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Here’s The Scoop … The April 27,2011 Lauderdale-By-The-Sea Commission Meeting … The April Town Manager Report … Sugar Coated With A Wrench Thrown In The Mix …

SOME THINGS ARE HARD TO SWALLOW ….

Dear Readers … the Town Manager monthly report was moved up in the agenda …It was moved to the end after the new Commission took over …Over the last 4 months though the TM continuously took take a pass along with the Commission on discussing the content due to the late hour placement …Unfortunately this earlier placement did not fix that ongoing problem after the Commission went off the reservation following a question asked by Comm. Sasser after the TM spoke about the first item in her report concerning the BSO contract negotiations…

The Town Manager began her report after the Mid-Year Budget Report (see prev. post) …and she would “run through these items really quickly.”… She stated she knew everybody was most interested in the BSO negotiations and proceeded to describe having the first meeting with the BSO (and the  “Interim” Finance Director according to the backup) … She went through what was contained in the backup explaining “The BSO is going to a very standardized contract with all the cities they renegotiate with.” …She went on to say she agrees with this type of contract as do most city managers which she further explained stops what had happened in the past when “people were basically looking at other people’s contracts and saying I want that, I don’t want this.”…She said it made alot more sense ….adding it is much more transparent contract where we know what is the costs to provide police services in your town and that is what BSO is charging you… She said they identified what services are considered regional and should not be charged to the contract cities and so far the County has agreed to that…She anticipated questioning of why the County is involved and informed all that it is the County that funds the Sheriff’s office ( The Sheriff’s audit was given to the County Comm. last month) …The County has been approving contracts like ours …TM Hoffmann stated she had suggested some changes to the contract but did not expand on what those changes were and was never asked by the Commission throughout their discussion to address those changes that the TM stated would be brought back with a formal response at the next meeting to take place this week …In the backup the TM wrote they had ‘informal agreement on most of those suggestions’….After that TM Hoffmann said the big question was what will it cost and she did not give a figure (again, we have been told it would be around $500,000+) but said that figure was promised “or at least what they are going to propose as the cost to continue services at the same level” …BSO Chief Llerena came to the podium to state it was slated to be released on May 1st for all municipalities after the County and the Sheriff get together on the proposed budget…The Mayor asked him to remain at the podium to answer any further questions… The TM went on to state that she would take a look at the numbers and that they had talked about a line item budget which was not received in the past negotiations…She did make a point to say that the Chief had been sharing such a report with her on a monthly basis…as well as to state “I have to say I have sat in negotiations with BSO on municipal contracts in another city in the past and it has been such a pleasure. Things have changed dramatically in the way BSO sits down and negotiates. It’s very transparent and it’s very friendly.”…She said she would be back with the numbers after she looks at them and then they will see how they it fits into the new budget… TM Hoffmann said the BSO is only interested in recouping their direct costs from the cities they contract with and if a city determines that cost is not affordable then the city sits down with the BSO to talk about adjustments in staffing in order to reduce the costs… She stated those are discussions the Commission/Administration will be having at a policy level as they go through the budget process…

BC-This is when the proverbial wrench came in and started to turn the nuts and bolts of this LBTS-BSO re-negotiation for the new contract slated according to the TM report backup to be completed no later than June 30th counter clockwise …

Comm. Sasser started out with a joke as BSO Chief Oscar Llerena stood at the podium ..”I first wanted to dispel the rumor we were trading Lt. Cedeno with one one of the police women of Broward County!”… It received a warm chuckle from all…and this writer wishes Comm. Sasser would have left it at that…He went on to ask the Town Manager a question he said he had been asked …”Are we not getting any other bids other than negotiating with BSO?”… The TM responded she “has no direction to do so.”… There was an uncomfortably long silence that followed that response and for some reason the TM chose to fill it… in my opinion …. as the nuts and bolts began to loosen … “If the Commission chooses to send me down that course we can do that.”…She continued on to inform them that if they were thinking of going to contract with Fort Lauderdale or Pompano Beach (PB is BSO so that leaves Fort Lauderdale) the Sheriff has to approve it because he would have to deputize the new police officers to work outside their municipality  (I do not recall that from the current contract or addendum) …as she added “Then there is obviously another option to form our own police department.”…She reiterated her direction thus far was to negotiate with BSO…

BC- The wrench…the nuts and the bolts…. We had many such discussions about other options prior to the 2010 LBTS Municipal election and this writer posted all of it… The highest priority this writer and the candidates heard out on the campaign trail after former Town Manager Colon and her contract was to retain the BSO police in LBTS!…  To go down this road at this juncture is mind boggling to say the least …

