The L.P.A. and Regular LaBelle City Commission Meeting began, on August 8, with a swearing in ceremony. Derek Rooney led the Commissioners as they repeated the following:
“I do solemnly swear that I will support protect and defend the Constitution and the government of the United States and the State of Florida, and that I am duly qualified to hold office under the constitution of the State, and that I will well and faithfully perform the duties (each stated their titles) of which I am about to enter, so help me God.”
City of LaBelle Local Planning Agency Meeting was then called to order, and the Public Hearing on Water Supply Facilities Work Plan opened. Motion to recommend that the Water Supply Facilities Work plan be added to the City’s Comprehensive Plan. This will revisit the Regular City Commission meeting agenda in September. Motion passed 5-0. The L.P.A. Meeting was then adjourned.
The Regular LaBelle City Commission Meeting was called to order and opened with a prayer for guidance, protection, and peace. The three young men from Moore Haven and their families, and the family of Bill McGill were mentioned in the prayer.
After saying the Pledge of Allegiance, roll call was taken. Tommy Smith, Hilda Zimmerly, David Lyons, Julie Wilkins, and Daniel Akin were all present.
Consent Agenda included a motion to approve July 2019 vouchers and paid bills, as well as the minutes from the June, 13, 2019 Regular Commission Meeting. Motion passed 5-0.
Hendry County Supervisor of Elections, Brenda Hoots, approached the podium to discuss the topic of moving City Elections to the Federal Primary Election Date. Voter fatigue, low turnout, lengthy ballots, and overall cost of elections were all considered. A referendum regarding moving the election date to August, with at least 120 days notice and written in both English and Spanish, was requested by Hoots. It was agreed that they cannot delay the matter and would work quickly to find resolution.
The next topic was the South Florida Water Management District Lease Agreement, in regards to the Nature Park. Public access and use was brought up by Wilkins. The matter was discussed, and it was agreed that it was a non-issue to close the park at night due to lighting and safety reasons. A motion to approve the lease, upon review, passed 5-0.
• Public Hearing on Proposed ordinance No. 2019-10 Temporary Use Regulations: No public comment made. Final adoption with changes as discussed. Motion passed 5-0.
• Public Hearing on Proposed ordinance No. 2019-12 Walls and Fences Regulations: Opened for public comment, after discussion a motion to approve with changes as stated was passed 5-0.
• Public Hearing on Proposed ordinance No. 2019-13 Bedolla Rental Annexation, Public Hearing on Proposed ordinance No. 2019-14 Bedolla Comp Plan Amendment, Public Hearing on Proposed ordinance No. 2019-15 Bedolla Rental Rezone were consolidated into one Public Hearing with three separate votes. Each ordinance was opened up for public comment, and discussed before votes were taken. All three motions passed 5-0.
• Public Hearing on Proposed ordinance No. 2019-16 Oakwood Terrace PUD was presented by Alexis Crespo. When opened for public comment, possible parking issues and language that clarifies parking provisions were brought up and discussed at length. Discussion ended with a motion to approve, with stated changes, motion passed 5-0.
In Old Business
Ron Zimmerly presented Employee Pay Increases. Commissioner Wilkins said that McDonald’s base pay of $11 per hour was a good comparison of a local base pay, and that the city should consider comparing that to what they pay. Ron Zimmerly cautioned the Commission about allocating more than a $1.25 increase. Wilkins also suggested that the employee evaluation, “was a disaster…for employee moral,” and that the pay increase doesn’t necessarily need to be performance based. Akin expressed concern about going against budgetary advice given by Ron Zimmerly. Hilda Zimmerly suggested that they use the plan that Ron Zimmerly had spent many, many hours completing. Ron Zimmerly remarked that while it was a learning process, that he hoped to, “never have to go through this again,” in regards to the evaluation fiasco. A motion to accept Ron Zimmerly’s suggestion of pay increase dependent on performance was made by Tommy Smith, seconded by Hilda Zimmerly. Motion passed 4-1.
• Fire Chief, Josh Rimes, reported that there were 55 calls last month, which was a pretty drastic decrease; they are completing some construction, maintenance, and code compliance for the station; getting ready for fire prevention education with the schools;
• H.S.O. report showed nothing drastic or alarming to report, other than a spike in property crime during July, likely due to children being bored and out of school.
• City Attorney, Derek Rooney discussed that, in regards to the election date changes, the charter that he was working on was from 1925 and was in need of some revisions. He also discussed the matter of participation in an RFP/special magistrate with Hendry County, to simplify and expedite matters.
• Superintendent of Public Works, Gary Hull, reported “literally dozens” of repair projects that were currently underway. There was a discussion about a sign that restricted vehicle weight, in an industrial zoned property. Commissioners remarked that the matter needed investigation.
Thank you, Mary Jo, you will be dearly missed!
After just over 19 years of service, Mary Jo Wilson is retiring. While she asked for no fanfare, Mayor Lyons did present her with a card and some cake. A deserved round of applause, in appreciation for her dedication and hard work, broke out just before the meeting was adjourned.