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Treasure Island hears first step of causeway plan
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TREASURE ISLAND – City commissioners heard plans June 6 for the initial draft of a community engagement project by Atkins North America regarding a long-term financial plan for the Treasure Island Causeway.

Project Manager Tom Knuckey said traffic counts for the causeway are being prepared and he would report back that information soon to the City Commission.

“We’ll be tabulating that data and getting back to you sometime in July,” he said. “I can tell you right now the causeway traffic looks to be about 20,000 vehicles per day, which appears to be a slight increase over previous years.”

Commissioner Ralph Kennedy complained that the subcontractor conducting the traffic count has left an abundance of duct tape and hoses, which were used in conjunction with the use of traffic measuring tubes, which has resulted in a number of complaints from residents.

“I’ve heard from a number of my constituents that it was a hazard and there were hoses laying all over the place,” Kennedy said. “You all kind of disembarked, leaving duct tape and hoses laying all over the place. That’s no way to treat our city. Frankly, as a commissioner on this panel, it puts into question where we’re going with this.”

Knuckey, who was unaware of the situation, apologized and said he would have the items cleaned up the following day.

Further discussion continued on the community engagement plan, which is designed to inform residents of what the process will be. The plan will also include going out in the community and soliciting the public’s input through community work groups or electronic means to reach a consensus on possible options.

The city has been strapped with maintenance to the three bridges on the causeway since they were built over 10 years ago. The city received a $50 million federal grant to build the bridges but part of the deal was that tolls would not return to the causeway. The city has since learned there are no legal impediments to tolling again and is considering that as a possible option. The other option would be a property tax increase to city residents, resulting in about $200 per year per property owner.

The purpose of the community engagement plan being engineered by Atkins is to get public input on possible ways to handle the expense. Tolling or a tax increase are the two most talked about alternatives.

Among the options Atkins is considering for reaching the public is through a project newsletter, proposed website and written comments via email. The community working groups would include three to four “ambassadors” from each of the city’s four districts to provide information from those areas.

Commissioner Ken Keys suggested a mail-out questionnaire for residents. He said the chances for a stronger response would be better with a return mailing.

In other action, commissioners:

• Heard a presentation from State Rep. Kathleen Peters who said a request for $1.2 million by the city was included in the state budget and so far has escaped Gov. Rick Scott’s line-item veto. The money would be used to upgrade irrigation on the east side of the causeway.

• Passed an ordinance on first reading amending the city’s land development regulations. The change allows the use of permeable driveway pavers in the area of a lot line and the street, which is often referred to as a driveway apron.

• Passed an ordinance on final reading changing the hours that alcohol can be sold in the city. Under terms of the new ordinance, business establishments selling alcohol must remain closed from 2 a.m. to 8 a.m., seven days a week.

• Moved forward on a $19,975 bid by Beard Tennis Systems to resurface the clay tennis courts at Treasure Bay Golf and Tennis.

• Moved forward on a resolution to extend the city’s building services contract for another year with M.T. Causley. The new contract calls for a $2 per hour increase in fees.

• Moved forward on an ordinance imposing a temporary moratorium on medical marijuana dispensing facilities and treatment centers in the city for 180 days.

• Moved forward on an interlocal agreement with Pinellas County for the distribution of Penny For Pinellas tax funds to the city during 2020-30. It is estimated the city will receive $8.6 million over that span. The city plans to use the money for street resurfacing, seawall replacement, vehicles, park improvements, city facilities, neighborhood plans and expansion of the city’s parking system. Voters will be asked to approve a Penny extension in November.
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