Commissioner Sasser stated again he just wanted to “get it out there”…and he said he would leave it to the Mayor on how “handle that”… He said “If everyone is ok whatever”…reiterating it was a question he gets and was sure other Commissioners had been asked as well.. From there he asked about the “writeup” and as they look at the budget each or use it as a budget item he wondered if they cannot afford it would they have the right to terminate at that point and asked about our rights… The TM there would be no agreement on a budget or the Town determines costs to be too expensive…confirming the contract provides us the option not to proceed and the notice time was not long to get out of it… Comm. Sasser said his concern was if we enacted the termination would we still have time under old costs to find another solution…The Town Manager said the contract anticipates that kind of situation and the Sheriff in the contract affirms he will provide services for as long as it takes the Town to start with a new provider or own force… Comm. Sasser asked it that would be under the new or old price … TM Hoffmann said it would be negotiated…

BC- From what I remember the contract says a price will be negotiated I believe month to month and the Sheriff will stay on until he is sure they are leaving us with the same level of service they provide…I also believe that would mean we are going to pay two police departments…. for an uncertain length of time…Also I recall that we found out after a long period of being led to believe we own all the police vehicles that we only own one or two…Add to that the equipment we supplied at the time BSO took over will be given back to the Town but I do not think the contract states it needs to be anything other than what they started out with all those years ago…not any new equipment replacements…

Vice Mayor Dodd was up next and he thanked the TM for “an absolutely terrific report”…and said he appreciated how much work goes into it… This writer will delve more into that report and must respectfully disagree with the VM) … He went on to say he questioned the regional services portion of the contract saying he could see “the thin end of the wedge here” for our town as he went on to describe the costs for the call center (911) and other such services which will now split off just like airlines who charge for bag service …The TM said that absolutely is going to happen and we’ve been put on notice from the County that they will no longer fund cities receiving emergency call service…She said the Sheriff doesn’t agree with it and the Town as well as as all municipalities in Broward County in the same situation do not agree …She said the County Manager sent out letters to every city saying this is what your costs will be next year and ours is around $125,000…She said  the Broward City Managers Assoc. put together a task force last fall and studied this issue of the call centers and concluded they should be consolidated down to four that can serve the entire county leading to a substantial savings… While that was the conclusion she added no one is pushing for it…She said the Mayor sent her a copy of a letter from the Mayor of Sunrise to have the Broward League of Cities take this issue on …The VM asked “So we can expect some increases coming down the line?”… The TM responded that starting Oct. 1st we can expect to be charged $125,000 for emergency call services …adding that’s not a BSO charge that it’s a County charge …VM Dodd asked if we are “Obliged to go with that call service “..asking if there other options for municipalities… The TM responded yes and many cities have there own call centers which led to the problem and why the County doesn’t want to keep doing it after those cities complained about those contracted with BSO receiving the services…She mentioned Fort Lauderdale and Hollywood as two that run their own at huge cost and went to the County about LBTS and Pompano Beach… VM Dodd asked if we could go to Fort Lauderdale to see if we could do it for less than $125,000 …The TM said yes…VM Dodd said we should do so and send Broward a message …The TM backed off a little and asked Chief Llerena about Pompano Beach having their own call center …He responded that BSO communications is used for both and that Pompano Beach has BSO for police services ..The TM asked if cities are paying the capital costs and BSO is paying for the staffing…The Chief did not know …The Town Manager said if the Commission wanted her to look into this they would and also explore consolidating the centers as well..

The Mayor asked the TAtty. to give the history of the County’s past stance on wanting to provide this service and that it was not to charge the municipalities …She added she knew she was catching the TAtty. off guard…Town Atty. Trevarthen responded she didn’t have the details but had the same recollection ….The Mayor went to say  these are fees we pay through Broward County and that everyone should call their Broward County elected officials which for us would be Comm. Chip LaMarca to say we are not for this change…adding the Sheriff is not for it either …She went on to say that before she recognized Comms. Clottey and Vincent she wanted to “follow up Commissioner Sasser’s discussion that would would take us in a whole other direction. He had asked a question does this Commission and we had not discussed this prior, we asked the Town Manager to go into negotiations with the Sheriff.That was then direction you received from this Commission is that correct”…asking the TM…The TM replied yes and that was what she has on her priority list…The Mayor reiterated it and TM Hoffmann said yes again…The Mayor went to say “Are we changing our mind? I think that’s what we need to determine right now because if we do we need to, I think have a workshop so that we understand what direction we’re going in. Are we going to change direction and therefore go out and try and contract with another municipality or start our, if it is the intention of this Commission to look for, get an RFP out to the city of Fort Lauderdale or start our own police department. I think before we continue we need to hear what this Commission’s decision is”… She threw it over to Comm. Sasser who she said made the initial  “request”  asking him if he wanted to request a workshop to discuss those three measures…

