February 07, 2017
The Cedar Key City Commission met on Tuesday, February 7, 2017, at 6 pm at the temporary, double-wide trailer home of Cedar Key City Hall, located on the same property as the original City Hall, which remains closed because of Hurricane Hermine damage. Present were: Mayor Heath Davis, Vice-Mayor Dale Register, and Commissioners Sue Colson, Royce Nelson, and Diana Topping.
Staff in attendance included: City Attorney Norm Fugate, Police Chief Virgil Sandlin, Fire Chief and Emergency Operations Director Robert Robinson, Public Works’ Bill Crandley, City Clerk Nicole Gill, Assistant City Clerk Crystal Sharp, and Donna Risker.
Nearly all seats were filled. Among those in the audience were: Mac and Nita Cox, Allison Nelson, Chris Topping, Nolan Freeman, Ed and Sherry Butler, Susan Rosenthal, Maureen Magee, Crosby Hunt, Ken and Vanessa Edmonds, Linda and Colin Dale, Gisela and Henning Bunge, Margy Vanlandingham, Michael Hancock, Esta Johnson, and Mandy and Frank Offerle.
CEDAR KEYS AUDUBON CHAPTER GRANTED REQUEST
Cedar Keys Audubon Co-President Crosby Hunt requested approval to pursue the chapter’s plans to place feeders and water sources at Cemetery Point Park to attract more birds and further enhance the Park. Hunt explained that the chapter has been awarded a grant to finance the project and explained that the members had plans to regularly clean and fill the dispensers. Commissioners approved Hunt’s request 5 to 0.
Maureen Magee of 457 Fourth Street, Cedar Key, requested approval of a fence which extends into public right-of-way on the south of her lot. Commissioners Dale Register and Diana Topping expressed curiosity about what lies beneath the right-of-way; no action was taken to alleviate their concern.
Cedar Key City Attorney Norm Fugate advised that the process in the past has been to license the section of public land to the property owner and record the license in public records. The license stays attached to the property should a sale occur. Commissioners voted 5 to 0 to approve the licensure.
ANNEXATION REQUEST GRANTED
Richard and Helen Vilissov of 16431 SW 120 Place, Cedar Key, were granted the request for their property to be annexed to the city in a 5 to 0 vote.
MEDICAL MARIJUANA DISCUSSED
With advice from Tallahassee Attorneys Foley and Lardner, LLP, the Florida League of Cities Assistant General Counsel Ryan G. Padgett, and City Attorney Fugate, commissioners voted 5 to 0 to place a moratorium on decisions regarding locations where medical marijuana may be sold in Cedar Key in the future. The state will regulate growth/production and will license those who sell medical marijuana; the city will regulate where it is sold within the city. Commissioners discussed sending the issue to the Cedar Key Land Planning Agency for input.
RBEG LETTER APPROVED
Commissioners unanimously approved forwarding correspondence signed by Mayor Heath Davis to the United States Department of Agriculture Area Specialist Rebecca Manning in Ocala regarding the Marina Project funded by Rural Business Enterprise Grant awarded to Cedar Key month ago for bathrooms in the Marina. The correspondence confirms that “in the event the project costs exceed the funding provided by the RBEG grant, then the City intends to fund such excess costs.”
The correspondence contains a second paragraph establishing the facts that: funding would require a majority vote of the commission; funding may require a budget amendment; action must be taken in a properly noticed commission meeting.
DEPARTMENT HEADS’ EVALUATIONS APPROVED
Mayor Davis explained that the current evaluation process requires that each newly-seated commission, which will occur in the upcoming months, rehire or fire its department heads. The January/February mid-term evaluations discussed tonight are informational and are completed by the mayor with no input from the other four commissioners.
Discussion centered on Police Chief Virgil Sandlin’s evaluation. Concerns from the commissioners were varied. Commissioner Sue Colson expressed that she saw “a disconnect” in the evaluation as nothing signified agreement by the person evaluated. Commissioner Royce Nelson said he saw “no proactivity” in the evaluation. Vice-Mayor Dale Register reflected upon his years of evaluating people with evaluations systems that required measurable objectives for each employee.
