REDINGTON SHORES – In the midst of a Town Commission meeting focused on recovery and cleanup efforts from the effects of Hurricane Irma, Redington Shores Mayor Bert Adams had some unsettling news for residents.
The town will not be a part of a beach nourishment scheduled for later this year, or for the years leading up to the next beach nourishment, possibly five years away.
The reason is that not enough residents signed property easement agreements required by Pinellas County’s alliance with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on the beach nourishment project.
The Corps is requiring beachside residents to give up a portion of their property from the erosion control line landward to their seawall. Without the easements, the Corps will not be able to provide replacement sand. This affects not only the property owners who have refused to sign, but also their neighbors when there is not enough continuous beachfront to allow the nourishment work to be done.
In the case of Redington Shores, the entire town misses out.
The deadline for signing the easement agreements has passed, Adams said. Only four of 30 required agreements were received. That is not enough to qualify for beach nourishment, he said.
“It’s done. We’re not getting any sand,” the mayor said
Adams had warned of this outcome. At a town commission meeting in February he said, “A mandate has been issued by the Army Corps of Engineers. If the easements are not signed, there will be no sand.”
The effect of the refusals to sign, Adams had said, will be “we will go back to like it was in the 1970s, when there was no sand.”
At the Sept. 13 commission meeting, Adams had a message for residents.
He said, “In case you haven’t heard, we are getting no sand this year, due to the refusal of people to sign (the easement agreements). We needed 30, and we got four.”
“So, for that reason, it will be nearly five years from now, probably, before they look at the next beach renourishment. Hopefully, by then people will change their minds,” Adams said.
He added, “The storm this year could have made a huge difference in how much sand we had out there, but we got lucky. The next time, we may not be so fortunate.”
Storm preparation, survival, recovery efforts
Adams praised city commission and staff members, and also residents, for their efforts before, during and after Hurricane Irma.
“It was quite a weekend,” he said.
Everything went smoothly, Adams said, except for a potentially serious sewer problem. Public Works employee Steve Jordan was able to acquire three gasoline-powered pumps.
“That saved us,” Adams said.
A last-minute surge of requests for re-entry passes before the storm was handled well by Commissioner MaryBeth Henderson, assisted by Deputy Town Clerk Tracey Cain.
“We only advertised these for three years,” Adams said. “We gave out 400 in two days.”
Commissioner Jeff Neal thanked the citizens for their volunteer efforts.
“We had people that don’t even talk to each other working with each other,” he said.
Neal also praised the work of Public Works Director Steve Andrews and his assistant Brad Kelley.
“Thanks to them, we really got this sewer system wired down,” Neal said.
Neal, who joined the commission last year, said he had personally learned a lot from the storm about how to prepare for the next one.
Henderson said the town’s new outreach on social media was a big help during the storm.
“We had huge numbers who got help from our new website, Constant Contact emails, and Facebook,” she said. “It’s really making a difference.”
Commissioner Tom Kapper said, “I thank everyone for doing a great job. And, last but not least, thank God for turning that hurricane up (over land) for us.”
Commissioner Pat Drumm, who was at the Emergency Operations Center in Seminole along with Mayor Adams, said, “It worked out well. It all went very smoothly.”
Town Clerk Mary Palmer, in a later comment to the Beacon, said, “I just want to add how proud I was of the elected officials of the town who jumped right in to help at Town Hall prior to Hurricane Irma.”
She mentioned that some helped shovel sand into sandbags for residents and also helped to load the truck to evacuate town hall.
She also said, “After the storm, they did not stop. They went door to door with information for our residents on the sewer system issue. And they helped residents by cutting and clearing debris for them.”
The mayor concluded discussion of the storm saying, “We were extremely, extremely, extremely lucky. We may not be so fortunate next time.”
Town’s financial condition rated “good”
Richard Cristini of the accounting firm Davidson, Jamieson & Cristini CPA said the town’s finances were in good shape, with positive numbers in virtually every category. The one exception was the sewer fund, which had a $26,000 loss.
There was good news in the town’s net position, which is a key measure of financial health, Cristini said. Revenues were more than expected, while expenses were less than budgeted, leaving a $431,000 surplus, Cristini said.
The town budgeted $2,312,000 in revenue and collected $2,504,000, which was a $192,000 increase in revenue. That, he said, “is cash in the bank.”
The sewer fund loss was due to larger than expected sewer treatment fees from the county. The fees were budgeted at $470,000 but totaled $603,000. That loss was lessened by the town collecting more revenue from water usage than expected, while sewer related expenses were less than budgeted. That left a $26,000 loss.
Cristini said, “You need to watch your sewer fund.”
Overall, he said, it was “a good year for the town.”
Marijuana treatment and dispensing facilities banned
There will be no marijuana dispensing or treatment facilities in Redington Shores. The commission voted unanimously to ban those operations within the town limits.
Madeira Beach also recently approved a similar ordinance.
Resident Tim DeBoy said he disagreed with that decision. DeBoy said there are a number of vacant commercial buildings in the town. “I don’t want to dissuade businesses from coming into the town and taking advantage of commercial property that is underutilized,” he said.
Space for message sign in Del Bello Park OK’d
A property easement was approved by the commission that will allow an electronic message sign to be placed at the northern end of Del Bello Park, where it will be visible to motorists travelling north on Gulf Boulevard toward Park Boulevard. The sign is part of the county’s Gulf Boulevard Traffic Management System, which calls for message boards to be placed near each of the bridges to the mainland.
The easement was requested by Robert Meador of Pinellas County Transportation, who said the sign will display traffic flow information, including notices on actions such as evacuations, bridge closures, traffic delays, and “warn of what’s going on up ahead.”
Commissioner Neal said he liked the message sign idea. “This is unique. It is a good thing.”
Meador assured Commissioner Henderson the sign will be a reasonable size and “will not make us look like I-75.” He said the plan is for the signs on Gulf Boulevard to include artistic features, in keeping with the Gulf Boulevard Beautification project.
Neal said, “I like the fish and the turtle designs.”
The vote to approve the easement for the message sign came with a condition. The town currently gets 40 percent of the parking fee revenues at County Park. The commission wants that changed to a 50-50 split. They also want the county to take over maintenance of the park, such as tree trimming, which is now Redington Shores’ responsibility.
Meador agreed to take that proposal back to the county and see if it is possible.