BC- Before Comm. Sasser’s response this writer asks the all important question…What happened to the Mayor showing some leadership and nipping this in the bud by stating the obvious that this is not the right direction to go in… That avenue was open to her when Comm. Sasser originally ended his first bite at the apple and said he would leave it for her to “handle that”…

Comm. Sasser said he would like a workshop to discuss it “sure”..He added he thought it should be “vetted”…He went on to say he thinks in any situation or negotiation it’s always better to have competition and he would like to know what the options are and whether it is Fort Lauderdale or someone else …He quickly added “I’m not keen on building our own” police department but he “wanted to at least judge the interest of other police departments that could do the job and possibly help us with out negotiations, yes.”…

BC- I respectfully disagree with Comm. Sasser and do hope the prior Commission backup on other options is supplied to all to quickly be able to see it will …in this writer’s opinion…. not help the negotiations with BSO who are our Town Police Department in most of his constituent’s opinion …but just slow down the process unnecessarily …

The Mayor asked for consensus and threw it over to the Vice Mayor  if he wanted a workshop scheduled…  The VM said he just wanted the public to be aware of BSO taking one part of the new contract and saying that was what they are negotiating as their new price while Broward is going to be “saddling us with extra fees for an area that used to be part of BSO’s contract”…He added we don’t have alot of options …He wanted to be “on the record” for saying BSO is doing a terrific job and there are absolutely no complaints..But he added he has to be responsible to the taxpayers and try to “educate them how negotiations are going at the moment is that BSO will do policing but Broward has the regional component.”…The Mayor tried to cut him off… The VM continued saying he has “a big problem with it. We are paying a certain figure all encompassing but was sure BSO figure has not gone down with all the regional figures Broward is now providing. It’s a way of inflating every municipality and I’m pretty much against it.”…The Mayor said her question was if there should be a workshop for other options for police service in town… The Vice mayor responded “No, I’m very happy with BSO but we should look at other options for the stuff that BSO don’t want to do to send a message to Broward.”.. The Mayor said she agreed with him completely …

Comm. Vincent was asked next but said he had other comments and would wait his turn..

The Mayor acknowledged Comm. Clottey who said “I agree with Commissioner Sasser that we have an obligation to the taxpayers of this town to explore all avenues. I have my own personal choice. I wold like to stay with BSO but if they price themselves out of the market then we have to think about the taxpayers also.”…She then asked the Town Manager about the “lab fees” as part of the “regional stuff”…She was speaking of the criminal lab fees being passed on as well…(This too was brought up by the prior Comm. by former VM McIntee) …The TM said they had not talked about this and she did not recall  where that “sat on the list”..She would get the answer and asked Chief Llerena if he knew… The Chief responded no but added it is a major budget issue with the County Commissioners as well and “the Sheriff obviously feels it’s a terrible mistake to close the lab down.”..He said he was not sure where it stands as of now… Comm. Clottey asked what kind of additional fees there would be to BSO’s fixed charges…The TM asked if she was inquiring about BSO’s direct services…Comm. Clottey replied that up til now there was a fixed charge which is the County is now “unbundling” and said that when the TM is negotiating it will be that “flat rate plus whatever additional fees the Town is going to be stuck paying.”…The Town Manager again stated the only addition know right now is for the communications center …Comm. Clottey added the criminal lab fees to which the TM said that had not come down to her at this time for us to pay… we haven’t been told that and she reminded all that the Sheriff fought against it last year and prevailed …although it is not known if he will prevail again… She said they all need to consider as well that the Sheriff’s budget has to be approved by the County Commission..all agreements say the County has to approve them….

Comm. Vincent asked the Chief a question …”on the 125,000 additional fee is that proportionate charge that is figured for services for our town in respect to other sizes of cities?”… The Chief said he couldn’t definitively answer that but he could tell him that all cities are paying  different fees and it seems they may be based on population or maybe based on calls for service..He was not sure what criteria it is but did know there was not one set fee for every municipality… Comm. Vincent said that made sense and would like to know that information and was sure “Connie can get that.”… He went on to ask if the services we received prior to this change were a benefit this town was getting that other municipalities may have been paying for in the past… (This too was covered by the previous Commission and in the Sentinel ) … The Chief responded in terms of a “subsidy” there was one with LBTS saying it meant it cost more to operate the district than the Sheriff was collecting from us..He said unlike the private sector those costs were passed on to the County taxpayers which was why the County Commission started cracking down on the Sheriff to organize the new contracts making them more balanced…He said it was due to prior administrations ..He added that other municipalities have monetary issues..LBTS does not an has paid “every penny they were obligated to. The issue is just the balance of revenue post expenditures.”… Comm. Vincent said “There’ve been some inequities at some time with different municipalities for those services basically.”…The Chief said yes…

