NORTH REDINGTON BEACH – Members of the Barrier Islands Governmental Council have asked the help of State Sen. Jeff Brandes and State Rep. Kathleen Peters in relation to a tough pill that beach towns are being asked to swallow.
Indian Shores Mayor Jim Lawrence told BIG-C members Feb. 27 that a request by the Florida Department of Transportation for beach towns to provide maintenance on the new Rectangular Rapid Flash Beacons, proposed for a number of crosswalks along state-owned sections of Gulf Boulevard, would be a prohibitive cost that most beach towns would not be able to afford.
Lawrence said FDOT wants towns to sign a maintenance agreement but his town would not be among them.
St. Pete Beach and Redington Beach are the only towns that have signed the agreement.
“We have two people in our public services department and we have a dwindling budget,” Lawrence said. “I just don’t see how we can take total responsibility for the maintenance of this equipment. We’re particularly concerned about replacing the equipment. They (RRFBs) are vulnerable to vehicles hitting them. They’re vulnerable to bad weather taking out any number of them and they would be very expensive to fix.”
“We already signed the agreement back in January,” said St. Pete Beach Commissioner Jim Parent. “We’ve already put those lights up in locations we were able to that were not state roads. Since I‘ve been on the commission for four years, our residents have been all over us wanting those high velocity flashers. So, based on that and based on our assessment on how we could handle the maintenance and replacement cost, we went ahead and accepted it.”
Redington Beach Mayor Nick Simons said his town signed the agreement after negotiating the number of crosswalks within the town limits down to a more workable number.
“We signed the agreement,” Simons said. “We also eliminated four crosswalks. So that only leaves two crosswalks that are impacted and then the red-light crosswalk, which isn’t affected.”
Officials from Indian Rocks Beach, Redington Shores and North Redington Beach said their towns would not be signing the agreement.
“Indian Rocks Beach will not sign onto this for the reasons Mayor Lawrence voiced,” said Indian Rocks Beach Commissioner Terry Hamilton-Wollin. “There’s also the liability issue, which will come along with that.”
Redington Shores Mayor Bert Adams said his town would not sign the agreement due to a previous agreement with FDOT that calls for FDOT to take care of maintenance on the single beacons.
North Redington Mayor Bill Queen said a recent car crash in his town opened his eyes to the cost.
“FDOT had to replace one of ours due to a crash and they are $8,000 apiece,” Queen said. “So it’s expensive and putting that on small towns I think is a little tough. I think it’s something we might go up the ladder of DOT and have them really take a look at this.”
Lawrence said he would like to see more details on anticipated maintenance cost before his town could consider a commitment.
“Why don’t we let Sen. Brandeis and Rep. Peters look into this and get back to us next month,” said Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos, president of the BIG-C. “For those that have signed the agreement they need (Brandeis) to figure out a way to revise it.”
Clearwater Beach, Belleair Shore and Belleair Beach are unaffected by the agreement because the areas of Gulf Boulevard that run through those communities are maintained by Pinellas County.
Countywide Future Land Use Plan update
Michael Crawford, interim director of the Pinellas Planning Council, gave an update on changes under way to the Countywide Future Land Use Plan Map.
The two-year process, Crawford said, would likely be complete later this year.
Once complete, it is expected to speed up redevelopment projects throughout the county.
The current plan uses 37 categories for consideration but the proposed plan has whittled the number down to 11.
Crawford said the new plan would provide more local flexibility for cities and towns when it is time to update a local Future Land Use Plan. He also noted it would better identify future transit corridors and target employment areas.