State of the Town 2022
The year 2022 was a challenging one for all of us as we worked to return to a sense of normalcy following the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. As the pandemic restrictions were lifted, the Town was able to resume many of its annual events. One of the brightest signs that we were returning to normalcy was the Town's Memorial Day Picnic, which was received with great enthusiasm by the large number of Town residents who attended. Additionally, the Town and surrounding cities were impacted by an active storm season, including the occurrence of Hurricane Ian, which was a disaster we narrowly avoided. I hope those who remained behind learned a valuable lesson about the importance of following "evacuation orders." Ignoring these warnings can put your loved ones and yourself in grave danger. Thankfully, we were fortunate this time.
The Town's Charter has undergone significant modifications, which will be highlighted in the Town Clerk's message. These modifications are aimed at strengthening the Town and ensuring that Indian Shores remains "A Great Place to Live."
Your Elected Officials:
- Patrick C. Soranno, Mayor
- Diantha Schear, Vice Mayor
- William F. Smith, Councilor
- Michael W. Hackerson, Councilor
- Michael A. “Mike” Petruccelli, Councilor
As many of you are aware, the Army Corps of Engineers has declined to fund the Sand Key Beach Renourishment Project, which extends from the city of Clearwater down to the Redingtons. Despite this setback, the mayors, including myself, are collaborating with the County to find a resolution. A new plan that includes beach renourishment is imperative, as it provides essential protection against storm surge and erosion, while also serving as a recreational hub for our Indian Shores and Pinellas County residents and visitors. Stay tuned!
Gulf Boulevard Drainage Project, Sidewalks and Pedestrian Safety
The Gulf Boulevard Drainage and Pedestrian Safety projects have been successfully completed. During this time, we received two additional crosswalks, which further improved the safety of pedestrians and bike riders along the boulevard. Our next goal is to install elevated sidewalks, which is currently on the priority list with Forward Pinellas, the Pinellas County's planning agency. The estimated cost for this project is over $50 million, with a large portion of that amount being dedicated to securing the necessary easements for construction. Over the next 6 to 8 months, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) will be determining the location and cost of these easements to provide a clearer idea of how to move forward with the County’s Planning Agency, Forward Pinellas, and the Pinellas County Commission.
Section 3.02. Qualifications and Section 5.03. Candidate Qualifying Procedures. (Passed)
Shall Article III, Section 3.02 and Article V, Section 5.03 of the Town of Indian Shores Charter be amended to provide that the mayor and council members must reside in the Town for one year instead of six months to qualify for office?
Section 3.05. Mayor. (Passed)
Shall Article III, Section 3.05 of the Town of Indian Shores Charter be amended to provide for the Mayor to serve as the registered agent for the Town and remove the Mayor’s administrative duties?
Section 3.06. Vice-Mayor. (Failed)
Shall Article III, Section 3.06 of the Town of Indian Shores Charter be amended to provide for a rotation of the office of Vice Mayor based on seniority thereby providing the opportunity for each council member to hold this office?
Section 3.07. Holding Other Office. (Passed)
Shall Article III, Section 3.07 of the Town of Indian Shores Charter be amended to clarify that elected Town officials may not hold any additional public office in violation of the Florida Constitution?
Section 4.02. Town Administrator. (Passed)
Shall Article IV, Section 4.02 of the Town of Indian Shores Charter be amended to provide for a Town Administrator rather than a Town Auditor?
Thank you to the Town’s Administrative and Finance/Charter Review Committee, along with guidance from Town Attorney Regina Kardash, for dedicating the time to review and implement four out of the five recommend changes to the Town’s Charter.
Administrative and Finance/Charter Review Committee:
- Mayor Patrick C. Soranno, Chair
- Councilor Mike Hackerson, Vice Chair
- Councilor Bill Smith, Council Alternate
- Lori Kauffman, Citizen Member
- John Caruso, Citizen Member
- Ellen Bauer, Citizen Member Alternate
- Tom King, Citizen Member Alternate
In addition to the Charter Review and subsequent referendums, the Town contracted with a new auditing firm (see below for more details) and two new engineering firms to assist with site plan reviews, stormwater projects and related reporting/training and other miscellaneous special projects. They are Land & Water Engineering Science and George F. Young, Inc.
Also during this year, Gulf Boulevard has been emblazoned with reflectors and new striping as the drainage project – which included two new crosswalks for the town, was brought to a close. With the finalization of the road project, FDOT began a beautification and landscaping project.
