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Belleair’s Hunter Park to get makeover
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An artist’s conception of the new fountain to be built in Hunter Memorial Park.
BELLAIR – Hunter Park, located in the heart of Belleair and one of the town’s largest parks, is about to get a makeover and a new name.

Commissioners agreed on Jan. 8 to change the name to Hunter Memorial Park and to partner with the Belleair Community Foundation to upgrade the entire park and allow the BCF to erect a large fountain, which will honor all veterans from Belleair who served in the Armed Forces.

The person behind the plan is former Commissioner Karla Rettstatt, who has appeared before the commission on several occasions promoting her idea. From above, the large fountain looks like a star, with each of the five points representing a branch of the Armed Forces. There will be considerable new landscaping done throughout the entire park along with new sodding. Parks and Rec Director Eric Wahlberg described the condition of the park as a sandpit, saying it badly needed upgrading.

The total cost of the project will be $422,150 with the Community Foundation kicking in $313,525 of that. Rettstatt said all that money will be private money and most of it has already been committed. She has said in the past all the money will be in hand before the project begins.

One resident wondered who would clean up the garbage after certain events that the organizers hope will be attracted to the park. Wahlberg said the town would be responsible for cleaning up after town events and people running private events in the park would be contractually obligated to clean up after themselves. Their deposit would ensure that they did.

Answering critics of the plan Wahlberg said, “We’re a premier community and we need to start looking that way. This park will show that we have a commitment to the beautification of our town.”

Rettstatt said with the approval for the fountain in hand and the town’s commitment of $108,000, engineering work will get under way immediately and construction will begin in April.

State of the town

Town Manager Micah Maxwell, as requested by Commissioner Kevin Piccarreto, delivered a state of the town address, essentially bringing commissioners up to date on various projects that were either under way or planned.

Most of his remarks centered on the town’s ongoing upgrade of its infrastructure. He recalled the borrowing of $10 million dollars for the job.

“Some of our streets were in such bad repair that if we didn’t fix them we’d have to close them,” he said.

Maxwell said it wasn’t just the streets that had been neglected. The stormwater system and other underground piping also were in need of repair, as well as curbs on the surface. He said several projects are under way right now with most being finished in the fall of 2013.

He said future shortfalls on infrastructure funds will be avoided because the town is now setting aside 17 percent of the property tax for that purpose.

“When the streets have to be done again in 15 years, we’ll have the money to pay for them,” he said.

Maxwell also said he expects the purchase of the Pelican Golf Course to be completed in two weeks. The town agreed to buy the golf course for $13.5 million to avoid losing more than $250,000 in fines levied against the owners for the dilapidated state of the Belleview Biltmore Hotel, which they also own. The owners threatened foreclosure, which would have negated the liens.

As for the hotel, Maxwell noted that two incomplete demolition permits had been filed with the town and he expects another one soon.

“This time I expect the permit will be complete, although I know a number of groups are out there racing to try to beat the demo permit.”

He was referring to prospective new owners of the hotel who want to maintain it as a resort. The current owners want to demolish it and build townhouses on the site but have said they will sell it if anyone comes forward with the money.

Maxwell also told the commission that the town has identified several traffic and safety issues. He spoke of the roundabout, which is to be built at Indian Rocks Road and Ponce De Leon Boulevard, and he said there are plans for more crosswalks and sidewalks in the community.

He concluded his report by saying that the town is dedicated to enhancing the beauty of the community and in five years the medians throughout the town will be greatly improved.
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