After hearing concerns from Tingler Isle and Sombrero Beach Road residents regarding the possibility of a beach renourishment project, Marathon’s newest City Manager has stayed true to his word about his proactive management style.
Last Friday, Roger Hernstadt hosted a community meeting for residents to voice concerns over the proposed design and installation of a new bike path on Coco Plum Drive. Despite chillier than normal temperatures, several dozen concerned citizens met with Hernstadt and members of the council at the corner of Avenue D and Coco Plum Drive to question the proposed design for a new path that could call for widening the existing path in places as much as 12 feet.
The city plans on taking steps in the near future to adopting more solid policies that would garner greater public input prior to the council’s approval of a proposed improvement project.
“The community needs an opportunity to participate in these types of projects by offering their feedback and being involved in the planning process in its initial stages,” Hernstadt told the council Tuesday evening during their regularly scheduled meeting.
Hernstadt told the council that staff has some redesign work to do on both the Coco Plum and Tingler Isle improvement projects, but he hopes that in the end, “We’ll have projects we’re all proud of with help from the community and council.”
Hernstadt was commended for his “boots-on-the-ground tour and discussion” by Councilman Dick Ramsay, who drafted a letter and requested City Clerk Diane Clavier to read aloud for the record his viewpoints during the meeting.
“The problem is that this outing became necessary because we were letting the cart push the horse down the road,” Ramsay wrote in his letter. “We didn’t allow a proper process which absolutely needed to include public participation before we accepted that grant money and the responsibilities and obligations which go with that money.”
In order to establish a clearly defined process from the outset, Ramsay suggested the council should define improvement projects with a clear completion date accompanied by regular public meetings like the one held last week.
He continued that, “Only after a proposed project has passed muster with the council and the public should we then seek financial support for these projects from appropriate agencies like the state or FDOT.”
Ramsay concluded that any project that comes before the council should be approved by citizens prior to any commitment or receipt of grant funding, “…because we all know ‘free’ isn’t usually so free after all.”
In other business:
• Four council members made their respective appointments to the Code Board following the removal of the previous acting members. Ramsay appointed William Matthews; Vice Mayor Mike Cinque appointed John Repetto; Richard Keating appointed John Keller; and Pete Worthington appointed Steve Britske. Mayor Ginger Snead said since her nominee (Matthews) had already received appointment by another councilman, she would bring another name to the meeting in two weeks when two at-large seats will be filled by appointment.
• Later in the meeting, the council approved an ordinance to remove the seated members of the Planning Commission and appoint new members of each council person’s choosing just as they did with Code Board members. Councilman Worthington, who’s been adamantly opposed to the move since the discussion began, said he would not support the ordinance because individual appointments by the council might jeopardize the “independent mind of the planning commission.” Cinque quickly refuted Worthington’s suggestions, saying the appointees would continue to be independent thinkers and that the structure is very common in other municipalities.
“I’ve been on the council for a year and a half, and all I saw was the same faces with the same ideas,” Snead defended. “That’s why I brought this up, and it also helps to cultivate new blood for the council. The other thing it does is make council people put some thought into their appointments and forces them to take accountability for their nominee.”
• In response to council members’ requests that staff remain accountable for directives assigned them during council meetings, Hernstadt said in the near future his office will publish a list of the council’s directives on it’s website with bi-weekly updates to the list. Ramsay thanked staff for “taking the first step toward having traceability of directives. I commend your movement forward on this issue that is long overdue.”
• In a dead-end debate that last for nearly two hours, an attorney representing Knight’s Key Inn owner Lance Kyle challenged the issuance of an after the fact right-of-way use permit by interim City Manager Peter Rosasco, alleging that the installation of two gates on Kyle Way were in violation of the original development agreement for the former Chappy’s Restaurant.
Mayor Ginger Snead, also an avid bike rider, voiced her concerns regarding the preliminary designs for bike path improvements along Coco Plum Drive during last Friday’s community meeting.
Fifty or so concerned citizens met with City Manager Roger Hernstadt at the corner of Coco Plum Drive and Avenue D last Friday afternoon to voice concerns over the design of bike path improvements. One of their biggest concerns was the possibility that the path was required at points to be as much as 12 feet wide in accordance with specifications from the grant the city planned to use to fund the project.