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Belleair Bee
Intersection work may begin in December
Article published on Wednesday, June 11, 2014
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Photo by BRIAN GOFF
The Walsingham-Gulf Boulevard intersection improvements will get underway soon and be finished by July 2015.
INDIAN ROCKS BEACH – A number of major projects, which have been on the books for some time, should be completed in the next 12 months. Commissioners got the project update at a special work June 10.

The largest and most notable project is the work on the Walsingham Road and Gulf Boulevard intersection. Known as the signature intersection, it is the main entrance to the city. The intersection will be remade and will change the current alignment of the streets as they intersect. There will be no more dedicated turn lane coming off Walsingham. Traffic consultants say it will create safer conditions for pedestrians.

Public Works Director Dean Scharmen said work on the project will begin in early December and will be finished in July 2015. The total cost to the city of the remainder of the project is $290,000. In addition to that the city has gotten a $100,000 grant from the Florida Department of Transportation and a $50,000 grant from the county for the project.

The second big project on the books is the remake of all the sidewalks in the Narrows Business District. That work will include all new curbs and handicapped accessible ramps. It also will include repaving of all the streets in the district. The cost of that project will be $500,000. More than half that cost, $300,000, will be covered by a federal government block grant. Scharmen said the completion date for that project will be in February.

The last big project is the milling and paving of Gulf Boulevard through the city.

“That was supposed to have begun just after Easter,” said Scharmen. “However, the county didn’t come through then. Now they say they are going to begin on the first Monday after July 4. We’re going to have to tolerate that rumbling effect for several weeks and so far we don’t know when they plan to be finished.”

The search is on

City Manager Gregg Mims told the commissioners that he has received five applications from local law firms to fill the vacant city attorney position. The vacancy was caused by the resignation of Maura Kiefer, who had been in the position for six years.

Mims has scheduled a special commission meeting for 4 p.m. on June 23. Commissioners will be able to discuss the resumes of the five applicants so they will be in a position to make a final decision at their next regular meeting on July 8.

Charter Review Committee report

The final report of the city’s Charter Review Committee was presented to the commissioners and they learned the Committee has recommended 13 amendments to the charter. Most of the amendments were of the housekeeping variety. Nevertheless they must, by law, go to a referendum in the next election on March 10.

One of the amendments includes eliminating the need to have a referendum anytime the city wants to lease land outside the city limits. Impacted by that amendment will be the city’s plan to buy or lease land off the island for the Solid Waste Department. Mims told the commissioners the idea that the land be leased is attractive and could save money if the city could go in on a deal with another municipality.

Commissioner Cookie Kennedy wondered if the idea that commissioners’ terms could be changed to three years instead of two could be included as part of a charter change. Wally Clark, the chairman of the Review Committee, said the idea was brought before his committee and it was voted down. He told Kennedy she could make the change without his committee having anything to do with it.

“Remember, we’re only an advisory committee,” he said.

Mayor R.B. Johnson recalled that changing the term lengths was put to a referendum once before.

“I think it was 10 years ago,” he said. “If I recalled it was soundly defeated 70-30 or something like that. I’m not sure we want to go down that road again.”

In the end it was decided they won’t pursue it further. There was no consensus to have the idea placed on the referendum.

Butts and meters

Resident Bert Valery told the commission that it was time they cracked down on all the cigarette butts on the beach.

“I know you tackled this subject a year or so ago,” he said. “But nothing has changed. I go to the beach every morning and I see tons of butts. You have to get the Sheriff’s Office to be tough, be on the lookout for people disposing their butts on the beach and fine them; don’t just give them a warning.

Mims agreed and said he and his wife see it all the time.

“I’m disgusted too,” he said. “It is a tough law to enforce; they have to be caught in the act. We could say no more smoking on the beach if we really want to do something about the problem; just this weekend my wife and I spent an hour picking up stuff from the beach.”

Mims said he would talk to the Sheriff’s Office about potential solutions to the problem.

Commissioner Jim Labadie wondered if installing parking meters at the free spots at the Beach Access points might help the problem and he managed to get a consensus from the other commissioners to discuss it at a work session this summer. Mayor Johnson remarked after the meeting that because he agreed to discuss it doesn’t mean he is in favor of it.

Library fees

A new fee structure for the Community Library was presented to the commissioners who approved it unanimously. Notable among the fees is the charge for nonresidents who want to buy a library card. Up until now that charge was $10 a year, now it will be $25. Librarian Laurie Talerico said that is still a good deal.

“If they want to go to the next closest library, Largo, they would have to pay $100 a year,” she said. “Most of the nonresidents who use our library come from Indian Shores and Belleair Beach, neighboring communities.”

Residents of Indian Rocks Beach get a library card free.

The other notable rate increase is a $5 a day charge for non-card holders to use the computers. Up until now that service was provided for free.

Appointments confirmed

Commissioners unanimously agreed to a new appointment to the city’s Board of Adjustments and Appeals. Shelly Clark was appointed as second alternate. Wally Clark Jr. was re-appointed even though term limits would have dictated that he step down because his term was up. However earlier in the meeting the commissioners removed the term limits from the board, allowing Clark to be reappointed. Other board members reconfirmed were Valerie Murray and Harold Gosiee. Board member Trudy Troiano resigned creating the opening for Shelley Clark.
Article published on Wednesday, June 11, 2014
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