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TREASURE ISLAND – Hopes for a community sand-sculpting event during the Republican National Convention were revived Feb. 21 when the City Commission passed a resolution to support the Treasure Island Chamber of Commerce in their efforts.
After nearly two hours of discussion, the commission voted unanimously in favor of the resolution but only after adding a section that would take away any financial burden to the city.
The event is tentatively scheduled to take place Aug. 24 to Sept. 2 behind Gulf Front Park next to the Bilmar Beach Resort and is projected to draw between 5,000 and 8,000 people per day.
The chamber plans to charge admission to view the sculptures but the amount is not set. It is expected to be either $5 or $10. After the RNC is over, the sculptures would remain on the beach for free viewing by the public through the end of September.
Those attending during the RNC would mostly be delegates and their families who would be shuttled to Treasure Island from Tampa on buses provided by Treasure Island Chamber of Commerce director Bill Edwards, who has committed $600,000 for the project.
The overall goal is national and international television exposure the city may receive from a portion of the estimated 15,000 visiting media members.
The sand sculptures, which are planned to be 40 feet tall and produced under a pair of 100-foot by 150-foot tents, would depict government buildings and monuments in Washington, D.C.
It would be produced by Sanding Ovations Inc., which would use sand sculptors from around the world.
The biggest obstacles are approval by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to use the beach for the event, finding about 10 to 15 contract police officers for additional security in the city and the cost to the city. The contract police officers are in addition to about 20 state-certified security officers that Edwards would provide.
Since most of the Treasure Island Police Department is already obligated to help with RNC security along the beaches, the additional police officers are necessary.
On the issue of obtaining the additional officers, Treasure Island Police Chief Tim Casey said that effort is ongoing.
“A total of 36 agencies (around Florida) have been contacted,” Casey said. “We have no commitment from any of them – just an estimate that it would take two to three weeks for them to get all the approvals they need.”
Therein lies the problem. Harry Black, a member of the chamber executive committee and the point man for the chamber, said he needs to know one way or the other within a month if the additional law enforcement officers will be attained. That’s because Sanding Ovations owner Meredith Corson can’t wait more than another month to line up the necessary sand sculptors.
Then there’s the issue of cost.
City staff estimate the city’s responsibility for providing contract law enforcement, personnel for parking on the beach, trash pickup, supplies and other incidental expenses will be about $220,000. Chamber officials are estimating the city can make at least $142,500 on parking from Aug. 24 to the end of the September.
“The city can offset any expense with some good, sound management such as from parking revenue,” said Black. “We want this event. It’s important for us and the city. This will boost the economy here for years to come from the exposure we’ll receive.”
City Manager Reid Silverboard said the city has to consider all possibilities.
“We have to look for the worst and plan for it,” he said. “If we don’t need (the contract police officers for the entire 10 days they are expected to be used), we’ll send them home and won’t incur the entire cost.”
“You have to prepare for hurricane and if you get a rainstorm, that’s great,” said Casey.
Treasure Island Police Lt. Armand Boudreau is heading the effort to hire the contract police officers and hopes to get the group from one agency, such as the Florida Highway Patrol.
Black, however, said he doesn’t believe the city will be able to get the contract police officers.
“I don’t foresee you getting them,” Black said. “So if that’s the deal breaker, so be it. That’ll be the deal breaker.”
Commissioner Alan Bildz supports the project but believes it cannot take place without the additional police officers.
“I’m all for this but without the law enforcement that’s necessary, I’m not in favor of this,” Bildz said.
He said the city must have a handle on its costs, as well. If not, it could invite disaster.
“It’s like maxing out your credit card for your birthday party and waking up the next day with a hangover and wondering what happened,” Bildz said.
“I would vote for us to go forward with it,” said Commissioner Carol Coward. “If we lose money, it would be a terrible thing but I think we have to move forward on this.”
Mayor Bob Minning suggested the chamber help the city with their end of the costs if the chamber makes a profit.
“Let’s agree to be agreeable,” Minning said. “I suggest that the net proceeds of the chamber not be distributed until all of the city’s costs are in. We’ll put all of our cards on the table before anyone takes a distribution out of this. It’s the fair way.
“We would have egg on our face if you (chamber) walked away with $400,000 (in profits) and we had a lost,” Minning added.
After a short discussion, a section was added to the resolution providing any uncovered city cost be reimbursed from any profits the chamber receives, if any.