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Treasure Island rethinks Trail expense
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TREASURE ISLAND – At the urging of interim City Commissioner Julian Fant, Treasure Island city leaders will reconsider spending $48,000 for refurbishing the 500-foot portion of the Beach Trail owned by the city of St. Petersburg.

The discussion will take place at the next City Commission meeting on Dec. 4.

The question originally came up Oct. 2 when Commissioner Phil Collins adamantly led a charge to halt the city from paying the amount for something Collins felt should be the responsibility of St. Petersburg.

The proposal finished in a 2-2 deadlock on a resolution to fund it. Normally, five commissioners would vote on issues but the late Commissioner Butch Ellsworth was out on medical leave at the time. In the event of a tie vote, an issue fails, according to the city charter.

That’s the way things stood until the city’s Nov. 6 workshop. Fant brought up the issue again, saying it was something the city needed to fund.

“I would like to put this back on the next agenda for the discussion of the question of whether or not we continue the improvement across St. Petersburg municipal beach,” said Fant. “I think it’s essential.”

“I agree only because I believe we need to have it continuous,” said Commissioner Carol Coward.

City Manager Reid Silverboard read a statement on the issue from Collins who was absent from the Nov. 6 meeting.

“The city of St. Petersburg is allowing the city of Treasure Island to pay 100 percent of their total cost to install and beautify St. Petersburg’s own 500-foot portion of the Beach Trail,” Collins said in the statement. “The city of St. Petersburg refuses to pay for their portion of the Trail and any future maintenance expenses.”

Collins went on to make numerous other points. However, two city residents said they believe otherwise.

“We need to have a completed Beach Trail,” said Mitchell Shenkman, a Treasure Island resident and member of the city’s Planning and Zoning Board. “I believe it’s been 40 or 50 years that we’ve shared the beach with St. Petersburg. What matters now is that we have a continuous, beautiful Treasure Island Beach Trail. People that are going to be coming in here from all over the world and the rest of the country aren’t going to know where St. Petersburg ends and Treasure Island begins. What are we talking about here? $48,000? Let’s take advantage of an opportunity to complete a beautiful Trail for our residents and the tourists of the world to enjoy.”

Former City Commissioner Ed Gayton agreed.

“People want the Trail 100 percent completed,” Gayton said. “We have $1.426 million to do the Trail. We’re going to pay $1.236 million. So we have over $190,000 left over and it’s only going to cost $48,000 more to complete the Trail. That’s a bargain. And it’s going to be the Treasure Island Beach Trail. It’s our jewel. People are going to say what kind of city would build something like this (if the 500-foot St. Petersburg section isn’t included). We need it. The people want it and you represent the people. Let’s get this completed once and for all.”

In other action, the commission:

• Moved forward on a proposal to move the Gulf Beaches Rotary Club’s annual Spring Fling carnival on March 14-17 to the beach behind the Bilmar Beach Resort. It has previously been held at Treasure Island Park next to the city’s Community Center. Bilmar Beach Resort General Manager Clyde Smith said he was not in favor of the move because that time of the year is his hotel’s busy season and many guests might object. Another plan has the carnival still on the beach but closer to the gulf. All of it may be a moot point. Without the approval of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the event will not take place anywhere on the beach. A DEP decision is expected within three months.

• Moved ahead on a resolution to reject a construction bid by Titan Construction Management LLC for upgrades to the Beach Pavilion on Sunset Beach. The city can get the same work done by Bayshore Construction of Sarasota for $66,424 less. Further discussion is expected on Dec. 4.

• Moved forward on amendments to a land development regulation ordinance that would allow city staff to review applications with “materially similar uses,” as opposed to sending the application to the Planning and Zoning Board for approval. The reason for the change is to make the process for developers go faster. The Planning and Zoning Board would still review the site plan. It would also still hear any applications for special exceptions.

• Moved forward on a resolution to award a $112,079 contract to JTV Inc. to line 10 storm drain pipes.

• Tentatively moved forward on a resolution by Fire Chief Bill Mallory to lease with an option to buy breathing and protective gear for the fire department. Commissioners questioned why the city would lease when money is available to purchase. Mallory is expected to bring a revised request to the Commission on Dec. 4.
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