LaBelle City Commission discusses employee pay raises

The budget workshop started with the USDA Civic Center update. The bids came in for the project. The lowest offers that came in were actually more than was originally budgeted for the project. Discussed was why it was so expensive when the Civic Center is only partly being renovated and a possible solution that was proposed was to ask the bank for a line of credit to cover the remaining costs for the project. The plan is the have the renovations done before the Swamp Cabbage Festival.

Another topic of discussion was raises for city employees, right now the city is losing employees because they are looking for better paying jobs. A lot of the city maintenance department employees were in attendance. They claim that since 2010 they have been down five employees and were wondering where that money has gone because they have picked up all the extra work. They requested a two dollar raise for the maintenance department employees. They also raised a point that the tools that the city bought are of bad quality and that they used to receive 50 dollars towards cellphone bills which was taken away. The City Commission agreed that they deserve more money, but that, with the current budget it is very difficult to do so. Ron Zimmerly is going to look at the numbers to see if it is possible to move things around in the budget. It was decided that it will be further discussed before the First Public Hearing on September 13.

The Regular Commission Meeting started with swearing in re-elected commissioners Hilda Zimmerly and Thomas Smith. Next topic was a discussion on a city right-of-way at Ft. Thompson. They allowed a party to put a fence around a right-of-way and use it. But the neighbors have complained because they also want access to the river through that right-of-way. There is a gate, but there still are issues with the dogs that are in there. The current code does allow for someone to occupy a right-of-way as long as they officially ask permission from the City Commission. Proposed was a policy change to have a public notice and notify the neighbors when someone wants to use a right-of-way. Decided was that they need a more consistent policy. Decided was to notify the party that they would have to move their fence and if they object, they have to come before the commission.

Kelly Boone of LaBelle Downtown Revitalization Corporation asked if they needed any permits for the LDRC Saturday Market on the first and third Saturday of the month from October through April. They don’t need any permits for their market. LDRC also brought a proclamation for the commission to sign that states that the Little Toot Foundation, which promotes reading and education, wants to make November 16 Little Toot Day. And the commission approved a motion to make January 25 Snowbird Day, were people from RV-parks can play games together behind the LDRC office, there might be a road closure.

Another topic was the extra 25 dollars per household collect through the recreation fees. The City discussed using that money for the city parks, but Ramiro Rodriguez, Director of the Hendry LaBelle Recreation Board pleaded that that money should be used for the Hendry-LaBelle Regional Sports Park. A motion was put forward to allocate the second-year 25 dollar assessment to the Recreation Board to use for the Sports Park.

Next on the agenda were the Staff Reports. The Police Department had approximately 365 offense reports, one residential burglary, six criminal mischiefs, one stolen vehicle and one residential theft.

Zimmerly reported that the Belle Arbor Grant application is an infrastructure application for the City of LaBelle, but it benefits multiple businesses and multiple individuals.

The LaBelle Heritage Museum requested a reservation for their normal dockage for river excursions for Swamp Cabbage. The Commission approved this reservation.

The next City Commission meeting will be on September 13.

Geoffrey Ionescu can be reached at cbnews@newszap.com

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