Inverness has lifted its ban on medical marijuana dispensaries in the city.
The city council solidified the move when it voted on a second reading of the ordinance Tuesday; the first reading passed in July.
“To me it’s become housekeeping,” said Councilwoman Jacquie Hepfer, citing the state referendum legalizing medical marijuana.
Prior to the first vote, city council members had visited medical marijuana dispensaries outside Citrus County and reported they were impressed by their professionalism and security.
The ordinance lifting the ban allows the city to treat dispensaries in the same it oversees pharmacies when it comes to land development codes.
The ordinance also limits medical marijuana dispensaries from being within 500 feet of an elementary school or middle or secondary school unless the city council approves the location.
City Manager Frank DiGiovanni said the lifting of the ban better prepares Inverness “as these applications come forward, and we do expect them to come forward.”
The council also unanimously approved a modest increase in its law enforcement agreement with the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office.
The new law enforcement contract is currently $841,501. Under the new terms, it’s scheduled to increase 2.7%, or $23,084.
Sheriff Mike Prendergast told the council he tried to keep costs down despite rising costs for new equipment and operations.
“We believe our budget has been worked very hard,” he said.
He estimated that his cost to provide additional law enforcement to the city is about a third of the cost if the city had its own police department.
The council also approved medical, dental, and vision contracts for the city’s employees, costs which are expected to increase 0.7%.
The city’s landfill tipping fees will also increase $1.20/ton under the city’s new contract. City officials estimate that will cost the city an additional $7,500 to $8,000 during fiscal 2019-2020.
The council also approved raising vendor rates at some city events.
DiGiovanni told the council that the events are larger than when they started and have many more people attending.
The council also agreed to move forward in asking the county to help pay for improvements to Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue from U.S. 41 to Dampier Street.
In a proposed letter to county commissioners, the city council explains that in 1988, the county commission and the city agreed to share expenses to improve Park Avenue, now called Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue. Back then, the total estimated cost was $62,000, with the county agreeing to pay $15,000 of the cost.
Those improvements today are part of the city’s improvements to both North Dampier Street and MLK Avenue at a cost of $1.2 million. Parts of the project are funded by federal Community Development Block Grants. The project includes realigning part of MLK, adding sidewalks and landscaping.
DiGiovanni said that the city originally asked the county 30 years ago to pitch in because MLK was predominately used by county workers and visitors to go to county facilities. The county commission agreed back then to pay 25%.
The improvements were never made. But now that the city is ready to make them, the council agreed to go back to the county commission for its share and see if the offer is still good. Minus grants, that MLK portion of the project now costs $339,800. Twenty-five percent of that would be $84,950.
The city council directed DiGiovanni to ask the county commission for the money.