The Mayor asked again for the need to “clarify the direction to the Town Manager because we’re entering budget time. If we look at getting out RFPs …so we need to…There’s been a recommendation by Commissioner Sasser to put a workshop together to see what other opportunities we have for police services her in the town of Lauderdale-By-The-Sea.” …

BC- It was the Mayor who first said said they needed a workshop (see above) …

The Mayor said to the VM that he said “the workshop would be more to an understanding of the costs that Broward County is now adding on, would that workshop be also to determine whether we would look to our own police department or other services as well”… The VM said no he didn’t want to go in that direction and reiterated wanting inform the public of the add ons coming from the County with more to come such for any extra services provided over and beyond local protection provided by BSO although he would be happy to have a workshop to talk about that and try and put pressure on Broward “… The Mayor said they could put together a resolution as Sunrise has to let the County Commission know our displeasure and discuss it at a workshop “along with what Commissioner Sasser wants to do”…saying they should set the meeting up…

Comm. Vincent wanted to weigh in again and said “I’m just thinking back in recent history that I appreciate what Pompano Beach did for us as they went out and looked into and investigated the possibility of either going to another municipality, another department, I’m sorry I think starting their own and they spent alot on that in the millions I believe and it just panned out and they’re a bigger city than we are with alot more money and they didn’t think it would be financially sound for them to do that especially at this time and I believe they put a stop to that and continued to contract with services of BSO. So with that and Pompano doing the homework for us to go down that road at this time so I’m not in favor of the Roundtable discussion”… The Mayor informed him it was for a workshop to discuss giving the TM direction … True to form for Comm. Vincent he then said the following “Correct, unless there are some issues that we need to address within the contract if we can do so legally have a separation from other cities so yeah, I mean, I think we need to look at that.”…

Comm. Clottey said she believed Pompano Beach found they would save alot of money (she is correct) and that it was the people that did not want the city to change from BSO (correct again) ….She again stated her preference for BSO (quite a turn around after everything she said about them early in her term..prev. posts 2008-2009) … But she still thought they needed to consider other options because she understood we would be paying $434,000 more due to not paying our “fair share”… She asked the TM to respond…TM Hoffmann said there was a study done and LBTS was the most subsidized city ion Broward County and the cost increase would be “$400 and something thousand dollars a year”…

Comm. Vincent never knowing when to remain silent addressed Comm. Clottey to say he believed Pompano’s conclusion was the start-up costs for their own department would take 7 years to “break even with the initial startup and the savings on that and the setup on that was so high that would come out of pocket for that I don’t think this town could afford it.”…

The Mayor said it “sounds like a workshop “..as well as “what level the County will charge us”…. “plus the other options” thanking Comm. Sasser… The TM said the Commission had a light Roundtable scheduled and they could have the discussion then…It was agreed upon to have it at that time…

BC- this writer chalks this up to too many meetings on the Master Plan and the Master Plan redo taking all of the members up on the dais way off track on the priorities they were elected to address over the first 2 years of the new majority’s term and the priorities they started out with in 2010 and gave direction to the Town Manager to go forward with… The BSO contract was at the top with the drainage downtown and the drainage in the residential areas  as well as the sewers in the south … For certain Commissioners and members of the staff to speak of money woes when it comes to retaining the BSO police is unacceptable!… We were under the impression that a new contract could be a million + and still the overwhelming response from voters was keep them…Now we know it will be nowhere near that amount… To question our ability when we have spent well over $150,000 which most likely will be close to $200,000 on consultants is embarrassing… The Town Manager made it clear the regional costs will be coming our way no matter who we use for public safety in LBTS… Last but not least as the TM has stated along with this writer and so many others …the BSO of LBTS is our own Town police department under Chief Llerena and Lt. Cedeno (as it was under former Chief Scott Gooding) and that final point along with remembering it was not so long ago each Commissioner and the TM went on the offensive to keep Lt. Cedeno here in order to maintain the unique partnership we have with BSO!…

My opinion, Commissioners… at the next Roundtable ….. with the expected discussion taking place…do your homework ahead of time and then drop any direction at this time to look elsewhere and choose to work with the Sheriff to counter the County Commission’s regional fee plans along with other municipalities… To the TM and the Mayor there are times when it is time to step in on topics on the dais…this was one of them….

