Thomas Rodems, the CEO of Green Golf Partners, chats with Belleair residents about plans for the Belleview Biltmore golf course.
BELLEAIR – It is now official; the town of Belleair owns the Pelican Golf course, or the Belleview Biltmore Golf Club, whichever name strikes your fancy. The closing date for the sale is Friday, Feb. 8, but on Feb. 5 commissioners formally voted to approve the $3.5 million deal.
Already in town were members of Green Golf Partners, the management company that has been given the contract to run the course for the next six months. Chief Executive Officer Thomas Rodems attended the commission meeting and spoke briefly.
“This is an extraordinary asset,” he said of the golf course. “We’re excited to be here and help stabilize the operation. There is a lot of upside here.”
One of the question put to Rodeos had to do with the existing staff at the club. He said they would be kept on.
“We’ve met with all the staff and we’ve talked to the key people there and we’re excited,” he said. “We don’t have a closet full of people we could bring in here to run the facility; we don’t see any reason to move the people who are there now.”
Those employees will become employees of the management company and not Belleair, even though the town owns the golf course.
Green Golf Partners is headquartered in Indianapolis and runs 18 other golf courses in the United States. They will have the opportunity to bid on operating the course full time if that is what the commission ultimately decides it wants to do with the facility.
At a special commission meeting Jan. 30, commissioners had to pass a number of resolutions legally allowing the town manager to proceed with making the sale happen and ultimately allowing him to spend the money necessary to buy and operate the facility.
Assistant Town Manager J.P. Murphy set the tone for the meeting when he explained what the commissioners were being asked to do.
“We’re not experts in the golf club field,” he said. “We are asking you to give us a consensus which will allow us to enter into an interim management agreement which will allow a third party to operate the facility.”
Mayor Gary Katica made his feelings known fairly quickly.
“I would not run a golf course for 5 minutes. They don’t teach golf course administration in Mayor School,” he said, laughing.
Town Manager Micah Maxwell said at that meeting that Green Golf Partners will receive 4 percent of the gross over the next six months.
“They were our first choice because they are big enough to have people in place quickly and create a smooth transition. In fact they will have a transition team in town this week,” he said.
During the Jan. 30 meeting Commissioner Kevin Piccarreto asked Maxwell how the town could ensure that the condition and standard of the golf course would be maintained properly and not run down under a third party agreement. Maxwell replied that there would be protections in any agreement with a management group to make sure of it.
“In any case I would assume whoever takes over on an interim basis would want to continue for the longer term so it would be in their best interests to maintain the property,” he said.
Vice Mayor Stephen Fowler agreed.
“I would hope that whoever takes over would do so with an eye to maintaining what is there now and to improving it,” he said.
Resident Karla Rettstatt wanted to know how quickly, once the sale is complete, would the commission move to eliminate development rights on the property. Maxwell said likely sometime in March. Rettstatt urged that it be done quickly in the event that a buyer comes along quickly.
Another resident, Lil Cromer, wanted to know the official name of the property.
“Is it the Pelican golf club or the Belleview Biltmore golf club?” she asked. “I’d like to see the name Belleview Biltmore thrown right out of our town.”
Maxwell replied that both names likely come with the property and ultimately it will be up to the town what to call it.
New traffic safety plans for Belleair Rec
Town officials unveiled new pedestrian safety plans Feb. 5 along Osceola Road and Verona Street near the Belleair Recreation Center. Public Works Director Perry Lopez told the commission that the plan is to create a 5-foot wide pedestrian walkway along Osceola from Indian Rocks Road to Verona Street.
To do that they will pour a 6-inch curb 5 feet from the edge of the road. That will narrow Osceola Road from 25 feet to 20 feet. They also propose to improve the two pedestrian crosswalks on Verona and add speed bumps at each of those crosswalks. They are also considering adding speed bumps on Osceola Road.
Osceola Road resident Bob Moore said he has no objection to the overall plan.
“One of the things we like about our neighborhood is hearing the sound of children playing at the rec,” he said. “Their safety is very important. This is very well done; we have no issue with the plan.”
Other residents agreed but most expressed concern that the narrower street might mean worse traffic congestion.
Over a year ago town officials indicated the possibility of closing off Osceola and making it a cul-de-sac and eliminating Verona altogether. Maxwell told the meeting that those plans have been put on hold and the new plans, although temporary, should suffice for a year or two. Cost of the pedestrian walkway will be $18,000 and Lopez said the work could be completed in about two weeks.
Officials pass evaluation
Maxwell and Town Attorney David Ottinger both scored well in their annual evaluations by the town Commissioners. Maxwell received a score of 83.5 and Ottinger 83.4.
“I’m going to hear it from Micah,” Ottinger said, laughing. “This is the first time in a while that he has scored higher than me so he’ll be rubbing it in for sure.”
The evaluations essentially mean that both men will continue in their jobs for another year.
Belleair considering new recycling system
What is called “Single Stream Recycling” could be coming to Belleair by this fall if commissioners decide to take their lead from the city of Clearwater.
Belleair’s recycling program is carried out by Clearwater. It is currently curbside recycling, which means items are placed in small bins and placed by the curb for twice a week pickup. The new system would provide a large 64-gallon container with a lid and would be picked up once a week. Once at the curb the container, which is on wheels, is hooked onto a mechanical hoist on the truck and dumped that way. Residents who are unable to move the container to the curb will be able to get help from the pick-up personnel at no charge.
John Pittman of Clearwater’s recycling department told the commission Feb. 5 that the containers cost a total of $45.89 each and that includes having the town’s name stamped on it and a chip inserted in the container which will allow officials to track what has and has not been picked up. Pittman said a pilot project involving 1,200 homes has shown the new system has increased recycling by 30 percent and that has saved money because less garbage is being hauled to the dump at $37.50 a ton.
If accepted the new program would start on Oct. 1 of this year.
Commissioners decided to let the finance board weigh in on the matter before making a final decision.
Public works building improvements rising in cost
For nearly two years Belleair commissioners have been hearing about the need to build a new public works building or at the very least carry out extensive renovations. They heard about it again on Tuesday but this time with a larger price tag.
Public Works Director Perry Lopez told the commission that the price of the proposed construction jumped from $1.3 million to $1.7 million because once the architects got down to specific planning they discovered more was needed than the initial prediction.
“The increased cost is directly related to an increased amount of square footage we require,” said Lopez. “Originally we felt an 8,000-square-foot building would be sufficient, but after meeting the architects we realized we needed nearly 11,000 square feet.”
Two of the truck bays in the public works garage have been permanently closed because of safety concerns and part of the main building has been closed off because of the instability of the structure. The commission decided to let the Finance Board have a look at the costs before doing anything else on the matter.