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City moves closer to opening Welcome Center

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By Ada Lang

 A lightly attended City Commission meeting on Tuesday night began with good news and ended with even more good news.  Topics ranged from Movies in the Park, to new ordinances and to a rare letter of praise for one of Cedar Key’s Police Officers.

 Toni Collins, of the Levy County Historical Society, made a detailed presentation concerning the March 16, 2011, Levy County Railroad Days, which will celebrate the 150th anniversary of the  railroad that once ran from Fernandina Beach  to Cedar Key.  

In Levy County, there were 11 stops but only three will be celebrated that day – Bronson, Otter Creek and Cedar Key.

The Society is seeking sponsors for permanent historic markers and requested that the City support the event by purchasing a sponsorship for $1,000 that would denote Cedar Key as one of the stations.

However, the Commission deferred making a decision at this time, and more information will be made public about the event as the date draws nearer.

Andrea Dennison announced that the final show of Movies in the Park would be on theSaturday of Labor Day weekend.

Cedar Key resident Jim Green received a Certificate of Appreciation for his efforts to successfully establish a local Chapter of the Toastmasters & Gavel Club.  Mayor Pat O’Neal presented the certificate to a smiling Green who meets with the group on the first and third Sundays of the month at the 4 p.m. in the City Library.

Police Chief Virgil Sandlin presented a letter of praise for one of his officers and O’Neal read it aloud to the audience. Apparently, Officer David Perry recently pulled a gentleman over for a traffic violation and Taggert Siegel was happily surprised to find that Perry was “extremely polite and well mannered from start to finish.” The praise continued by saying that he was gracious, quick and treated Siegel fairly and that “this young man is a great face to the community and visitors."

After some discussion, and frustration expressed by Commissioner Heath Davis, there was a vote to adopt an amendment to the Reclaimed Water Interlocal Agreement between the City and the Water District. This will allow the City to receive irrigation water from the Cedar Key Water & Sewer District in one of two ways.

The City may collect untreated well water at County Road 237 free of charge and truck it to the City, or the City can receive potable water from the District at the lowest per gallon rate available to other District customers and may only use the water for irrigation for a period of up to 180 days.

If necessary, the City and District would negotiate a new agreement beyond that period or the agreement would terminate.  Commissioners Scott Dennison, Sue Colson and Pat O’Neal voted for the agreement while Davis voted against it.

Two new ordinances were also adopted with minor fanfare. The first, No. 469 allows the City to establish a permit program to allow dogs in outdoor seating areas of restaurants. No. 471 authorizes a 14-day work period for police officers and adds language to bring it into compliance with the Fair Labor Standards Act. The practice has been in place for some time but is now official.

Dennison requested that substance abuse testing be included in the physical exams that are required of officers, however, City Attorney David Coffey reminded everyone that matter is already addressed in another area of the City Code.  Dennison also wanted to lower the compensatory time limit from 240 hours to 120.

Sandlin made it clear that he does not allow comp time to build up in any great amount and the officers regularly use that time during the same pay period.  The Commission voted unanimously to lower the limit to 120 hours.

 Colson expressed concern that the employee’s paychecks do not give any information on the stubs regarding vacation, sick leave or comp time and requested that a new system be established by the Clerk’s office to begin tracking and reporting that information on the pay stubs.  City Clerk, Frances Hodges agreed to provide that data on a quarterly basis.

CRA Director, Greg Lang presented the commission with the final lease with the Chamber of Commerce for the Creswell House/Welcome Center building. The five-year lease calls for rent of $150 per month for the first three years. After that, the City at is option may renegotiate the rent. The Chamber will pay all the utilities. The City will have use of the conference area in the building and outdoor areas.

Lang also made a recommendation to the commission that they award the grant administrative services for the $300,000 Energy Efficiency Conservation Block Grant to Clark Communities, Inc.  This grant will fund energy conservation improvements to several city-owned buildings and will include new windows, solar electric panels, insulation, energy efficient lighting, a very low interest revolving loan program for small businesses, among other items. CCI has administered other grants for the City.

Davis requested that the commissioners begin considering the concept of reorganizing the administrative and management structure of the city.

Historically, there has been no consistent hand over all the departments in City Hall and commissioners generally agreed that there have sometimes been problems, a lack of efficiency and accountability with staff — in part because the political leadership of city often changes after elections. 

The Commission agreed to take up the idea of a city manager /administrator position in upcoming budget workshops, beginning this week and the public is encouraged to participate in the process.