The beautification project included replacing plants in the medians and rights of ways and the work was performed by Morelli Landscaping, Inc. The beautification portion of the road project exceeded $500,000 and was funded by the Florida Department of Transportation. Morelli Landscaping, Inc. will be truck watering and maintaining the project for the next two years as it becomes established.
Pinellas County and the Clearwater Marine Aquarium continue to work on education regarding sea turtle nesting and the negative impact of improper lighting as baby sea turtles hatch and follow lights to navigate their way to the water’s edge. The Town had our streetlights replaced with new turtle-friendly amber lighting recently agreed upon and approved by Duke Energy and FDOT.
At the Tiki Gardens Beach Access, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection issued a permit to Pinellas County so the town could put down an AccessDeck beach mat to provide handicap access to the beach across from the Tiki Gardens parking lot. The mat was initially put down at the beginning of November but had to be taken right back up due to the threat of Hurricane Nicole. It has since been put back in place and our Public Services personnel report they have received several compliments on the mat.
In 2022 Public Services added a light duty Chevrolet Colorado truck to our existing Public Services vehicle fleet which includes a 2013 F-150 and a 2018 F-250.
If you’ve visited the municipal center’s second floor, you’ve likely noticed the new porcelain tile that was installed in the lobby. Our own resident, Lori Kauffman, offered her expertise in planning the layout of the tile. “Thank you, Lori!” The original carpeting in the Building Department was replaced this year, too.
At our public beach accesses new double-sided beach rules signs were installed. We are hopeful this will curb dogs on the beach as the fines for violations of any of the rules are included on the sign as well. Also included on the signs is information regarding sea turtle nesting, or reporting a nest, injured or dead turtles.
Mayor James J. Lawrence Veterans Memorial Park
On June 16, 2022 the Town hosted the official ribbon cutting for the monument project. The monument was unveiled by the Arts Council and their chair, Councilor Bill Smith. The Seminole Tribe of Florida participated by sending two of their members, Samuel Tommie and Daniel Tommie to perform a dedication and blessing prayer along with the demonstration of a traditional Seminole dugout canoe. With the educational kiosks and informational timeline on the arch - you might even call the monument a mini outdoor museum! We look forward to holding more civic and cultural events at this beautiful location in the future.
Since the ribbon cutting, the town has received a generous donation from Baystar Restaurant Group (which includes Salt Rock Grill) to install four benches on the plaza. These are projected to be installed by the end of March. Also, Duke Energy generously donated funds to install two bicycle racks. The bike racks are on order and we are hopeful they will arrive and can be installed by the end of March with the benches.
Thank you to the Arts Council Committee for dedicating so much time and effort to the Monument Project.
Arts Council Committee Members:
- Councilor Bill Smith, Chair
- Former Town Engineer Robert Brotherton
- Bonnie Dhonau (Former Chair)
- Maya Feliciano
- Starlyn Fikkert
- Alice Lawrence
- Betsy Schoepf
- Marcie Smith
This year the Town formed an Auditor Selection Committee to advertise a Request for Proposal for a new Auditor. Vice Mayor Diantha Schear served as the chair of the committee. Other members of the committee included Noelle Daniel, Mark McKee, Michael Howard, and Dr. Candiss Rinker.
There were three responses to the RFP and the committee recommended contracting with James Moore & Co., P.L. Council followed the recommendation of the committee and awarded the contract to James Moore & Co., P.L. Work was begun on the Town’s FY 20/21 Annual Financial Report shortly thereafter.
The Annual Financial Report was presented to Council at the December 13, 2022, Council meeting and was unanimously accepted. This annual finance report included the reporting of the re-funding the Town’s debt to take advantage of lower interest rates which resulted in a savings of over $300,000 to the town.
The Annual Finance Report also notes that the police pension plan is currently funded at 141.42% at fiscal year-end September 30, 2021.
The towns total Fund Balance at year-end September 30, 2021, is $4,134,303 and is broken out as follows:
- Nonspendable - $8,488
- Restricted - $183,233
- Committed - $96,667
- Assigned - $2,058,444
- Unassigned - $ 1,787,471
From the auditor’s report, “In our opinion, the accompanying financial statements present fairly, in all material respects, the respective financial position of the governmental activities, each major fund, and the aggregate remaining fund information of the Town, as of September 30, 2021, and the respective changes in financial position and, where applicable, cash flows thereof, for the year then ended in conformity with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America.”
