Joanna Bryan, newly-elected County Commissioner for District 3, suggested Tuesday that commissioners examine changes to a more detailed approach to the commission agendas.
The topic first arose as representatives of the Gulf County School District came before the Board of County Commissioners, per law, to honor a request from the School Board to hold a special election next spring on extending the district’s one mil additional operating levy (see related story A1).
The School Board is required to request the BOCC for the special election.
“My only issue is why this wasn’t on the agenda,” Bryan said. “We weren’t given any opportunity to receive comment from our constituents on this.”
Superintendent of Schools Jim Norton said the request to the county was largely a procedural one and that he was following the process used four years ago when the School Board first asked for the additional mil operating levy.
“We are following the exact process as four years ago, as dictated by law,” Norton said. “We have acted as fast as we could.”
County attorney Jeremy Novak said the agenda for BOCC meetings is set by noon on Wednesday of the week before the meeting and that the School Board had held its meeting and adopted the resolution for the special election last Thursday.
Bryan pressed her point on the agenda.
“We are a representative form of government,” Bryan said. “We also have a job to do. There is a reason you have to come to the county commission. This is not a rubber stamp.
“Why wasn’t this put on the agenda?”
Commissioner Carmen McLemore wondered why the issue was on the November ballot when 80 percent of the county’s registered voters cast ballots.
Norton said the board was newly-configured after the election, that the district operates on a different budget cycle from the county and that the board had just finished with the current fiscal year and trying to be proactive in looking ahead to the next fiscal year.
Norton and Novak also noted a 60-day window in which the issue was sit before further action on the special election can be taken.
“My point is it could have been placed on the agenda,” Bryan said. “It is not just this but other issues that have come before the commission.
“This gives no opportunity to hear from my constituents. I think things should be placed on the agenda when we are going to vote for them.”
Commissioner Warren Yeager agreed to a point.
“We do need to make sure that everything we discuss, where humanly possible, should be on the agenda.”
The BOCC voted 5-0 to approve the special election, but Bryan later returned to the subject of the agenda.
Citing how the city of Port St. Joe conducts its business, providing a detailed agenda and allowing public comment, but no voting, on anything not on the agenda, Bryan asked her fellow commissioners to consider changes to how the agenda is drafted.
She said having a complete agenda of what will be coming before the BOCC would allow for more informed decisions from commissioners after hearing from constituents and argued that the greater transparency would bring more “well-rounded” decisions.
Bryan also cited an advisory opinion from the Florida Attorney General which states that city and county boards should not be voting for issues that have not been properly noticed and placed on the agenda.
“I agree,” Yeager said. “I think some of the things that come before the board could be workshopped.”
Yeager also agreed that commissioners should take a closer look at the drafting of agendas.
Bryan added that feedback from constituents during the election indicated a “disappointment” with the decision of the BOCC to move regular meetings from 6 p.m. to 9 a.m., during the work day.
She said history showed the board had long met during the evening and that commissioners should relook at the idea and determine whether the original goals of moving the meetings to the morning had really been met.
Cape San Blas Lighthouse
Gail Alsobrook presented a tentative design of a proposed Bay Park that would include the Cape San Blas Lighthouse along with two museums exploring the history of the area, an estuarine preserve similar to the one in Franklin County and other amenities.
Alsobrook said the lighthouse and the need to relocate it presented an opportunity for “collaboration” among stakeholders such as the county – which has proposed moving the threatened lighthouse to Salinas Park – and the city of Port St. Joe to create a center of commerce which would force people driving U.S. 98 to stop and spend time in Port St. Joe.
“I do not support bringing the lighthouse into the city,” McLemore said.
Yeager said he believed in the end the U.S. Air Force, which owns the property on which the lighthouse and ancillary buildings are located, would make the final decision on disposition.
“I agree with the spirit of cooperation,” Yeager said. “We need to concentrate on two things – preserving it and making it a positive for the community.”