Thursday, May 06, 2010
HAGIOGRAPHY OVER TRUTH: Why Does the St. Augustine WrecKord Think City Manager WILLIAM B. HARRIS HUNG THE MOON?
Why does the St. Augustine WRecKord think WILLIAM B. HARRISS hung the moon?
To whom does the St. Augustine WRecKord think it's talking?
See the insipid editorial, below:
Harris has kept the city moving forward
(April 21, 2010)
In 1991, at one of the many debates on downtown parking at a St. Augustine City Commission meeting, Bill Harriss, then-city finance director, stepped into the fray, promptly irritating businesses. He said, "The city doesn't have a parking problem. It has a perception of a parking problem."
Whether the problem was a perception or reality then depended on the observer's viewpoint. The Harriss philosophy was simple: If a customer expects to be able to park at the door of a business, well, then, yes, the city does have a parking problem, But if a customer is willing to circle the block a couple of times or venture a couple of blocks outside the center of downtown -- the Plaza de la Constitucion, King Street and north St. George Street -- then it is possible to find a parking space.
It is that kind of attention to detail that defines Bill Harriss, city manager for the past 12 of his 25 years with the city.
A parking garage has since opened, and the city has restructured its street parking system, too. People still complain about costs and parking places, but that will never end.
Monday, Harriss announced his retirement from the city, saying that his timetable to retire has always been to leave at age 60. His birthday is in June.
"I'm leaving the city in better shape than I found it," he said on Monday afternoon after he had submitted his letter to the City Commission.
Harriss has left his departure date open because it depends on his successor. If the city chooses from within, as it did with him and his predecessor, Joe Pomar, then he'll likely leave in June. If it conducts an outside search, he'll stay around to ensure his successor has a smooth transition.
Harriss has left his mark. In addition to the parking garage and its revenue stream to pay for itself, the city has grown its boundaries to capture more tax-paying properties to offset the numerous tax-exempt ones in the city. He directed the ongoing improvements of the city's water and sewer system, though infrastructure in West Augustine is continuing to be reworked. The overall water system includes two new water mains under the Matanzas River that better serve Anastasia Island city residents and increase fire fighting capacity on the island, too.
He has worked to improve quality of life through a new fire station, additional city parks, partnerships with the county recreation department, an expanded Visitor Information Center, and police, fire and public works services.
He hears insults from the public at City Commission meetings and gets blamed for the legal challenges and fines from other government agencies for decisions made that were carried out poorly. The most visible was the dumping of 35,000 cubic yards of solid waste from a closed landfill on Riberia Street into a water-filled borrow pit on North Holmes Boulevard. The Department of Environmental Regulation fined the city $33,698.
The City Commission supports Harriss because he's managed the city well overall. We read of small cities on the brink of bankruptcy or consolidation into larger governments. St. Augustine is not facing similar problems because of his fiscal management.
Monday night, the commission, after accepting his resignation with much regret, will ponder its next move, the hiring of a new manager. Harriss has made his job an enviable position.
For his service and his looking to the future with key staff picks, we thank City Manager Bill Harriss for moving the city forward.