Senate Bill 4-D
On June 24, 2021, the Champlain Towers South condominium building in Surfside, Florida partially collapsed, resulting in the deaths of 98 people. The causes of the collapse are currently being investigated by a team from the National Institute of Standards and Technology.
In response to this tragedy, the Florida Legislature unanimously passed Senate Bill 4-D (2022) in a special session in May 2022. The bill created section 553.899, Florida Statutes, which requires mandatory structural inspections for condominium and cooperative buildings. These “milestone inspections” are required when buildings reach a certain age, depending on their distance from the coastline. Buildings are first subjected to a visual, qualitative assessment of their structural condition; if signs of substantial structural deterioration are found, then a second phase of inspection to fully assess the structural soundness of the building and confirm its safety is required.
A condominium association under chapter 718, Florida Statutes, and a cooperative association under chapter 719, Florida Statutes, must have a milestone inspection performed for each building that is three stories or more in height by December 31 of the year in which the building reaches 30 years of age, based on the date the certificate of occupancy for the building was issued, and every 10 years thereafter. If the building is located within 3 miles of a coastline as defined in s. 376.031, Florida Statutes, the condominium association, or cooperative association must have a milestone inspection performed by December 31 of the year in which the building reaches 25 years of age, based on the date the certificate of occupancy for the building was issued, and every 10 years thereafter. The condominium association or cooperative association must arrange for the milestone inspection to be performed and is responsible for ensuring compliance with the requirements.
A milestone inspection consists of two phases:
For Phase One of the milestone inspection, a licensed architect or engineer authorized to practice in this state shall perform a visual examination of habitable and non-habitable areas of a building, including the major structural components of a building, and provide a qualitative assessment of the structural conditions of the building. If the architect or engineer finds no signs of substantial structural deterioration to any building components under visual examination, a Phase Two inspection will not be required. An architect or engineer who completes a Phase One milestone inspection shall prepare and submit an inspection report.
A Phase Two milestone inspection must be performed if any substantial structural deterioration is identified during Phase One. A Phase Two inspection may involve destructive or nondestructive testing at the inspector’s direction. The inspection may be as extensive or as limited as necessary to fully assess areas of structural distress in order to confirm that the building is structurally sound and safe for its intended use and to recommend a program for fully assessing and repairing distressed and damaged portions of the building. When determining testing locations, the inspector must give preference to locations that are the least disruptive and most easily repairable while still being representative of the structure. An inspector who completes a Phase Two milestone inspection shall prepare and submit an inspection report.
What the Town will be doing.
Upon determining that a building must have a milestone inspection, the local enforcement agency must provide written notice of such required inspection to the condominium association or cooperative association by certified mail, return receipt requested.
What the condominium will have to do.
The condominium association or cooperative association must arrange for the milestone inspection to be performed and is responsible for ensuring compliance with the requirements of this section. The condominium association or cooperative association is responsible for all costs associated with the inspection. This subsection does not apply to a single- family, two-family, or three-family dwelling with three or fewer habitable stories above ground.
The condominium association or cooperative association must complete Phase One of the milestone inspection within 180 days of receiving the written notification from our Building Official. For purposes of this section, completion of Phase One of the milestone inspection means the licensed engineer or architect who performed the Phase One inspection submitted the inspection report by e-mail, United States Postal Service, or commercial delivery service to the local enforcement agency.
Upon completion of a Phase One or Phase Two milestone inspection, the architect or engineer who performed the inspection must submit a sealed copy of the inspection report with a separate summary of, at minimum, the material findings, and recommendations in the inspection report to the condominium association or cooperative association, and to the building official of the local government which has jurisdiction.
The association must distribute a copy of the inspector-prepared summary of the inspection report to each condominium unit owner or cooperative unit owner, regardless of the findings or recommendations in the report, by United States mail or personal delivery and by electronic transmission to unit owners who previously consented to received notice by electronic transmission; must post a copy of the inspector-prepared summary in a conspicuous place on the condominium or cooperative property; and must publish the full report and inspector- prepared summary on the association’s website, if the association is required to have a website.
Flood Information - Did you know?
The Community Rating System (CRS) is a voluntary incentive program that recognizes and encourages community floodplain management practices that exceed the minimum requirements of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). There are over 1,500 communities throughout the United States that participate in the CRS Program.
