Work has begun on a $1.236 million refurbishment of the Central Beach Trail in Treasure Island, which stretches from 103rd to 119th avenues.
TREASURE ISLAND – After a lengthy discussion, Treasure Island City Commissioners voted 3-2 on Dec. 4 to spend $48,000 to refurbish a 500-foot section of the Central Beach Trail across an area of beach owned by the city of St. Petersburg.
Mayor Bob Minning, along with Commissioners Julian Fant and Carol Coward voted for the proposal while Alan Bildz and Phil Collins voted against it. The vote reversed an earlier 2-2 deadlock when the late Butch Ellsworth was absent.
The decision means the entire length of the $1.236 million project will have a similar appearance.
The .85-mile trail, which is presently under construction, runs from 103rd to 119th avenues. It was first built in 1966 and widened in 1998. The latest renovation is a complete rebuild that includes a curved, lighted walkway with walls and benches along the route.
“It’s not a question of whether we have the Beach Trail in front of St. Petersburg Municipal Beach,” said Bildz. “We already have a sidewalk. The only question is do we spend $48,000 to change the color of the concrete. It seems ridiculously expensive.”
Coward countered by saying it is something the residents of Treasure Island have expressed a desire for.
“It’s going to be more than colored concrete,” she said. “It’s going to be a continuing application of the same beautiful trail we’re trying to build. If you recall, when we told the taxpayers we were raising their mill levy to pay for it, they were in favor. The majority of people I’ve spoken with have said put it in so it’s continuous and looks good.”
Fant said it would be a black eye on the city if the 500-foot portion is not refurbished.
“I can tell you that not one person in a thousand knows if that 500 feet of beachfront belongs to Treasure Island, St. Petersburg or Timbuktu,” said Fant. “It’s all Treasure Island as far as they’re concerned. And I think we would be remiss if we don’t continue the beautiful improvements that are being made to the beach sidewalk.”
Collins said one of the reasons he didn’t favor the proposal was the fact that the trail won’t really be a continuation of the Treasure Island portion of the trail.
“The argument is if we don’t do this, there will be no continuation of the trail, which is erroneous,” Collins said. “If you go out on that beach trail, the first thing you look at is the meandering beach wall. You don’t look at the color of the sidewalk.
“Also, St. Petersburg is saying we will allow you to put in a new sidewalk but if for any reason we don’t like it, you have to pull it up and return it to the original thing it was,” he said. “Once this (refurbishing) is done, there will be no continuity (along the 500-foot St. Pete stretch). There will be no beach wall. There will be no lighting, benches or vegetation. It will be a continuation of a painted sidewalk that we’re asking the residents of Treasure Island to spend $48,000 of their tax money on to change.”
Collins said if it was a true continuation of the beach walk, he would favor it.
“I really think it’s money poorly spent,” Collins said. “I’m not in favor of spending this $48,000 for continuity when, in reality, there will be no continuity. If I were spending this money out of my own account, I would not spend my money to paint my neighbor’s house.”
Fant pointed out there has never been any lighting or sand wall along the St. Petersburg portion of the trail.
“We’re not changing the color of the concrete,” Fant said. “We’re rebuilding that stretch of the beach sidewalk.”
Minning summarized the discussion by saying it’s a public mandate and the city must follow it.
“Our residents put in their word and said ‘we want a new beach trail,’” said Minning. “People that walk that trail view it as Treasure Island’s trail and that’s what it’s known for. In the plans that were put forth for a new beach trail, there never was a sand wall to be put up in the portion that’s owned by St. Pete and there never was any lighting that was going to be put up. We all looked at those plans and I didn’t hear anybody voice an objection. I am very much in favor of this. Yes, I have heard some objections, but the majority of the input I’ve received has been in favor of spending the $48,000 for the (St. Pete portion) of the trail. So I will be voting in favor of this.”
The contractor, Biltmore Construction, plans to have the entire project complete by early March.
In other action, the commission:
• Accepted a $150 donation from Joe Fala, event coordinator of the recent Kite-Toberfest on the beach.
• Voted unanimously on second reading to pass an ordinance establishing two questions that will appear on the March 12 ballot concerning downtown redevelopment dwelling density.
• Voted 4-1 (Collins against) on first reading to pass an ordinance that would give city staff wider power to rule on land use questions involving “materially similar uses.” The change will allow the city to make decisions in two to three days on certain cases without sending the issue through the more time-consuming process of the Planning and Zoning Board. The move is expected to make redevelopment efforts more efficient.
• Approved a request by the Gulf Beaches Rotary Club to hold the 2013 Spring Fling event March 14-17 on the beach behind Gulf Front Park, 10400 Gulf Blvd.
• Approved spending $112,079 to reline 10 storm drain pipes.
• Approved spending $109,393 for self-contained breathing apparatus and protective clothing for the city fire department.
• Appointed Darryl Meacham to a seat on the Planning and Zoning Board.
• Appointed Kay-Lynne Taylor to a seat on the Vision Stewardship Committee.