By Dan Moffett

    After hearing concerns about rising legal bills, the Briny Breezes Town Council has decided to seek “comparative proposals” for services from outside attorneys.
    The move comes in response to a growing number of complaints from residents about the size of recent payments to John Skrandel, who has served as town attorney since 2013.
    Ted Gross, the treasurer of the corporate board, and Mayor Jack Lee have been the loudest critics, saying the town is spending too much money for Skrandel’s work, some of which might not be needed. One recent monthly check topped $5,000, which Lee and Gross maintain is more than Briny can afford.
    Skrandel told the council during its June 22 meeting that his costs have been higher lately because council members have assigned him more to do.
    “My work is basically on demand. It’s not a set amount,” Skrandel said. “It can be from zero on up depending on what work is assigned to me by the council.”
    Skrandel also said he has voluntarily given Briny breaks on billing to keep costs down. He said he doesn’t bill the town for travel to Briny and he doesn’t round charges up on fractions of billable hours — he rounds them down. Skrandel charges $185 an hour for his services.
    Alderman Bobby Jurovaty, who acted as council president while Sue Thaler was on vacation, said the council intends to explore how other communities pay for legal services and then make a decision later this year.
    “I’d like to factor in as much as we can what other towns are doing,” Jurovaty said. “We’ll take a nice, long look at this.”
    Skrandel is only the second attorney Briny has ever had. His father, Jerome Skrandel, handled legal services for the town from 1975 until his death in 2013, when John took over.
    In other business:
    • The council approved a six-member advisory committee to research and develop a job description for a part-time town manager position. Members are Keith Black, Sue Revie, William Birch, Holly Reitnauer, Therese Tarman and Gross. Black volunteered to serve as committee chairman. The town hopes to hire a part-time manager before the end of the year.
    • Briny should receive about $25,000 a year from the county’s penny sales tax increase that voters approved in November. Alderman Christina Adams, who acts as the council’s liaison to the county on the tax, said the town has decided on the possible infrastructure improvements for spending the money: water systems, sewage systems, sidewalks and burying main electrical lines. The town likely will allow the tax proceeds to accumulate over two or more years to tackle larger projects.

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