AMSCD Sets Date for Budget Review, Approves Rate Increase for Irrigation Water

Published on Tuesday, 08 June 2010 20:10

In a meeting so fractious that one of the major topics involved a proposal to review rules for public participation, the board of supervisors also dealt with several safety and administrative matters. Longtime board member Herbert Cambridge also announced his intention to resign from the board due mainly to the illness of his wife.

The attorney for the Ave Maria Stewardship Community District suggested the board consider procedural changes for meetings following discussions at Tuesday's meeting during which board chairman Thomas Peek was challenged to keep order on a number of occasions.

There were numerous deviations from the agenda as the board worked through its meeting, but eventually the supervisors:

- Set Aug. 10 as the date for a public hearing and formal adoption of the budget for the 2010-11 fiscal year beginning Oct. 1 The budget (available here for review) is essentially flat, with no increase in residents' assessments. Although board meetings are normally held on the first Tuesday of the month, the August meeting was shifted to Aug. 10 to allow for the required 60-day period from introduction of the budget June 8 until the vote on its adoption.

- Approved changes in the fees charged for water used for irrigation. The rates, which have been unchanged since the establishment of the community, will be increased by three percent and a tiered system will be introduced to charge higher rates for excess usage. For residents, the higher tiers will apply for usage beyond 30,000 gallons a month, which Barron Collier representative Rebecca Acx told the meeting is a higher allotment than many other areas of Collier County. The new rates would be effective in August and will appear in September bills, although only residents of Emerson Park and Hampton Village are directly billed for use of irrigation water.

- Agreed to change the intersection of Milano St. and Seton St to a four-way stop, from two-way. Kelly Guarascio of Ave Maria Development said that without a stop sign leading from Annunciation Circle to the Donahue Academy many people drive too fast going to and from the school, posing a danger to children.

- Heard how rules of golf cart operation within the district will be revised to ensure they are in sync with Florida statutes. Tom Sansbury, a vice-president with Barron Collier, said that some inquiries by residents, and a recent accident involving a teenage golf cart driver, prompted a look at the regulations and it was determined that the regulations of the district vary from state statutes in a few ways including the legal age of an operator and the type of equipment that needs to be on a cart. The current conflict in regulations makes it difficult for the Sheriff's Office to enforce them, Mr. Sansbury said.

- Decided to continue its previous practice of having the full board select an auditor, rejecting a suggestion that a committee be established to manage selection of the district's auditor. The current auditor will be invited to submit a proposal to continue in that capacity, district manager Todd Wodraska said.

Board member Herbert Cambridge also announced at the end of the meeting that he planned to submit his resignation due primarily to the illness of his wife. Mr. Cambridge, 83, has served on the board since its inception. At the urging of Chairman Peek and board member Liesa Priddy, Mr. Cambridge agreed to consider staying on the board until the end of his term this fall.

(See related Naples Daily News story: Influential Collier Civil Rights Activist Steps Down from Ave Maria Board)

The meeting was about twice as long as normal due to frequent interruptions and discussions of items either outside the purview of the board or not on the agenda, most of which were raised by Marielena Montesino Stuart who, along with her husband, George, also labeled the board "incompetent" and called for all its members to resign.

Attorney Ken van Assenderp said that the board should consider "expansion of procedural rules" to find a balance between effectively dealing with the board's business and providing a forum for other matters.

Mr. van Assenderp said the board has a "long-standing ad-hoc policy of attempting to listen the public," including many questions about topics over which the board has no jurisdiction. Noting that the board is not obligated under Florida's sunshine law to let members of the public speak at meetings other than those designated as public hearings, he said that the board should look for ways in which residents' grievances can be heard in an appropriate manner. Members of the board will review his recommendations and deal with them at a later meeting.

Mr. van Assenderp reminded the meeting that the special district has a "single specialized purpose" to deal with the community's infrastructure such as roads and landscaping. It has no authority over zoning, land-use, education or public safety.