HIGH SPRINGS – High Springs commissioners will address the issue of civility at a workshop set for Thursday, May 16, 2013 at 6:30 p.m. This workshop follows several commission discussions in March regarding civility, which were initially sparked by resident and commissioner complaints regarding comments posted by one commissioner on his blog.

A resolution was drafted at the time, which delineated what residents should be able to expect of their elected officials. The resolution failed to pass amid controversy about freedom of speech and commissioners decided instead to hold a workshop to update the Rules and Procedures Handbook for Commissioners, which was originally adopted on March 10, 2011. The workshop will be held in the High Springs Commission meeting room.

In other City business, commissioners unanimously approved an application for the use of the Civic Center on Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013, by the High Springs Mission Society for their annual community Thanksgiving banquet. Approval was also granted to waive the fees for the use of the facility for this event.

Commissioners supported the City Manager’s need for at least a part-time technology employee to upgrade the City’s website, among other things. City Manager Ed Booth said he would include it as part of his budget adjustments for the next meeting.

Although the City received one application from Suzie Ann Clark, previous chair of the Parks & Recreation Advisory Board, to fill a vacancy on that board, Commissioner Barnas moved to table the item and Commissioner Gestrin seconded to allow the city clerk time to ask the alternates on that board if they would like to fill the seat.

Commissioners discussed the possible acquisition of the chapel from St. Madeline’s Catholic Church, but declined to approve the action citing maintenance and the possibility that the building would be used by people looking for a place to sleep at night.

Following a discussion about the proper procedure to change the City Employee Manual regarding employee vacation, sick leave and compensatory time, City Clerk Jenny Parham explained that the Employee Manual was originally approved by ordinance and another ordinance would be required to change it. During discussion, City Manager Booth said he would contact the Florida League of Cities to determine what was usual and customary as a maximum. Commissioner Linda Gestrin commented that it was what the City of High Springs could afford that was important rather than what other cities do. Mayor Sue Weller suggested the City include a line item in the budget “when we know someone is going to retire” to pay out vacation or sick leave rather than have the money paid out of the department’s budget. Currently, the City allows employees to carry forward annually 1,040 maximum hours of sick leave, 320 hours vacation time for department heads and 240 hours for non-department heads.

Commissioner Barnas questioned how the use of the Community Center for a 40-hour a week summer camp was approved without at least notifying the commissioners. Clearly expressing his concern that “back door deals” were being made “under the table,” City Manager Booth said he was planning to inform commissioners during the City Manager Report, near the end of the meeting, but Barnas beat him to it.

Commissioner Barnas expressed concern that the procedure for budget amendments would get the City into another lawsuit. City Attorney Scott Walker explained that Statute 166.241 determined the procedure for all municipalities. Reading the portion of the statute that applied to the issue in question, Walker further stated he had checked with appropriate parties to determine if his interpretation of the process was correct. He indicated he had confirmation that the process the City is following is appropriate and within the guidelines of the statute.

Both City Clerk Parham and City Attorney Walker assured commissioners that all records are being scanned at this point and will be sent to Municipal Code for codification and publication in the near future.

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