Sunday, May 18, 2008

Items on this week's City Commission Agenda - 5/20

This week's City Commission meeting agenda has a few items of interest. I've highlighted those items on the above agenda that particularly interest me. You can go to the City's website by clicking here. Click on the items of interest to you and you will be directed to the back-up information, if available. I will be doing a separate post on the items related to the Beach and Casino future land use designation, amendment to our Comprehensive Plan and the Stipulated Settlement Agreement with the Department of Community Affairs - much ado about not so much, but more on that later.

This week is one where the pledge is led by District #2 Commissioner Cara Jennings. She will start by saying, "I pledge allegiance" and then go silent for the remaining part. An uncomfortable moment to be sure perpetrated by one of our elected government officials.

Under presentations, Scott Fox, Executive Director of Compass, Inc. will give an update on the move to the former County Senior Citizen's center. I bumped into Scott last night and he will be giving a timetable of expectations for preparing the building for occupancy, etc.

Commissioner Golden is going to make a presentation regarding, "The Process of Decision Making by the City Commission." Bring the popcorn for this one - it has the potential for being a tear-jerker, cliff-hanger or a Greek tragedy - or a mix of all three.

John Paxman, Chairman of the Planning, Zoning and Historic Resource Preservation Board will make a report on the activities of the board over the past six months.

The next item of interest is the last one on the Consent Agenda. It concerns a contract with LaRue Planning and Management services to supply staff for the Planning, Zoning and Historic Preservation Department. This has been an arrangement that has gone on for sometime now since City Manager Bob Baldwin has come on the scene. This will formalize the previous arrangement through a year-long contract with the firm. Money for this is coming from the unused portion of the budget dedicated to two (2) unfilled positions in the Department. The proposed contract appears below:

Note that this will cost the City $156,000 per year for the equivalent of one person working 20 to 30 hours a week - not a full time position - at $100 an hour! There are questions about background as it relates to historic preservation and design. The other part of the back up talks about who the City went our for proposals and received three responses. Then those firms were ranked and LaRue (the one already being used by the City) was selected as the top firm. This was done by a "selection committee" - I am sure only made up with staff. On May 12, they met -"...the date and time of which was publicly noticed...". Reference is made to Section 3-102 Competitive Sealed Proposals, under the City's Procurement Code. We have assurance that this has been reviewed an approved by the City's Purchasing Manager.

The only item in the City Code related to procurement, that I could find, was the following:

So, first of all, if there is a Procurement Code - it should be somewhere in the City's Code of Ordinances and it should be used uniformly - especially as it relates to Civil Engineering services - i.e., Mock Roos. I would also like to hear about how this meeting was publicly noticed.

But, besides that, let's examine the impact of staffing a planning department by an outside firm. With whose loyalties does the person assigned the task to work for the City lie, the City of Lake Worth or their firm? Are we getting someone as knowledgeable as we could find through advertising the availability of those existing positions?

Staffing levels of this department have been, and most definitely are now, inadequate for the City the size of Lake Worth. Through this contractual position, we have the equivalent of a half-time to 2/3 time person plus one planner, a secretary and a director. The director is in charge of the entire Community Services department, which includes the Planning, Zoning, Historic Preservation department, the Building Department and the Code Enforcement Department. Thus, we have an over-burdened staff that is spread amongst two many areas competing for their attention. MORE BODIES AND BRAINS are needed here and hiring an outside firm is not the way to do it.

Under New Business, Commissioner Golden is bringing up the public comment policy, but is not showing her cards in the back-up material about what she is recommending or which items of the policy will be discussed. I am hopeful that the City Commission will go back to allowing comment after each individual agenda item and after discussion by staff and the City Commission. As a compromise, this could be a minute per item, instead of the previously allowed three minutes per item, as a way to still move along the meeting. Also, comment should be allowed on items that concern individual members of the public on Consent Agenda matters. If anyone wants to comment on an item, that item should be automatically pulled. I'd also like to see the "blue cards" be dispensed with and only used if there is an unusually large crowd present to address an individual item. We should also require anyone that addresses the Commission to give their street address and state their full name prior to commenting publicly.