Belleair Beach Council Finds Some Savings, Wrestles With Runoff, Public Parking Issues
by Leo Coughlin
BELLEAIR BEACH - A meeting with a long agenda Monday night for the City Council produced some good news in terms of saving some money and some sticky problems in a couple of areas.
First off, the city will pay far less than the original estimates on the Harrison Avenue Bridge replacement, which is now expected to cost – with everything included – $262,158.
An earlier estimate put the cost at $360,000 and at the very outset the price was predicted to be about $500,000.
The council accepted the basic $189,658 bid from Caladesi Construction and the other $72,500 comes from necessary ancillary costs.
Caladesi’s bid was about $90,000 below two other competitors and given that, a close review of the numbers was held. They proved to be accurate and the bid was accepted. The work is to be completed in 13 weeks.
One problem concerns the requirements set by federal and state regulations for what amounts to, chiefly, water runoff and discharges.
When city officials looked into requirements to update the ordinances pertaining to this area they couldn’t find exact definitions and when inquiries were made they found the answers to be ambiguous.
So the measure was tabled Monday night pending a clear-cut definition of wording and requirements.
Another problem – not actually on the agenda as an item, but brought up by Mayor Lynn Rives – was the need for additional parking spaces in town for the general public for beach use.
Under the terms of receiving replenishment for the beaches, the federal government requires a certain number of public parking spaces.
The city has designated parking areas at the city marina, at the border with Sand Key, and at Morgan Street Park. These are not sufficient in number.
Consequently, the city, which had divided the spaces in Morgan Street Park half and half with residents displaying a parking sticker, has abandoned that and now the parking there is first come, first served.
In addition, Rives told the council, he is meeting with the condominium associations to see if they will donate some of their spaces so a number to satisfy legal requirements can be reached.
The bottom line is without conformance to the parking requirements there will be no beach replenishment. (“He who pays the piper, calls the tune.”)
That approach is fraught with potential difficulties. The condos are private property, obviously, and have no requirement to cooperate with the city. And on top of that there are liability questions.
A third problem concerns a city ordinance restricting door- to-door solicitation. That, reportedly, is in conflict with a U.S. Supreme Court decision that arose in Ohio involving a case brought by Jehovah’s Witnesses in 2002 under color of the First Amendment.
The court ruled, in part, that municipalities could not restrict non-profit soliciting but could require that such solicitation has to end by 9 p.m. on any given day.
Changes accordingly were made in the ordinance with Rives voting no because he disagreed with the court’s ruling.
A controversy over condo residents using grills on their balconies was settled when the city brought in Suncoast Fire & Rescue officials who consulted and determined what could be allowed.
An additional $22,763 was approved for change orders in building the new city hall/community center. And the council approved a phased in expenditure of $35,680 for audio/visual equipment for the new building. Another $47,832 will be spent in a second phase.
Rives and Vice Mayor Kathy Mortensen and Councilmember David Dunville were appointed voting delegate, first alternate and second alternate, respectively, to the Barrier Island Government Council (BIG-C).
Mortensen and Councilmember Stan Sofer were appointed director and alternate, respectively, to the Suncoast League of Cities.
The city was given a clean bill on the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for the year ending September 30, 2008, by Janine Bittenger of Cristine & Associates, the city auditor.
No “significant findings” were discovered and the report showed that the city had spent $678,000 less than it had budgeted in fiscal 2008.
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