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Longboat Key resumes in-person meetings

The town is planning to use a hybrid approach through the end of the year.

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  • | 2:50 p.m. November 2, 2020
Monday marked the first in-person meeting held in Longboat Key since March 23.
Monday marked the first in-person meeting held in Longboat Key since March 23.
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The Longboat Key Town Commission on Monday returned to Town Hall for its first in-person meeting since March 23.

The town commission used a hybrid approach with some commissioners meeting in-person and others using Zoom to participate virtually. The commission is planning to use the hybrid format for the foreseeable future because of concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It has been suggested this is the best practice for local governments to do as we transition from the whole virtual meeting type format,” Town Attorney Maggie Mooney said.

Mayor Ken Schneier, Vice Mayor Mike Haycock, District 2 Commissioner George Spoll and District 5 Commissioner Ed Zunz attended Monday afternoon’s meeting to fulfill a physical quorum. It means four of the town’s seven commissioners must meet in person.

“I would just ask you, because the hybrid nature of this and some people, [the] public and some commissioners are on… attending by Zoom, that everyone speak slowly, loudly and clearly, so we can all hear what you have to say,”  Schneier said.

At-Large Commissioner BJ Bishop, District 1 Commissioner Sherry Dominick and District 4 Commissioner Jack Daly used Zoom to participate Monday. Town Attorney Maggie Mooney also used Zoom.

Since the pandemic took hold in mid-March, Gov. Ron DeSantis had issued and extended an executive order that allowed Florida municipalities the ability to meet virtually. DeSantis' executive order that allowed for an entirely virtual meeting format expired at the end of October.

Clear barriers separated each of the commissioners who met in-person. In addition to the barriers, each commissioner had open seats to both sides to provide plenty of space. In-person commissioners were not required to wear masks while seated because of their separation from one another.

The town also utilized a plexiglass barrier for the stand where members of the public speak.

Any member of the public attending Monday’s meeting had to wear a mask, agree to a temperature screening and answer a series of questions before being admitted into the chambers of Town Hall.

About eight people from the public attended Monday afternoon's hybrid town commission meeting.
About eight people from the public attended Monday afternoon's hybrid town commission meeting.

About eight members of the public attended Monday’s meeting in-person. Town Manager Tom Harmer and Town Clerk Trish Shinkle also attended the meeting in-person.

“Many local governments are transitioning to this hybrid format,” Mooney said. “This is new territory for everybody as well.”

The Sarasota City Commission also met in-person on Monday.

Harmer said the town commission is planning to utilize the hybrid format at least through the end of the year. Longboat Key is also planning to use a hybrid format for its Planning and Zoning Board and for the Zoning Board of Adjustment.

The town also is enforcing its mandatory mask policy through at least November.

On Monday, Harmer spoke about how the island is starting to see more people visit the island as season approaches.

“We are starting to see more activity on the island just because we're in early season,” Harmer said. “We're also starting to receive event permits because it's that time of year.”

Harmer said Fire Chief Paul Dezzi and Public Works staff work to review those applications for permits. The applications require a safety plan, according to Harmer.

Harmer said Longboat Key has seen eight active cases of COVID-19 on the Manatee County side of the island in the last 14 days and zero cases on the Sarasota County side of the island during the same timespan.

The data provided to the town by the Florida Department of Health utilizes a person's permanent address. It means if someone tested positive for COVID-19 and their permanent address is outside of Longboat Key, their cases wouldn't be counted among the state data for the 34228 ZIP code. District 5 Commissioner Ed Zunz and At-Large Commissioner BJ Bishop expressed their concerns as more people arrive on the island with season getting under way.

“We've been asking the state for some time if they would share with us if we had someone staying on the island, say for three months, and they were not a permanent resident and they tested positive, we were like, ‘Hey, we would like to know that,’ but that’s not currently not in their numbers format,” Harmer said. “Sarasota County has said that they would try to do that as part of their heat mat because the heat map is separate from the state tracking.”

Harmer said he would plan to have Sarasota County Department of Health administrator Chuck Henry speak to commissioners again this year about best COVID-19 health practices.


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