Changes could be coming to the number of years an Islamorada council member serves in office. Seats could also be staggered to avoid a complete change on the dais.
Discussion is set for the meeting Thursday, March 18 of Islamorada Village Council on an ordinance that proposes staggered four-year terms for those elected to office. As it stands now, candidates vying for seats who go on to win the election serve a two-year term.
All seats were up for grabs in last year’s election, with former council members either running for other offices, terming out or choosing not to seek re-election. As a result, five new faces were chosen in the Nov. 3 general election.
Talks over potential term changes go back to Jan. 18, 2018, when the village council gave direction to the village attorney to review the charter and bring back information on changing the term of office for council members. On March 1, 2018, the council gave direction to prepare an ordinance for consideration that would create four-year terms that were staggered. By May 2018, the first reading of an ordinance was tabled.
Altering terms requires village approval of an ordinance to amend the charter, as well as a subsequent referendum. It could be submitted to vote at the next general election held within the village or at a special election.
Per a 2018 analysis of the proposal, the term of office for the candidates elected in the next election, in this case 2022, would be split, with three candidates serving four-year terms and two candidates serving two-year terms. Any candidates elected unopposed would serve a four-year term with no more than two highest-vote getters serving four-year terms. The other two elected members would remain for two years for one subsequent election cycle.
If there are no candidates running unopposed in the November 2022 general election, the three highest vote-getters would serve a four-year term while the other two elected members would remain for two years for one subsequent election cycle. Thereafter, every member would serve a four-year term.
Vice Mayor Peter Bacheler, who’s bringing forth discussion on the proposal, said it was made clear by the consultant who’s analyzing the village manager hiring process that council members’ terms are too short.
“The bottom line to that, we generate more solidarity not only within council and the village manager, but it also follows down through staff,” he said.
Last August, council accepted the resignation of then-Village Manager Seth Lawless for health reasons. He was hired in September 2016. Since his departure, Finance Director Maria Bassett has served as acting village manager.
Last month, village council members approved an agreement with Colin Baezinger & Associates at a cost of $26,000 to assist in the village manager hiring process. During a Feb. 24 workshop with Baezinger, Councilman David Webb said staff is currently dealing with new leaders on the dais.
“I can only imagine, I haven’t asked this question, I think it would be safe to assume that there’s a lot of uncertainty when that happens. In less than two years, there’s opportunity to have that happen again,” he said. “Those are the kinds of things we have the obligation to discuss and examine, engage the community if we need to and decide are there things we can do.”
Council members will consider several resolutions, including approval of CPH Inc. to prepare a master plan for the Fills, which include Tea Table Key Fill, Indian Key Fill and Lignumvitae Key Fill. A request for proposals for firms to assist the village to prepare a master plan went out in January. Three proposals came back, and an evaluation committee appointed by the acting village manager recommended the firm CPH Inc. for a cost proposal of $55,000.
A capital projects fund within the fiscal year 2020-21 adopted budget allocated $350,000 for Fills master plan engineering and construction costs.
In lieu of shutting off access to the Fills and to better control public use and activities at the Fills, the Village entered into a lease agreement with FDOT in 2019 for the limited purpose of directing and managing recreational traffic in the area for public safety purposes.
Also up for approval is work authorization between the village and K2M Design for design of final developments at Key Cactus Preserve. With Florida Forever grant assistance received from the Florida Communities Trust, Islamorada partnered with The Conservation Fund to purchase approximately 9 acres of uplands and mangrove wetlands with frontage along the Florida Bay on the lower end of Upper Matecumbe Key, known as the Key Tree Cactus Preserve.
A conceptual master plan was completed in December 2016, thereby incorporating many of the elements that were outlined in the management plan and restrictive covenants for this preserve. In 2016, the first phase of the master plan developments was completed at the preserve and included a small parking area, picnic pavilion, paver path, benches and playground climbing equipment.
The village is currently completing the second phase of developments at the KTCP, which include an enlarged 10 space parking area, 1,100-linear feet of mulched walking trails, 180- linear feet of elevated boardwalk through the mangroves, 300-linear feet paver path and a kayak landing. The final phase of site developments at the KTCP will include a restroom, small gazebo, informational kiosks, and new driveway access onto U.S. 1.