After that the Mayor asked for any other questions for the TM…Comm. Sasser was the only one to respond and asked about the Coral Reef project that was written up to start in late April as they were now just a few days away from May… The TM said she included they told the permitting agency they “hoped” to start in late April and had indicated it would be “in place” in late May…With that the TM report was passed 5-0 after a motion was made by VM Dodd and seconded by Comm. Vincent…

BC- here is what was not discussed in the report… The very next item in the report after BSO stated the TM had hire yet another consultant..This time it is the former Davie City Manager, Gary Shimun who was recently fired by the Commission of Davie and walked out before the full vote was completed…Mr Shimun according to Google searches eerily mirrored our ousted former TM Colon in the reasons for his dismissal …. in this writer’s opinion…. and walked away with a severance package after 4 years that mirrored it as well… According to the backup he will receive $6,500 dollars for one month’s worth of work to “develop a new building permit fee schedule” to use for an RFP for building services… TM Hoffmann vetted Mr Shimun for the Pompano Beach Manager position according to articles … I’m all for hiring and thinking outside the box for certain jobs but come on…why wouldn’t we look online at what smaller towns of similar size charge (I believe this was done not long ago by the previous Commission) as well as taking advantage of the many retired residents we have in out small town who could volunteer to do the same in far less time for far less money… That’s why we are known as a Town and not as a City… small town ways … MIA in the report an update of the consultant costs to date as well as listing what they have done and are doing at the present time…

Up next and not addressed was the Finance Director “Recruitment” which the TM said was advertised online at the Florida League of Cities in their “Datagram”..This writer repeatedly looked due to it being a bone of contention with the prev. TM not using it for positions…I never saw it online…A Google only produced the 2007 LBTS  position (I have seen one before)..A search on the FLOCiities site produced “no data” …The TM wrote in her report the starting salary of $80,000-$90,000 was a “fairly strenuous process” they used including multiple tests and lengthy interview to narrow the field o qualified applicants to two…One did not pass and the other did not want to move from Ohio… The Town Auditor and Doug Haag assisted Ms. Hoffmann and offered the opinion that our salary range is to low and “hindering” the ability to recruit “stronger candidates”… The suggested increasing it to $100,000 to “attract the caliber of person”  she wants to hire..She said the position was budgeted for $85,000 based on the former Dir. (King) but that the Town’s salary range for that position is $82,028-$123,044 and that former Finance Director Colon was earning $104,576 before she became TM …TM Hoffmann reiterated that she was eliminating one position in the department of a recent employee that resigned and would reassign that work to 2 part-time employees thus freeing up “some savings that can be used to offer a higher starting salary to the Director.”…She stated unless the Comm. objected she would go ahead and re advertise…There was no discussion and no direction given at this meeting…

Next item not discussed was he attached Cash & Investment Quarterly Report which ended on March 31st …In it she informed them that another $1.5 million had been moved into 20 month CDs ($1 million  in one CD/$500,00 in a second CD) “at BB&T Bank at an interest rate 3x higher than we were receiving at Sun Trust …(THe Manager of BB & T Bank is the new LBTS Chamber of Commerce President) …The attached showed it was at 75 basis points  (.75%) … The good news is they can be liquidated all or part for any reason with only the loss of interest not principal…This is what an Avid Reader was  talking to me about in terms of getting rid of the $1.4or $1.5 million parking lot debt we have that will cost us an additional $200,000+ if we do not pay it off… What is the difference in what we get for this latest move of Town monies as compared to keeping that loan on the books until 2020?…. (prev. post)…

After that item was the code inspection and the shut down of the Little Inn Too on April 18th…Again no discussion… save kudos to the VFD Chief and Town Fire Marshall from Comm. Vincent at the VFD monthly report earlier in the evening (prev. post) …

The TM stated she had brought the assignment status list to date and color coded it (perhaps this was what the VM was giving high marks to?)…

I believe that the Commissioners are all (with one exception?) meeting with the Town Manager before every scheduled Roundtable/Commission meeting and may be going over all these items on the report and more… At least that is my hope… If so I suggest that at Commissioner comments the dais members take that time to address any discussion and give their take on it as well as anything they do for constituents in the time between meetings…  That way we will all know in a condensed amount of time who has done their homework and who has served their constituents leaving no doubt that both the Commission and the Administration is in sync so direction or a lack thereof is not seen on the dais at the 11th hour as we saw at this meeting under the Town Manager’s report…

More to come….

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