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July 4 event returns to Archibald Park
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MADEIRA BEACH – Newly renovated Archibald Park will once again be the site of the city of Madeira Beach’s Fourth of July celebration. City Manager Shane Crawford announced at the March 4 city commission workshop that a much-touted plan to move the event to John’s Pass is off.

Crawford said it recently became evident that the Merchant’s Association was having trouble getting the Fourth activities organized.

Then, Crawford said he received an email from the association president “saying that they were not capable at this moment of having the Fourth of July at John’s Pass.”

“So, now it’s back in our court,” he told the commission.

Crawford recommended the event be downscaled from prior years. No beer truck, no outside vendors, no organized activities. Put it back at Archibald Park, he said, with food available from the Snack Shack, Winn-Dixie or elsewhere. Make it a more casual, typical Madeira Beach affair, where people would come and go as they please, he said. Perhaps provide some entertainment like a band or a DJ with recorded music.

Fireworks would be the main event. Past problems with shooting off the fireworks display had prompted the proposed move from Archibald Park on the Gulf to John’s Pass’s more sheltered Intracoastal locale. The difficulties had ranged from problems getting a suitable barge and malfunctioning fireworks to rain and stormy waters. Crawford had termed the barge rental “a nightmare.”

However, this time he said “I think we have a barge” and the fireworks are out for bids. Crawford said, “We will do our best to shoot off on the Gulf,” but if there is any threat of stormy seas it will be moved to the Intracoastal near City Hall. The fireworks display would still be visible from the beach at Archibald Park.

Holding the Fourth celebration at Archibald Park would provide an opportunity to showcase the park’s renovation and the new Snack Shack operation.

The Snack Shack is currently undergoing renovation, but Crawford said the new vendor will be up and running in 60 to 90 days, well in time for the Fourth of July. Also, the National Park Service has recently given the necessary approvals for the new Snack Shack operation.

“I’m blown away by what (the new operators) have done, compared with what used to be there,” Crawford said.

The commission members were supportive of holding the Fourth of July celebration at Archibald Park again this year, despite the past problems.

“Fireworks and music, that’s what it’s all about,” said Mayor Travis Palladeno.

Commissioner Pat Shontz said a simpler event is the way to go. She told Crawford, “You are on the right track to not have all that stuff to drag out there.” She said people will be just as happy bringing their coolers, beer and sandwiches, and will have a great time.

Vice Mayor Terry Lister said John’s Pass is full with events right now. “I’d much rather show off Archibald Park,” he said.

No ‘sober houses’ wanted

Commissioner Elaine Poe, who has led fights against nuisance properties, pollution of local waterways and other concerns as Neighborhood Watch leader, has a new battle to wage.

“Sober houses,” which are halfway houses for drug addicts, are creating big problems elsewhere in Florida, she said. Poe is convinced they are coming to Madeira Beach and vows to “stop it before we get it.”

Sober houses, Poe said, are found in residential neighborhoods. Their operators buy the houses, take out the kitchens, and install bunk beds in every room. Then, she said they rent space for $200 to $300 a week, which the government pays for.

There are 11 such houses in St. Petersburg, and a sober house office on Duhme Road, she said. They have become a big issue on the east coast in communities such as Daytona Beach and Delray Beach.

In an email note, Poe said the sober houses are often “run by unscrupulous landlords who are exploiting patients in order to make a profit.”

They are currently not regulated by the government, and although bills are pending in the state legislature to address the problem, nothing has been passed as yet, she said.

Poe said she is looking into means to stop the sober houses before they become a problem in Madeira Beach, including ways to define “family” in current ordinances.

The commission gave Poe a go-ahead to explore ways to control sober houses in Madeira Beach. Crawford said the city has a right to regulate behaviors.

Lister was hesitant about cracking down too hard on halfway houses. “Personally, I know people in those places, and there are some good people there,” he said. Lister also said people should not be excluded from living in Madeira Beach.

“We have to be careful deciding who we will allow or won’t allow,” he said. “We can’t close the door on people. That is not America.”

“We don’t want the problems,” Poe replied. “When you’ve got 15 druggies hanging out next door, it is not a pleasant atmosphere.”

City Manager gets ‘perfect’ rating

Crawford’s performance as city manager was rated “5 of 5” on every evaluation item by all the commission members. There were 33 items on the form, covering topics such as relationships with employees and citizens, financial and organizational management skills, and personal characteristics. The 5 rating is the highest possible, and Crawford drew praise for his work from the commission and a number of residents.

Commissioner Pat Shontz said Crawford had done a wonderful job and gotten much accomplished.

“You are a wonderful young man,” she said. “How fortunate we are, that the Lord was looking over the city of Madeira Beach, and said it’s time for you to have somebody very special in your city.”

“Madeira Beach is on the move, and it’s all because of you,” said Commissioner Nancy Hodges.

Mayor Travis Palladeno said Crawford “has made a difference.”

Resident Larry Lon said he was very much impressed by what Crawford had done for the community.

Pam Cohen commented, “Comparing what the city has been, and what it is today, what you have done is incredible.”

Former commissioner Len Piotti praised Crawford and the commission members for “getting so much accomplished in such a short time.”

Shontz, whose association with the city goes back to the 1960s, said she can recall no other city manager who received a perfect score on a performance evaluation.
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