeting. Town staff will gather additional information related to vehicle replacement, including the formula that’s based on mileage and hours on the road, used to determine when to replace vehicles.

Canal dredging will be a topic for a future workshop.

 

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