A town hall meeting on Feb. 1 called by Palmetto Bay District 1 Councilmember Patrick Fiore drew an audience of about 40 people — not counting village officials and staff — to the recreation room at Coral Reef Park.
“I made a promise during the campaign that I would have meetings, and this is the start,” Fiore said. “I want to keep that promise to you.”
Beginning at 6:30 p.m., Fiore introduced the other members of the Palmetto Bay Council who were attending — Mayor Shelley Stanczyk, Vice Mayor Brian Pariser and Councilmember Howard Tendrich, as well as village manager Ron Williams, village clerk Meighan Alexander, Village Policing Unit Commander Lt. Gregory Truitt and public information officer Bill Kress.
“Thank you all for coming tonight,” Mayor Stanczyk told the group. “We’ve had town hall meetings before over the years, for information sharing. This is a way of continuing the process.”
Fiore said that he plans to continue working on road improvement projects in partnership with Miami-Dade County District 8 Commissioner Lynda Bell, and seek greater access to the bay for residents. He also introduced recently elected District 117 State Rep. Michael Bileca, who was attending and spoke briefly. Then Fiore explained that there was no set agenda for the meeting and threw it open to questions from the audience.
Resident Gunther Karger directed a question to Michael Bileca, asking why Gov. Rick Scott wasn’t honoring the voter’s wishes regarding redistricting in Florida. Bileca said that he couldn’t speak for the governor, but agreed that gerrymandering in Florida was a serious concern.
Traffic concerns were, as usual, a popular topic and several residents asked about the timing of red lights at certain intersections and a few left turn lanes that had no left turn green arrows. Both Fiore and Williams pointed out that the areas mentioned were under county jurisdiction and that they would work with the county to try to improve them.
Resident Denny Wood asked about what he called violations of handicapped accessibility laws in both the new village hall building and in businesses given permits within the village. Longtime resident and activist Gabe Bifano suggested that the architect of the new village hall would be culpable for not complying with handicap laws if there are violations. Fiore asked Wood to submit specific examples of any problem areas.
Peter England, who unsuccessfully ran for mayor in the November election, had a question about education.
“How can we assure high quality schools in Palmetto Bay?” he asked.
Mayor Stanczyk responded that with public schools “under the gun” and facing budget cutbacks, she wanted village officials to have meetings with teachers and principals to discuss ways they could work together to improve the situation. She also invited the owners of private schools to participate as well.
Realtor Hal Feldman commented on the poor cell phone reception in many areas of Palmetto Bay and asked for comments on how to improve it, which led to discussion about the pros and cons of placing additional signal relay towers in areas that would be practical and acceptable.
Concerns about crime prompted questions about bike patrols, which are mostly limited to parks now. Lt. Truitt said that bikes are too slow for frequent patrolling throughout the village.
There also was a question by Jane Forman of the Tennis Academy at Coral Reef Park about break-ins in the parking lot. Truitt cautioned people not to leave valuables visible in their cars or be seen placing them in the trunk before leaving the cars. The mayor and other council members said they would look into installing lockers at the facility.
The meeting ran until about 8 p.m. For future meetings, check the village website at www.palmettobay-fl.gov/.