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Longboat Key Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2012 4 years ago

Fire contract expenses: $120,000 and counting

by: Kurt Schultheis Senior Editor

The town of Longboat Key has spent $115,590 for the services of town labor attorney Reynolds Allen through fiscal year 2011-12.

That figure, which dates back to fiscal year 2007-08, doesn’t include the current 2012-13 fiscal year that Allen has spent working for the town to reach a three-year contract with the Longboat Key Fire Rescue Union. That contract could be approved as soon as Jan. 7.

Town Manager Dave Bullock, though, is using more than town staff and Allen when he’s holding discussions with the firefighter union for a new contract.

Bullock has employed the services of Heidi Smith Communications to work with him throughout contract negotiations and for other matters, as well.

So far to date, the town has paid the Anna Maria-based communications firm $4,465 for fiscal year 2011-12. Heidi Smith Communications is charging the town $95 per hour for its services.

Heidi Smith, owner of the communications company, has yet to send the town a bill for her services for fiscal year 2012-13, although Bullock has already signed an agreement extending the use of those services through June 30.

“I like to have a third party in the room during negotiations, one who is knowledgeable and has an eye out for the public, how this process works and how it’s perceived in the public,” Bullock said.

Bullock also says he will use Heidi Smith for PowerPoint presentations he might make to the Longboat Key Town Commission or the public when he attends certain functions.

He will also rely on her for anything with which he feels he needs help conveying in a proper manner.

“I know my strengths and my weaknesses,” Bullock said. “She helps me think things through and make things not so technical when I’m making a message that needs to be heard properly. I will use her for anything I feel is helpful.”

In a proposal dated March 12 titled “Employee Pension Initiative,” Smith describes the town “is seeking assistance in developing and possibly implementing a communications strategy to support modifications to the town’s pension plan for employees.”

The proposal explains the town will design a communications strategy for unions, general employees and Longboat Key residents.

In a follow-up proposal dated April 18, dubbed “Employee Pension Initiative Phase 2,” Smith’s consultation services for news releases, charts, presentation materials and videos was agreed upon. It’s this proposal that allowed Smith to attend and observe contract negotiation sessions.

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