Retirement incentive program proposed


In an effort to meet the financial responsibilities of the City, an “employee retirement incentive” program will be considered by our City Commission in it’s regular session Monday according to an update received by Historic City News yesterday.

The meeting begins at 5 p.m. in the Alcazar Room at City Hall.

Also on Monday’s agenda, recognition of historian David Nolan with the Governor’s Points of Light Award, public hearings and final action on a 30-year renewal of the Florida Power & Light (FPL) franchise agreement and on a 10-year tax exemption period for historic property improvements; agreement with the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) to install conduit for future under-lighting of the Bridge of Lions, and resolutions for a cab meter rate program and a consultant contract for our city’s 450th anniversary.

Employee incentive program
An incentive program for city employees eligible to retire, offering three years health insurance coverage or a one-time $17,400 cash payment, will be considered by commissioners.

City Manager Bill Harris said the program can provide “a savings through elimination, downgrading and filing of positions with entry-level employees” as part of our “effort to meet the financial responsibilities of the City and cope with the downturn of the economy.”

There are currently 30-35 employees eligible for the program.

FPL franchise agreement
“Staff has exhaustively studied and researched the franchise renewal and believes that the renewal … is in the very best interest of all concerned.”

City Operations Officer John Regan summarized the result of six months of study, including two public meetings, in recommending commission approval.

He noted “the loss of the franchise dollars would have caused the city to search for other financial avenues to augment the resulting budgetary constraints, such as raising taxes …”

Regan said such utility fees extend to all users, including properties off the property tax rolls. The agreement would provide an estimated $1.4 million in annual revenue from a 5.9% franchise fee on consumers’ electric bills.

Historic property incentive
An extension from five to ten years in tax exemption for historic property improvements is designed to encourage more restoration efforts on our city’s privately-owned historic properties. Commissioner Nancy Sikes-Kline has advocated the increase, and commissioners hope the county, which recognizes the 5-year period for county taxes, will follow suit to the 10-year period. The tax exemption applies only to improvement expenses on qualified properties.

Groundwork for Bridge lighting
Commissioner Don Crichlow introduced last year the idea of illuminating the underside of our Bridge of Lions, and commissioners at the time approved up to $40,000 to design and install lighting conduit during FDOT bridge restoration. Monday’s action would formalize agreement with FDOT to do the work at city expense. Actual installation will have to await future funding availability.

Cab meter or zone – your choice
Commissioners will consider a meter rate option for cab services, at $1.50 start, $1.50/mile, and 35 cents/minute idling time in traffic. The five cab companies operating in our city can choose between this and an existing zone system, but either choice requires clear signage both outside and in the cabs. Checker Cab made the request to use meters.

450th consulting ‘in the details’
Research, outline and document are the elements planned by the executive director of Jamestown’s 400th anniversary in a contract to advise St. Augustine on organization of our 450th Anniversary.

Our County Commission Tuesday approved a $20,000 contract with Williamsburg Mayor Jeanne Zeidler, but some misplaced paperwork brings it back to our city board for approval Monday. An exhibit with additional detail had been left out, and the corrected package will be considered to make sure both boards are on the same page(s). The County Tourist Development Council will pay her $20,000 consultant fee.

Zeidler will visit here next Thursday to confer with Mayor Joe Boles and speak at the University of Florida’s St. Augustine Historic Area Strategic Plan public session.

In a letter to Boles, Zeidler said she anticipates ten days in St. Augustine “to tour facilities, interview key people in the tourism industry, in preservation and history, and in local government. I would also interview key leaders in business, education, the media, and selected civic organizations.”

She said she will identify and evaluate pertinent regional assets, prepare a guide for more detailed planning, program development, and implementation, and provide an appendix of documents developed during the Jamestown 2007 commemoration that could serve as templates or models for the St. Augustine commemoration.

“St. Augustine has the assets and the leadership to plan and produce a highly visible commemoration that will bring educational and economic benefits for a long time,” Zeidler said.

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