Shown is a proposed location of crosswalk for Belleair Bluffs.
BELLEAIR BLUFFS – Pedestrian safety in crossing busy Indian Rocks Road has been a longstanding issue. Belleair Bluffs Commissioner Taylour Shimkus brought up the dangerous conditions that exist for those attempting to get across the street at the last workshop meeting.
“There is no safe way to cross Indian Rocks Road anywhere,” Shimkus said at that meeting, adding she had met with county officials to plead for a crosswalk.
That request has been granted, Shimkus announced at the May 19 regular commission meeting. She said a crosswalk to be placed at the intersection of Indian Rocks Road and Pinehurst Avenue has been approved. No timeframe for the installation has been determined, Shimkus said, but she estimated three to six months.
“Probably by the end of the year we will have a crosswalk for people to walk safely across,” she said.
More good news: The crosswalk will cost the city virtually nothing, Shimkus said. The county has leftover signage and lights that will be used, and Belleair Bluffs will only be paying a couple of hundred dollars for a ramp. The crosswalk’s cost had been estimated at $10,000 to $20,000, she said.
The crosswalk design will be a basic one, without fancy medians and landscaping, Shimkus said. But it will have pedestrian activated strobe lights so vehicles will have to stop, she stressed.
Shimkus said she is also working with Belleair and the county to get a pedestrian activated “Walk” sign put in at the light at Mehlenbacher and Indian Rocks Road.
The safety improvements have been a long time coming, said former Commissioner Robert Russo, who was at the meeting. Russo said he had wanted to get a crosswalk put in while he was a commissioner. “I tried to do this 10 years ago,” he said.
Road conditions criticized
Russo also said the streets in his neighborhood east of Indian Rocks Road are in a deplorable condition.
“The asphalt is peeling up off the road,” said Russo.
The city needs to “stop spending money on junkets (trips to out of town meetings) and pave our streets,” he said.
Russo named Southwind Drive, Marlin, Pine Tree Lane and Dolphin Drive among the roads that need work.
In a comment following the meeting, Russo said, “There are potholes 6- or 7-inches deep out there.”
Russo’s remarks were seconded by Jim Lininger, who lives on Southwind.
“The streets are in bad need of repair,” Lininger told the Bee.
Public Works Director Robert David was asked about the roadways after the meeting. He said repairs are scheduled, but are about two years off. The streets are part of a capital improvement project and will be fixed, but need to wait their turn, he said.
Flood insurance discounts for residents
The city will participate in a state-run Community Rating System, giving residents an immediate 5 percent discount on their flood insurance policies, David announced. “We get 5 percent, just for signing up,” he said.
The city also intends to seek approval of a special hazard plan for flood-potential areas, which will raise the discount for residents to 10 percent. If David “goes to school and gets certified” that brings the discount to 15 percent, he said.
David said he had met with FEMA officials, “and they gave us flying colors.” He will write a follow-up letter confirming the approvals.
The city’s flood-potential areas are mostly around the condos on the Intracoastal Waterway, David said. The flood hazard area will likely increase in size when new flood zone maps are issued in 2015, he said.
Police costs rise
The cost for law enforcement services will go up by $11,245, or 2.47 percent, to $466,689, according to a letter sent to Mayor Chris Arbutine from Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri.
In the letter, Gualtieri said the increase was due to a raise for Sheriff’s Office members, the first wage hike they have had in five years.
The commission authorized spending the money. City Clerk Debra Sullivan said the Sheriff’s Office would not be making any changes in the city’s police service or manpower. Approval of the expense in advance of the police services contract allows the city to include the money in the upcoming budgeting process.