ST. PETE BEACH – City commissioners have decided against undergrounding utilities along a residential section of Blind Pass Road in conjunction with an upcoming reconstruction project.
The project calls for Blind Pass Road to be rebuilt from Gulf Boulevard and 68th Avenue north to 73rd Avenue, near the Corey Avenue business district.
During a meeting last summer, commissioners instructed City Manager Mike Bonfield to check into the cost of undergrounding utilities in the neighborhood while the reconstruction is underway. At the Oct. 22 commission meeting, he reported that Duke Energy gave the city a non-binding estimate of $600,000.
Since Verizon’s lines are already underground along the street, the estimate was for the placement of Duke Energy and Bright House Networks lines.
However, non-binding estimates are just that and they are valid for only a few months, in most cases.
“What I’m not comfortable with is the easement issues, which we wouldn’t get a clear cut cost on until we get a binding estimate,” said Bonfield. “You can’t go on somebody’s property and underground utilities without their permission.”
That prompted Mayor Steve McFarlin to suggest postponement of the proposed undergrounding.
“I’m wondering if we might want to postpone it a little bit because we don’t know what impact this flood insurance issue is going to have on rebuilding,” said McFarlin.
Commissioner Jim Parent agreed.
“If we can do it later without ripping up the road, maybe we should,” Parent said.
The discussion on undergrounding came about after Bonfield estimated the city would have about $980,000 left over in the Capital Improvements budget after this year’s list of projects are completed.
“The amount is certainly much better than in the past but $1 million doesn’t last long,” Bonfield cautioned.
Bonfield said he would like to use CIP funds to study Pass-a-Grille planning and design guidelines, and locations for new public restrooms in Pass-a-Grille.
“We’ll probably plug those two numbers together,” Bonfield said.
Commissioner Melinda Pletcher, who represents Pass-a-Grille, said she was in favor of spending the estimated $50,000 on the Pass-a-Grille planning and design study. Parent asked if the flood insurance debacle could be worked into it?
“Yes,” said Pletcher. “It’s going to be a huge issue.”
Since most of the homes in Pass-a-Grille are below FEMA’s base line elevation, many, if not all, would have to eventually be reconstructed to meet present standards.
“You can look for more new construction due to the flood insurance issue,” said Bonfield. “Since Pass-a-Grille is a historic district, we’re looking at keeping what we have as much as possible.”
Pletcher suggested saving the additional funds after the two Pass-a-Grille studies are complete.
“We don’t know what ad valorem revenue level is going to be next year with this flood insurance issue,” she said, referring to the possibility that home values may drop. “So I’d like to see us put it in reserves.”
Bonfield is expected to bring a budget amendment proposal that will include a number of capital improvement projects for the remainder of 2013 and into 2014.
Among the projects to be funded are paving and curb work in the Belle Vista area and the alley adjacent to the city library, as well as alleys in Pass-a-Grille; design of a CRA plan, crafting of a downtown Corey Area Enhancement Plan, seawall repairs, Community Center dock permitting and construction, Bay Way landscaping from the toll booth to Gulf Boulevard; Lazarillo playground resurfacing, Egan Park lights and boat ramp upgrades, Pass-a-Grille Way reconstruction engineering, tennis court resurfacing and fence replacement, palm tree uplighting, the purchase of an all-terrain vehicle for the Pinellas County Sheriff’s deputies to use, a new fire truck and floor replacement of the city gymnasium.
Bonfield said the city expects grant money from Pinellas County to rebuild some beach walkovers and it expects an FDOT grant that will be used to upgrade landscaping along 75th Avenue, Gulf Boulevard and Corey Avenue.
Weeklong look at Corey redevelopment
ST. PETE BEACH – Property owners, business owners, and interested community members in St. Pete Beach are invited to explore ideas for future improvements to the Corey Avenue District.
From Tuesday, Nov. 19 through Friday, Nov. 22, a team of community planners, landscape architects, and transportation engineers from Michael Baker Jr., Inc. will be in St. Pete Beach in order to work alongside the community to develop concepts for enhancing Corey Avenue and the surrounding downtown area.
Events during Community Design Week will include a community workshop, daytime and nighttime walking tours, stakeholder meetings and interviews, and an open workshop with the City Commission. The team will also be spending time during the week conducting site evaluation, working with City staff and developing draft enhancement concepts.
Topics for discussion will include beautification, traffic circulation and parking, signage, pedestrian safety, biking, future development, and more.
The full schedule of activities will be available on the city website at www.stpetebeach.org. Questions can be directed to Chelsey Welden at the city of St. Pete Beach, by calling 363-9266 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.