BELLEAIR – Town commissioners unanimously agreed to allow the Belleair Country Club to pay $14,500 to satisfy that share of the penalty lien that pertains to the 2.3 acres that the club is purchasing from the owners of the Belleview Biltmore Hotel. The decision was made at the regular meeting June 3.
The hotel owners, the Ades brothers of Miami, are again in debt to the city for roughly $160,000. The debt accrues at $250 a day as long as the hotel property is in its current deteriorating state. Although the Country Club has not closed the deal with the hotel, it wants to nail down its share of the lien amount. The $14,500 is their share as of April 1 when the total lien amount was $140,000.
During discussion about the matter Commissioner Stephen Fowler, acting as mayor in Gary Katica’s absence, said he wanted some answers.
“I have a little heartburn over this,” he said. “I’m reluctant to let anything go, to give up any power, in regard to the hotel. What is going to happen if Cheezem doesn’t close the deal for some months?”
Town Manager Micah Maxwell assured him that the town could not be hurt if the deal falls through.
“If there is no deal then they wouldn’t have to pay anything and the lien remains with the current owners.”
Country Club General Manager Ed Shaughnessy told the commission the club was not looking for a handout.
“We expect the deal will be closed in the next two months,” he said. “We’re not asking for charity; we’d like to have clear title. If the lien amount at closing is greater than the $14,500 then expect that money to come from the current owners or Cheezem.”
Developer Michael Cheezem agreed to a six-month due diligence time frame for purchasing the hotel property back in January. The six months would be up by the end of July, although Maxwell said that date is not cast in stone.
More discussion centering on the hotel came up when Town Attorney David Ottinger reported the lawsuit in federal court aimed at stopping the sale of the hotel has not yet been served to the town.
“We know it is out there but until we are served there is nothing we can or must do,” he said. “We don‘t have to respond until we are actually served.”
Ottinger repeated an earlier statement that he doesn’t believe the federal court is the right place for the suit.
“It doesn’t seem to me to be federal court jurisdiction,” he said. “However, if they decide to take the case and we are served then we can prepare our defense.”
When asked when that might happen, and once it does, how long it might take, Ottinger was clear with his response.
“Things take forever to move through the federal court,” he said.
Commissioner Kevin Piccarreto asked that Ottinger keep the commission abreast of the cost of the suit.
“The taxpayers need to know the cost of these lawsuits,” he said.
Palmetto Road to be rebuilt
Commissioners agreed to allow some financial homework so that Palmetto Road can undergo renovations. The pavement and roadbed will be torn up, mashed together, mixed with concrete and re-laid. Then it will be paved over and new curbs installed.
The total cost of that job is $540,000 and was to take place next year. However, Largo has a similar project starting soon and by piggybacking with Largo, Belleair can save some construction costs.
The financial homework involves taking the money from the Bayview/Manatee project and using it for Palmetto and then shifting next year’s Palmetto money over to cover the Bayview/Manatee work, which wasn’t scheduled to begin until next year anyway.
Close the doors
Police Chief Tom Edwards told the commission that his department has begun a campaign to get people to close their garage doors at night. He said it is something criminals are on the lookout for.
“In the past three weeks alone our overnight officers have found 12 garage doors wide open,” he said. “In those cases we knock on the doors and get the homeowners to close the garage doors; they are always thankful.”
Edwards said it was more than just the garage door that put the homeowners at risk.
“Usually when the car is in the garage, it isn’t locked,” he said. “And the door from the garage to the rest of the house is also not usually locked. We’re trying to help people not become victims of crime.”
In relation to that Edwards said people should not leave valuables in their vehicles overnight.
Deputy town clerk gone
Deputy Town Clerk Suzy Metcalfe’s last day on the job was June 3. She and her husband are moving to Georgia to be near family. Metcalfe was Belleair’s employee of the Year in 2012.
Town Clerk Donna Carlin said Metcalfe will be sorely missed.
“We’ll be filling her position, but we can never replace her,” she said.