By Dan Moffett
Town Manager Bill Thrasher was so disappointed by a Briny Breezes Town Council vote to postpone putting a charter amendment referendum on the March ballot that he considered resigning.
That was enough for the council to reverse itself and unanimously approve sending the issue of whether to have a formal town charter to voters in the next election.
Thrasher said too much effort and time had gone into developing the amendments to delay the vote now.
The council agreed on reflection. President Sue Thaler said Thrasher was “too valuable” to the town to risk losing.
During the regular town meeting on Dec. 17, the council voted 3-2 to postpone the referendum until 2022 to avoid paying up to $10,000 for a special ballot from the Palm Beach County Elections Supervisor. Thrasher said that figure could be negotiated down and the town could use some of the $32,000 available in relief funding to cover the cost.
Aldermen Chick Behringer and Bill Birch joined Thaler in reversing their original votes to hold back the referendum.
The council learned earlier in December that, because no challengers came forward to take on incumbents for alderman seats, the town would have to pay for a special ballot to hold the referendum March 9.
Because Thaler, Mayor Gene Adams and Behringer went unchallenged during the town’s qualifying period, Briny would have had no other ballot issues in March.
Thaler at first said it made more sense to wait until 2022 for the town to put its charter amendments on the ballot — along with statewide and countywide races — and save thousands of dollars.
“For me, the entire motivation is cost,” Thaler said in arguing for postponement during the Dec. 17 meeting. “I think $10,000 is a lot of money for the Briny Breezes town budget.”
Alderwoman Christina Adams disagreed. She said the town had invested a lot of effort in developing the charter proposals and should move forward as planned.
“I’m leery of postponing this,” Adams said. “It’s taken the time of a dedicated committee and it’s taken the time of our attorney Keith Davis to put up this document.”
Alderwoman Kathy Gross joined Adams in voting not to postpone.
The amendments, if approved by voters, would give the town a formal charter, something it hasn’t had since its incorporation as a municipality in 1963. The proposed changes would give the town specific regulations, definitions and procedures for governance.
They would also define the job description of the town manager position and make the clerk an appointed position, not elected.
In other business at the Dec. 17 meeting:
• Thrasher earned glowing reviews from the council during performance evaluations as he completes his first year on the job.
“He’s very methodical and thinks things through very well,” said Mayor Adams. “He answers your questions without pushing opinions.”
Thaler said Thrasher “kept us on an even keel” during a difficult year dealing with COVID-19.
“He brought a level of professionalism I don’t think we’ve had at Town Hall,” Behringer said.
Council members agreed they had no problems with Thrasher’s performance during the summer, when he worked remotely from his home in North Carolina. The town ran smoothly, they said.
“I wouldn’t have known if he was here or in North Carolina,” the mayor said.
• Adams said the Palm Beach County Health Department has scrapped plans to administer COVID-19 vaccinations in Point of Dispensing centers in municipalities.
Instead, the public will get vaccinations through pharmacies, doctors’ offices and other health care providers, probably in the spring.
However, Adams said, the town has updated its POD agreement with the county, and the mayor hopes the cooperation will be bene- ficial for the next health emergency.