CRS uses a Class Rating System and CRS Classes are rated from 9 to 1. The Town of Indian Shores is currently a CRS Class 6 which provides a 20% discount on your flood insurance policy.
Be sure to check your policy’s declaration page to verify that your insurer knows you live in a community with a CRS 6 rating and that you are receiving your 20% discount. Currently, nationwide only 449 communities have a CRS 6 or better!
Indian Shores is working hard to join the ranks of those communities that can claim a CRS class 5. Points are hard-won, yet we are hopeful we will be able to get there within the next year. Realizing this goal would put us in the top 200 communities participating in the CRS program.
The Town of Indian Shores is located in a Special Flood Hazard Area and we encourage our residents to review the Town’s Flood Information / FEMA webpage for more information on flooding.
We have continued to deal with the Coronavirus, its variants for a 3rd year, and we dealt with an extremely active hurricane season. As everyone is aware, we were preparing for a significant event that ultimately missed us but severely impacted Fort Myers and Sanibel Island. Hurricane IAN tested our Hurricane Emergency Operations Plans for both Indian Shores and Redington Shores and we learned valuable lessons about our strengths and weaknesses from the experience. Overall, we were pleased with our response effectiveness and once again, we successfully managed staffing and resources minimizing the potential financial impact in the Police Department and both Towns.
We continue to enhance our Emergency Management position by strengthening our relationships with our strategic partners and continuing to upgrade our emergency operations equipment. With the Order to evacuate the Island, we deployed the newly installed Emergency Siren System, and we are pleased to report that we achieved an 80-85% compliance. We are waiting for the delivery and installation of speaker enhancement to the warning system that was approved by both Councils but remains on backorder.
We acquired three additional portable generators, three additional air conditioners, as well as additional emergency supplies.
We have acquired a 16’ enclosed trailer for transport and storage of our Emergency Equipment in the event of a forced evacuation. We also completely refurbished our surplus Military Humvee we acquired last year for high-water response and rescue operations.
If you have not done so, please secure an official Island Re-entry Pass that will allow you clearance back onto the island after a significant storm event. Each property is limited to two passes that can be obtained at the Indian Shores Police Department located on the 2nd Floor of Town Hall, Monday-Friday (8 a.m. – 4 p.m.).
We continued acquiring Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) (used to restart the heart) for all emergency operation vehicles and throughout both the Town of Indian Shores and the Town of Redington Shores. All PD Staff have successfully completed training and renewed their CPR/AED certifications. In addition, all our Officers are First Aid trained as First Responders. I am extremely pleased to tell you that we experienced a situation in September of 2022 where the AED was deployed successfully, and a life was saved as a result.
We also renewed our NARCAN grant that ensures all Officers have them accessible in their cars. NARCAN is used to treat drug overdose victims and was successfully deployed by several ISPD officers on several different occasions during 2022.
We also continue to modernize our department by increasing the level of annual training our officers are required to complete. High Liability skills, Firearms training, Legal updates, and deployment of less-lethal alternatives including the development and use of Conflict Management skills and the use of Conflict De-escalation methods are all being emphasized. Advanced training in these areas increases officer effectiveness and reduces liability for all involved. As a result of the awarded American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding, we have ordered 4 new vehicles which will allow us to replace most of our older vehicles and reduce our overall vehicle maintenance costs. This acquisition will also allow us to implement and maintain a regimented annual vehicle replacement cycle going forward.
We continue to apply for grants and seek ways to return money for the agency and the Towns we serve. Last year we recovered and returned in excess of $37,313.77 in funds to the general account.
In September of 2021, we applied for and were accepted into the State of Florida Commission on Florida Accreditation (CFA) Law Enforcement Accreditation through the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE). CFA Certification can be up to a two (2) year process whereby independent inspectors evaluate every aspect of a Police Department’s Administration and Operations. Accreditation ensures that a Police Department is operating professionally and validates that the Police Department meets or exceeds all national standards. We underwent preliminary reviews in January 2022, and a procedural Audit in November 2022, and passed both. Additionally, January 2022, and again in December 2022, we underwent an FDLE Communications audit, and we passed that as well.
The months of January and February will be busy months for our accreditation team. The team held several working meetings with their assigned FDLE Accreditation Advisors, and we hosted the Tampa-Bay Regional Accreditation meeting at Town Hall on January 26. Our 3-day “Mock Accreditation” Evaluation is scheduled to take place March 21,22,23, 2023. A panel of 3-4 FDLE inspectors will be on site to conduct and evaluation and preliminary assessment in preparation for the actual Accreditation Evacuation.
