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Longboat Key Town Commissioners back from hiatus and ready to work

After a two-month recess, the Town Commission resumes regular meetings on Sept. 9.

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  • | 10:30 a.m. September 4, 2019
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Longboat Key Town Commissioners last met for an official meeting in late June. The traditional summer hiatus is coming to an end now, though, with a meeting scheduled for Sept. 9.

During the past week, Commissioners discussed what they felt would be important in this upcoming legislative season with the Longboat Observer, be it the proposed Town Center, sea level rise, red tide, rental rules or other pressing town issues. They also recalled their summer activities.

District 1 Commissioner Randy Clair

Short-term priorities: The foremost task for the Commission, to Clair, is setting the tax millage rate. “That’s very important so the town has the money to implement the programs that have already been approved and are in the budget,” he said.

Long-term priorities: Clair named a bevy of ongoing issues on Longboat: beach re-nourishment, underground utilities and sea level rise came to mind. He also brought up the town’s zoning code. “We’ve done a substantial rewrite of our zoning code, but there are still some loose ends that need to be completed,” he said. “I’m under the impression that we’re going to do that in the fall of this year.”

Regrets: Clair opted for diplomacy in his response. “That would mean I’d have to criticize what some other commissioner may have said or failed to say,” he said. “I don’t want to bite on that apple at the moment.”

Summer vacation: Clair spent his summer on Longboat, he said.

Mayor-District 2 Commissioner George Spoll

Short-term priorities: Getting the budget done is first up for Spoll. “There are a number of issues on the table, namely the contract with our police union,” Spoll said. “There’s also the issue of the use of the Town Center parcel of land.” Updating the underground utilities project and reaching a final agreement on the public-private partnership also came to mind for Spoll.

Long-term priorities: The underground utilities project is going to be of concern for awhile. Beyond that, “We have to deal with sea rise and red tide, as well as the traffic situation,” Spoll said. “Those are ongoing issues that go to the life of the community and its future.”

Regrets: Spoll didn’t have any regrets per se, although he acknowledged that red tide will always be important not just because of its health effects, but because of its impact on the tourism/real estate industries.

Summer vacation: Spoll, like Vice Mayor Ed Zunz, held weekly meetings with Town Manager Tom Harmer during the summer hiatus. He also spent time by a lake at his home in New York.

District 3 Commissioner Ken Schneier

Short-term priorities: For Schneier, the underground utilities project, beach re-nourishment and the budget are the three issues he thinks the Commission needs to hone in on first. For September in particular, finalizing the budget before the fiscal year starts Oct. 1. As for underground utilities, Schneier is particularly concerned with what the town will do with respect to the public-private partnership.

Long-term priorities: According to Schneier, the public pickleball/tennis situation at Bayfront Park needs to be resolved. “I'm interested in making sure that we're not without free tennis courts for long, if at all,” he said. Sea level rise, and the town’s continued planning for it, should also be a long-term priority, Schneier said.

Regrets:  “I was extremely disappointed with the result on the Town Center and the steps that we're taking that caused Ringling school to pull out of it,” Schneier said. “My hope is that that can be remedied and we can get them back involved.”

Summer vacation: Schneier and his wife went to Maine for a week to visit two hotels in Bar Harbor and Rockland. They also went to Colorado for a couple weeks in August to see their two boys and three grandchildren who live outside of Denver.

Commissioners and members of the public and town staff toured the Town Center land in June.
Commissioners and members of the public and town staff toured the Town Center land in June.

District 4 Commissioner Jack Daly

Short-term priorities: Daly said moving forward on the underground utilities project and the proposed Town Center are his chief concerns. “It may not happen the first meeting that we have in September, but I'm hoping if it doesn't, the second meeting is for the Commission again to focus on the Town Center, and particularly, to focus on the Ace building,” Daly said. “We're in a little bit of a hiatus with the Ringling’s hopefully temporary decision to withdraw at this point in time.”

Long-term priorities: For Daly, getting a larger consensus on the town center and what he considers to be the cornerstone of the town center, the Arts, Culture and Education Center, is also a long-term priority. He’s in his third term, which is his last term, and he’d like to be instrumental in getting the project back on track. Daly also mentioned the pickleball/tennis court situation at Bayfront Park.

Regrets: Daly wishes the town could’ve found a solid partner, whether it was Ringling or another entity, for the Town Center. He expects to do so in the future.

Summer vacation: Daly did what he’s done since he was 9 years old: go to Connecticut. His father built a cottage on the seashore near Mystic in 1946.

Vice Mayor-Commissioner District 5 Ed Zunz

Priorities: Zunz rejected the distinction between short-term and long-term legislative priorities and instead named a number of critical issues for the Commission to handle. He spoke to beach re-nourishment, sea level rise, an out-of-date building code, hacking and the possibility of holding the town’s computer system hostage and the pickleball/tennis court situation, among other items.

Regrets: Zunz said addressing the building code is something the Commission can always do better at. He also said the Commission could’ve done more on the Town Center issue.

Summer vacation: “I played a lot of tennis,” Zunz said. He also belongs to a reading buddy program for young children with reading problems in the area.

“I think the only thing that was a disappointment, and we as the Commission obviously could’ve done a better job, was the Town Center.” – Irwin Pastor

At-Large Commissioner Irwin Pastor

Priorities: Pastor described six legislative priorities for the town in no order of importance:

  1. The one-county question. Taxpayers from Manatee County have expressed frustration to Pastor because, he said, they’re being taxed for services that are not being rendered, and they’re paying about $4.5 million more in taxes than their counterpart.
  2. Traffic. Longboat leaders are always looking to ease congestion on the island.
  3. Red tide. Like Spoll, Pastor mentioned tourism and real estate as well as the importance of surrounding waters to the town.
  4. Airbnb rental situation.
  5. PACE. The Property Assessed Clean Energy program is a partnership between the public and private sector that gives financing for projects having to do with resiliency of property.
  6. The Town Center. Pastor emphasized transparency and giving voters what they want.

Regrets: “I think the only thing that was a disappointment, and we as the Commission obviously could’ve done a better job, was the Town Center,” Pastor said. “The Commission couldn’t find consensus, but I think that’s going to  move in the right direction.”

Summer vacation: Pastor said the summer hiatus was a good time for him to visit his grandchildren, great grandchildren and other family.

At-Large Commissioner Mike Haycock

Short-term priorities: “The number one thing is getting the budget approved,” Haycock said in anticipation of another budget workshop and then a public meeting.

Long-term priorities: The execution of the underground utilities project is at the top of Haycock’s mind. Beach re-nourishment is another continued topic of importance to Haycock, specifically how much money the town will put toward it. “We want to try to get it done because the last beach re-nourishment bond is up next year,” Haycock said.

Regrets: Haycock was disappointed the Commission couldn’t reach a consensus on what to do with the property the town hopes to use for an arts, culture and education center. “We had varying opinions on our partnership with Ringling and the vision for that property,” Haycock said.

Summer vacation: “My wife and I traveled constantly,” Haycock said. They took a river cruise down the Rhine, spent some time in Amsterdam and Switzerland, took golf trips to Oregon and the Ozarks and spent time with all 10 grandchildren at various points of the summer.



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