Davis responded that the evaluation form before the commissioners was “the form you gave me to work with.”
Response from the audience included former policeman and Cedar Key and resident Nolan Freeman. Freeman explained that his research resulted in the fact that no police person has the job of Code Enforcement assigned to him. The job of police persons is “to protect people, us,” not hand out ode violation citations. He pointed out that one-third of Cedar Key homes are owned by part-time residents; the homes are empty for months annually. Those same homes are safe from burglary because of Cedar Key’s Police Department, Nolan stressed. Freeman went on to explain why each item in the four-page addendum to Sandlin’s evaluation that focused upon poor policing were not true. Freeman closed by saying, “I’d rate him A-1 and take away the code enforcement responsibility.”
Another resident, Ed Butler, reinforced Nolan’s code enforcement remarks. Butler, who is retired from 45-plus years in law enforcement started with the statement that the evaluation form is way too subjective and we need to start all over. He said that everyone, referring to the commission, should get involved with the process. He thinks the evaluation should be more measurable and it should be changed because it is unfair.
On more than one occasion during the meeting, Mayor Davis invited commissioners to take the job of evaluating the police department and to work with him regarding Chief Sandlin and the evaluation.
Commissioner Register said that this is the first time the commission could talk about this when we were all together and that he would take that challenge.
Commissioner Colson made the point that Chief Sandlin would do much better if he didn’t have the code enforcement to be concerned about. She said that everyone (audience numbered 20 plus) came out because they care about Virgil.
Resident Mandy Offerle made three points. The evaluation form, if viewed separately in the future would lead the reader to believe that Sandlin’s performance as a police chief was poor, a wholly inaccurate perception. Offerle’s first suggestion was to entirely separate the two jobs of police chief code enforcement officer and to assign the latter job to another individual. If unable to do that, then commissioners should evaluate the job of police chief and code enforcement officer separately.
Offerle’s second point was that the issue of code enforcement in Cedar Key has been a boondoggle since it its inception. Previous commissioners have been befuddled with its implementation. Previous individuals to which the job was assigned were unable to manage compliance. Kudos to the current commission for attempting to enforce its codes, but grandfathering in some of the more contentious issues, and there are many, and educating the violators takes time and patience. The expectation that Sandlin can perform the miracle of code enforcement is unreasonable, she stated.
Offerle’s third point was that, somehow in this evaluation gestalt, there is no mention of the most important tasks Sandlin accomplishes daily: keeps citizenry satisfied and safe; keeps a crimeless, graffiti less town; responds professionally and objectively to every call, be it about a person scared by a snake or a 250-lound bully; exhibits integrity and honesty in all his dealings with citizens.
Evaluations of other department heads were dealt with quite quickly. Numerous comments lauded City Clerk’s personnel.
MANGROVE MANAGEMENT PLAN APPROVED
Commissioner Sue Colson presented commissioners with the ten-page document, Mangrove Management Plan for the City of Cedar Key Properties. The booklet informs and assures the Florida Department of Environmental Protection that the City of Cedar Key is in compliance with Florida Statutes 404.9323(2); it further articulates what actions the Cedar Key Public Works Department will take to care for mangroves at the City Marina, the Third Street City Dock, and Cemetery Point Park.
CITY HALL DISCUSSED
Mayor Davis explained that the process of moving the City Hall structure forward is not a simple one. He reminded commissioners of their decision two weeks ago which was to rebuild the old City Hall structure and raise it approximately four feet higher than it presently sits rather than build a new hall high off the ground.
The question put to the commission tonight was: does the city wait for FEMA to award mitigation dollars and build the building some four feet higher or does the city move forward with fewer insurance dollars and rebuild City Hall at the current level.
Using mitigation funds from FEMA, 75% of the reconstruction would be paid. The balance, or %25 of the cost would be split between the city, 12.5%, and the state would pay 12.5%.
The commission consensus was to try to have the building elevated by four or five feet as planned, and go ahead with the engineering and architectural plans while they wait for FEMA’s mitigation response and while they wait insurance dollars to present themselves.
The meeting adjourned at approximately 8 pm.