Safety Harbor has become the fourth Pinellas County city to join the Sierra Club’s nationwide Ready for 100 campaign, which has a goal of signing up as many cities as possible to establish a deadline and goals for using 100 percent clean renewable energy by 2050.
To the applause of dozens of residents, the Safety Harbor Commission voted 5-0 at its June 17 meeting to approve a resolution stating that the city will establish a timeline by 2021 on how it will switch completely to using renewable energy.
Other cities that have previously made the pledge include St. Petersburg, Largo and Dunedin, and each are at different points in the process, Bryan Beckman of the Florida Suncoast Sierra Club told Commission.
Commissioner Andy Zodrow had suggested some more concrete language be added to the resolution, while Vice Mayor Cliff Merz was hesitant to pin down too many details this early in the process, saying technology continues to change and the city needs time to consider any unintended consequences of the switchover. Mayor Joe Ayoub suggested that all of those concerns could be addressed in the timeline that needs to be written, but for that night, he wanted Commission to be united in approving the resolution.
Preceding the regular Commission meeting, Commissioners got their first look at the proposed fiscal year 2019/2020 budget, which keeps the millage rate flat at 3.95 and projects general fund revenues of $15,762,480 and general fund expenditures of $15,744,230, for a difference of $18,250 that would go into the city’s general fund reserves.
Commission will meet in a workshop again at 6:30 p.m. on July 29 to further discuss the budget, and City Manager Matthew Spoor outlined some areas for possible discussion as the budget process continues:
The Safety Harbor Marina needs a new seawall and dredging, and there are not enough funds in the budget to cover it, so an increase in slip rental fees might be needed.
The city has been paying itself back $257,000 a year from its reserves fund for the purchase of Waterfront Park, but once that purchase is paid off, that amount in the budget will need to be made up in some way.
The city is required to keep 17 percent of its budget in its unrestricted reserve fund, and presently is keeping 32 percent of the budget there. In addition, 20 percent of the budget is kept in a restricted reserve fund, so 52 percent of the total city budget is being held in reserves. With more than $800,000 in street projects unfunded in the budget, Spoor suggested Commission might want to consider using reserve funds to complete those projects.
Pinellas County is raising the fees it charges cities for sanitation disposal in October by 4 percent, so a corresponding increase in residential sanitation fees might be needed.
Utility construction costs are no longer coming in at reduced levels experienced during the most recent recession, meaning that projects that used to come in about 25 percent under budget are now coming in at or above budget, which will affect the budget going forward.
OTHER ACTION TAKEN
Changes to Future Land Map and zoning of new city property: Commission voted 5-0 in four separate votes to approve changes to the Future Land Map and zoning for two parcels of city land: an addition to Folly Farm and land recently acquired for an expansion of the main Public Works Complex.
Land Development Code waiver: Commission voted 5-0 after lengthy discussion to deny a waiver request from the owners of a vacant lot south of 2nd Street South and between 4th and 5th avenues South. The owners are building a house and sought to increase the maximum lot coverage to 41 percent from the 35 percent allowed in the code.
Retirement recognition: Streets & Stormwater Supervisor Lenny DeGroat was honored for his retirement after 37 years of service to the city.