The Final Accreditation Evaluation is set for July 25,26,27, 2023. A panel of 3-4 different FDLE inspectors will be on site during these days to review our policies, procedures, and our practices to ensure compliance. Once an agency is accredited, they are continually monitored and must be recertified every three (3) years.
As many of you know, we have a very active library organization that was severely impacted by the Coronavirus pandemic. Our library is managed by members of the Library Board, volunteers headed by the Chairperson, Alice Lawrence. They supervise the routine library operations as well as monthly Read & Feed events. The Read & Feed events feature a selected book for discussion and a dinner based on the book contents. It is a fun event for all. In 2021, the library received a significant improvement with the construction of an enclosed Library office to create a more efficient and secure working environment for our Library volunteers.
Library Board Members and Officers:
- Alice Lawrence, Chairperson
- Peg McDermott, Vice Chairperson
- Rene Weyburne, Secretary
- Betty Hill, Board Member
- Claudia Riva, Board Member
A very exciting year for the new ISPOA Board Members:
- Denise Vought, President
- Claudia Riva, Vice President
- Suzanne Lynch, Treasurer
- Josie Hohner, Secretary
In 2022, ISPOA:
- Donated to the Indian Shores Police Department "No Shave November" and Holiday Collection for local children’s charities.
- We had a massive, canned goods collection donated to Calvary Episcopal Church Food Pantry.
- Thirty plus new households are now ISPOA members.
- We had eleven excellent gatherings at restaurants (one per month) meeting new neighbors/members.
ISPOA meetings are held on every third Tuesday of the month, 4:30 p.m. – 6:00 p.m., in the Community Center of Town Hall. We welcome any suggestions you may have to improve the association, so please join us at one of our meetings.
ISPOA Happy Hours are scheduled on every second Wednesday of the month, from 4:30 p.m. – 6:00 p.m., at different restaurant locations.
YOU ARE NEEDED! We currently have two openings for ISPOA Directors. If you, or someone you know is interested, please contact Denise Vought at ISPOAprez@gmail.com.
Visit the Town’s ISPOA webpage for the latest in ISPOA news and updates or for information on becoming a member.
Thank you for your support and look forward to many new and happy times in 2023 with updated and exciting changes.
Happy New Year!
2022 has been a wonderful year of renewal following months of uncertainty during the Covid Pandemic. Despite all the health and safety restrictions, the Indian Shores Women’s Club (ISWC) Board continued to consult virtually and occasionally meet following the current protocols. A brief respite in December allowed a handful of us to enjoy a simple version of our annual Christmas party, but then due to a resurgence of cases and enhanced security protocols, we scheduled, planned, and cancelled our meetings for January, February, and March. By April, conditions allowed us to have a simple, water only business meeting, during which our sitting Board received a unanimous vote to continue serving. Our May 5 ISWC meeting was a breath of fresh air, literally, with excellent outdoor dining on Caddy's new deck right on the intracoastal and the best company to be had anywhere! At last, we began to feel hopeful for a new 2022-2023 season.
In October, our season opened with a delicious dinner at Coco Wood Grill, at which everyone was thrilled to be together again. Quickly followed was a jubilant November Wine Tasting, where it was decided to go ahead with our annual March Fashion Show and Raffle, which had not been possible for the past two years. In dizzying succession, the ISWC: decorated the Town Hall Christmas Tree, held a Holiday Party with gift exchange, cookie swap, and collection of food, toys, and clothes for local causes in conjunction with our Indian Shores Police Department. All of these activities were followed, of course, by the Town Hall Christmas Tree Undecorating, after which we all took a deep breath. We are delighted to see attendance increase from the 12 brave souls at our 2021 holiday party to this month’s 35+. Rebuilding takes time, but with such a wonderful group of women, both veterans and new members, and the unfailing support from our Town of Indian Shores, we are well on our way. Best of all, we can continue to aid the less fortunate among us, while enjoying the kindness and good will of the ISWC membership.
ISWC Board of Directors:
- Georgia Tawil, President
- Tania Tawil Andre, 1st Vice President, Events
- Gabriele Galasti, 2nd Vice President, Memberships
- Dianne Buck, Treasurer
- Lorraine Menchise, Secretary