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Antiquated alcohol ordinance stalls in Palmetto


PALMETTO - It's an ordinance that was written in 1975 and was last revised more than 15 years ago, according to city commissioner Brian Williams.

Changes to an alcohol ordinance designed to prohibit the sale of beer and wine within 300 feet of a school came before the Palmetto City Commission on Monday night, but commissioners waffled over the language of the revision and pushed back further discussion of the ordinance to a special workshop scheduled for next week.

"It's time we review this and go through this whole ordinance," Williams said.

Although he said he supports a wholesale change, Williams tried to push the commission to accept the current proposal until a full-scale change could be made to the antiquated ordinance, but the consensus of the commission was to call for more deliberation.

Commissioner Tambra Varnadore said she would like to have public input on the matter before moving any further with the proposed ordinance.

"The city of Palmetto is based on strong family values, and I would hate for this to go away," she said.

Commissioner Alan Zirkelbach proposed a 90-day grace period be given to businesses in violation of the revised ordinance and also wanted to address the language regarding Sunday sales of alcohol.

Commissioner Mary Lancaster asked that churches be included in the language along with schools. Commissioner Tamara Cornwell also called for further review.

Mayor Shirley Groover Bryant suggested modifying the language to include convenience stores as well. Williams said the revision was designed to protect children against restaurant patrons consuming alcohol on premises, and since people would not be consuming the beer or wine while at the convenience store, it may be unnecessary to include them in the revision.

As the commissioners talked of delaying the alcohol ordinance, business owners eager to get the details of the revision were forced to sit and wait.

Natalino Smerelda, the owner of Rico's Pizzeria, just wanted to be able to serve beer and wine and said outside the chambers that the city started giving him the runaround.

Staff reductions
A late addition to the council's agenda was the focus of debate for many commissioners. A call for reductions and incentives to reconcile the city budget confused commissioners because the language stated that the proposal would be implemented if approved. The proposal offered buyouts and incentives for positions that were to be eliminated by the city to reduce expenses.

Allen Tusing, superintendent of public works, said he needed some incentives to offer employees to leave early.

"A reduction in force is the only way to make a balanced budget," Tusing said.

Varnadore said she didn't think the proposal would create a significant savings for the city because people would have to be hired to fill those positions.

The motion passed 4-1, with Varnadore dissenting.

Revisions to the issue of special function permits were pushed back to a workshop to discuss issues commissioners had with the language of the ordinance. Varnadore said the language permits the mayor to approve late permits without the commissioners' consent.

"Why have a deadline if it's not going to mean anything?" Cornwell asked.

Williams also had issues with the revision and wanted to address the number of people required to constitute a special function and add revivals to the language along with festivals and fairs.

An agreement with the Manatee County School Board to sell it land assembled by the CRA was put off to the next agenda.

Police promotions and changes
Police Chief Garry Lowe announced that there would be no entry officer this year and that a lieutenant's slot would not be filled. Also, he said, Lt. Rex Hannaford has been promoted to captain.


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