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Grant will pay for intersection work
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INDIAN ROCKS BEACH – Normally at a commission meeting when it is time for the city manager’s report, commissioners often expect a litany of housekeeping items. That wasn’t the case at the Indian Rocks Beach Commission meeting on Jan. 28 when Manager Gregg Mims said he managed to get $100,000 from the Florida Department of Transportation for work, which is to be done on the Walsingham/Gulf Boulevard intersection.

Mims said it was just a matter of asking.

“I was reviewing our plans for the upgrade of the intersection when it occurred to me that we would be working on a state road so why not see if they might like to contribute to the project,” he said.

Public Works Director Dean Scharmen set up a meeting with officials in Tampa and Indian Rocks Beach officials went there. They explained what they were doing and that they were spending $400,000 on the project.

“They asked for more details, and we sent that along. I remember saying to Dean a little is better than none, and on Dec. 30th we got an email telling us they would kick in $100,000 toward the project,” Mims said.

During the evening one commissioner after the other thanked and praised Mims for getting the money. He said it shouldn’t be the last time they get grant money for projects.

“State and federal grant money isn’t as plentiful as it once was,” he said. “But it is still out there; you just have to be a lot more aggressive in going after it. You have to make contacts. We’ve rearranged some things here at City Hall and Danny Taylor (planning and zoning director) will be paying close attention to getting grants on projects that we get involved in the future.”

Commissioner Jim Labadie said the money is welcome.

“That grant money, is our money,” he said. “We all contribute to it and to get some of it back is, well, a good thing.”

City Hall paint job

Commissioners and residents came to a City Hall auditorium that looked markedly different than the one they saw at the last meeting before the new year. The old dark wood paneling had all been removed and the walls underneath were all painted with new wide baseboards installed. The walls were also removed of clutter, giving the room a more open feeling. Mims said it was done at minimal cost.

“Our employees of the Public Services department did all the work,” he said. “It just cost us $1,400 in paint and supplies for repairing the ceiling tiles.”

Mims also said the work on the outside of the building was nearly finished with mostly just some landscaping work to be completed.

Approval given for variances

Commissioners unanimously approved a number of variances for a house at 1 Fifth Ave. The house, which abuts the pocket park on Gulf Boulevard at Walsingham Road, was built in 1917. The new owners, Ronnie and Shayla Sumner, intend on renovating the structure, but before they do they want to raise it 4 feet to move it out of the flood plain.

The catch is the house had been grandfathered in with a number of non-conformities. The minute they raise the house they lose those rights. Their request for the variances would simply legalize the non-conformities.

Commissioners unanimously approved the variances, saying the history of the house makes it worth saving.

Resident Phil Wrobel remarked that what the Sumners were doing signals the future of Indian Rocks Beach.

“The Biggert-Waters act is not going to go away,” he said. “A lot of homes in Indian Rocks Beach are worthless because once they are sold the new owners are going to discover flood insurance costs are very high, as much as $10,000. So you are going to be getting a lot of requests for people wanting to raise their homes.”

Ordinance changes

Commissioners gave final approval to changes in a number of city ordinances. The changes were part of a streamlining effort to bring the ordinances up to date.

In some cases the changes addressed boards that were no longer in existence. One example was the elimination of the city’s Tree Board. In fact the Tree Board never existed, had no members, never met and was taking up space on the city’s books.

Planning and Zoning Director Taylor told the commission that it was time to make the changes.

“Things evolve,” he said. “Over the years different people with different expertise had a hand in developing the ordinances. In some cases there were conflicting sections in the same ordinance. Some just don’t make sense and others have variances, different sets of criteria that could cause a liability for the city. We have now fixed it so there is one set of standards, and one set of procedures.”

Commissioners passed the changes unanimously.

Appointments to city boards

IRB has a new Charter Review Committee. Commissioners agreed to appoint five residents to the board, one nominated by each commissioner and the mayor. The committee will exist for only six months and will be responsible for looking over the city’s charter and making recommendations for any amendments to the commission. Once those amendments are reviewed by the Commission they must be presented in a referendum for all residents to vote on

The committee consists of Betsy McKenna, Larry King, Melissa Dotson, Cory McBride and Waldemar Clark.

Their first meeting will be held on Wednesday, Feb. 19.

Two other residents were appointed to boards in the city. Jeffery Arrendale was appointed to the Planning and Zoning Board. He replaces Michael McGlaughlin who resigned.

Frank Waters Jr. was appointed to the Finance and Budget Review Committee. He replaces Elizabeth Driscoll whose term had expired.

Award presented

IRB received a special award from the States Organization on Boating Access. The city got the award for its work in developing the Keegan Clair boat docks. The award was announced at the organization’s recent conference in Portland, Ore. A plaque recognizing the award was sent to the city.
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