By Sheila Mullane Estrada
TREASURE ISLAND — Up to 4 percent of Treasure Island homes are in foreclosure and vacant, city officials estimate, often resulting in unkempt lawns and other maintenance issues.
On Tuesday, the City Commission took action, passing an ordinance that holds the foreclosing banks or other financial institutions responsible for maintaining these properties.
"We think there are between 50 and 80 properties out of 2,000 or more parcels in the city that are in some stage of foreclosure," City Manager Reid Silverboard said.
He said more and more frequently, when neighbors complain about overgrown lawns, code enforcement discovers the property is vacant and in foreclosure.
The new ordinance, which applies to both residential and commercial properties, imposes fines of up to $500 a day for banks if they do not register any vacant properties that are in foreclosure with the city police department.
Fines for specific code violations, particularly relating to failure to maintain the properties, will be imposed as well under the new ordinance, which applies to all property owners, including lenders, trustees and service companies with an equity interest in a foreclosure property.
"We really don't know if this is going to help at all," city attorney Maura Kiefer said last month when the ordinance was first considered. "We are in uncharted territory. All I know is we have had zero cooperation from the banks when our staff tried to contact them. They got hung up on."
City re-enters library cooperative
It's official. Treasure Island is once again a full-fledged, dues-paying member of the Gulf Beaches Public Library.
The City Commission approved a one-year contract with the library Tuesday, pledging to pay $45,463 to support the library through the end of next September.
Next summer, Mayor Mary Maloof said the city will likely again "fight the same battle" over the level of the city's participation in the library cooperative.
Other member cities include Madeira Beach, Redington Beach, North Redington Beach and Redington Shores.
During budget discussions earlier this year, the Treasure Island Commission decided to not to pay its then-scheduled library contribution of $107,000, arguing the city could not afford to continue subsidizing the membership for its citizens.
Months of controversy led library board members to fire the library's director and some other staff members and completely restructure the library's finances.
These actions -— and a significant discount to all member towns — led Treasure Island commissioners to change their minds.
"As a result of the City Commission digging in its heels we have achieved a cost savings for every member of the cooperative," City Manager Reid Silverboard told the commission earlier this month.
The city's residents now can use the library services at no cost. Those who paid $100 for a library card at the Madeira Beach facility will be reimbursed by the library.