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Renovations for council chambers, offices OK’d

By Staff | May 18, 2016

With a slight tweak to add security for office employees, City Council approved a renovation project for council chambers, office space and conference room Monday night.

The security tweak to the council office reception area adds height to the cubicle walls, glass panels for visibility and a security barrier. The changes add about $4,000 to the overall cost, bringing the total to $120,000. The money will come from budgeted government services (maintenance) funds and about $89,000 from a council projects fund containing about $850,000.

“We’re not doing anything to our individual offices,” Mayor Pro Tem Rick Williams said filling in Monday night for Mayor Marni Sawicki, who was granted an absence. “We want it to be a little more professional and more secure. It might be more impersonal, but better security.”

Council chambers changes will relocate staff – city manager, attorney and clerks – to the council floor facing the dais while spreading out the eight council seats for better sight lines.

“We can’t see each other up here and part of communicating is seeing the reactions of the person you are speaking with,” said Williams. “It’s not a high-dollar thing ($36,000), either.”

The vote was 4-2 with members Rana Erbrick and Marilyn Stout voting “no” and the absences of Sawicki and Jim Burch.

“I’m going to be against this primarily considering that we have reached $300,000 in attorneys fees in the LCEC negotiations,” said Stout. “I don’t want to spend money unnecessarily.”

Erbrick reasoned, “Anyone who has been to the office lobby knows it is not functional. I want to see the revised drawings of the changes before I vote for it. If we do this, let’s do it right.”

Public Works Director Steve Neff said the modifications will be done during council’s upcoming summer hiatus that ends on July 13.

In other business before council Monday, the board voted unanimously to approve agreements to construct sidewalk projects on both sides of Chiquita Boulevard from Gleason Parkway to Southeast 12th Terrace and on the north side of Tropicana Parkway from Chiquita to Santa Barbara Boulevard.

They also approved a resolution for a project to realign Kismet Parkway to meet Littleton Road in Northeast Cape. The joint project with Lee County has been under consideration for a number of years. The county recently agreed to credit the city $500,000 as compensation for the city repaving Pelican Boulevard when the new conference center is completed at The Westin Resort.

The $3.3 million project, which includes sidewalks and bike lane, will begin in October and is expected to be completed in 2018.

An ordinance hearing authorizing the sale of city-owned property at Santa Barbara Boulevard at Veterans Parkway to a developer was continued a second time and rescheduled for July 18 while staff studies a requested traffic signal at Southeast 27th Street. Staff has concerns that a signal at that intersection has the potential to back up traffic onto Veterans Parkway.

City staff is recommending the creation of a traffic calming policy to address citizen complaints about cars cutting through residential neighborhoods, speeding and other safety concerns. The idea came through the Transportation Advisory Committee which heard from residents on Southeast 17th Place about dangers they face from increased traffic.

Traffic calming devices include speed bumps, speed humps, speed tables, curb extensions, raised intersections, traffic circles and raised medians among others. The purpose of the devices is to reduce vehicle speed, discourage through traffic and minimize conflicts among all roadway users.

Staff said there are about 100 sections of roadway in the city where residents have complained about safety issues.

At the suggestion of City Manager John Szerlag, council unanimously approved of his placing a traffic calming policy into the city’s capital projects requests program.

Stout said she is willing for residents to pay a portion of the cost, but if the neighbors backed off paying even a small portion then the project might not be warranted.

Each request for calming methods would be thoroughly researched and studied before any measures are installed.

Council’s next regular meeting is Monday at City Hall with a special workshop session slated for 2:30 p.m., Friday, May 27, at the Nicholas Annex building conference room.