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Longboat Key seeks interlocal agreement to share planning staff in emergencies


Construction projects, like the St. Regis development, would likely need many inspections from the town planning and zoning department throughout the course of building.
Construction projects, like the St. Regis development, would likely need many inspections from the town planning and zoning department throughout the course of building.
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In an emergency, a little help from neighbors is a good thing to have. 

The town’s Planning, Zoning and Building Department hopes to enter into an interlocal agreement with neighboring jurisdictions to share certain staff members when necessary, which could be used in emergencies or if the department is unexpectedly left short-handed. 

Per the agreement, Longboat Key’s department could call on building officials and plans examiners from the cities of North Port, Venice and Sarasota, and the counties of Sarasota and Charlotte. 

The most recent revision of the interlocal agreement was in 2014. At that time, the town was invited to participate but turned down the offer, according to Parsons. Town staff recently reviewed the agreement and saw the value.  

The memo drafted by Director of Planning, Zoning and Building Allen Parsons for the commission’s June 28 meeting said this would help tap into a broader pool of staff to assist in times of need. 

“Its likely usage would be in some kind of emergency situation where you need to supplement staff,” Parsons said. 

If a hurricane were to hit Longboat Key, this agreement could be utilized to bring in extra building officials and plans examiners from the participating jurisdictions. On the other hand, if another jurisdiction suffered an emergency and needed assistance, Longboat Key could send a staff member to assist. 

Either way, the jurisdiction that receives the extra hand would be responsible for any costs. 

But Longboat Key's is also a small department compared to most others in the area. Parsons said if there was a staff shortage for some reason, the agreement could also be utilized then. 

“We’re a small department,” Parsons said. “If our building official is out in an unplanned way, and we have difficulty getting someone from a private provider to do the work for us, it would be a real benefit to us to be able to see if there’s availability with one of the other jurisdictions to kind of cover for the limited staffing that we have if somebody critical is out.”

The staff memo also stated that qualified personnel for these positions are in demand, and there are more positions to fill than there are available employees. That’s partly because of “demanding licensing requirements” and years of necessary experience, according to the memo. 

Last year, the town’s Planning, Zoning and Building Department faced difficulties due to staff shortages and frequently had to hire third-party contractors to assist. Since then, Parsons said the department was able to hire a plans examiner/building inspector, which has alleviated the issue.

Town Manager Howard Tipton had already reached out to the managers and administrators of the participating municipalities and received support, according to the memo on the June 28 consent agenda.

The June 28 consent agenda was unanimously approved, and the next step for the interlocal agreement will be to receive approval from the other participating municipalities.

 

author

Carter Weinhofer

Carter Weinhofer is the Longboat Key news reporter for the Observer. Originally from a small town in Pennsylvania, he moved to St. Petersburg to attend Eckerd College until graduating in 2023. During his entire undergraduate career, he worked at the student newspaper, The Current, holding positions from science reporter to editor-in-chief.

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