The Indian Rocks Beach City Commission is considering whether to get involved in a fight over funding for the renourishment of Belleair Beach, shown above.
INDIAN ROCKS BEACH – What was thought to be a resolved issue between Belleair Beach and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection over the number of parking spaces required for funding of beach renourishment has spurred discussion again.
Now Belleair Beach wants support in its renewed fight with the state.
Indian Rocks Beach Mayor R.B. Johnson told the commission meeting on June 11 that he had received a letter from Belleair Beach asking for help.
The state initially said Belleair Beach had to have 100 parking spaces available within a reasonable distance from the beach and evenly spread out along the town’s shoreline. Belleair Beach thought it had negotiated that number down to 50, but was just informed that it was back to 100, and if the city didn’t provide that number of spaces it would cost them $250,000 for renourishment.
Johnson wasn’t quite sure how he wanted to respond.
“I really don’t like to wade into the water of another community’s struggle with the state,” he said. “Belleair Beach feels it is different from us because they have an exclusively residential community. We have 27 beach accesses with public parking at 24 of them. In addition we allow on street parking in town close to the beach.”
Commissioner Phil Hanna suggested a way to support Belleair Beach without actually wading too deeply into the fight.
“Let’s write a letter saying we would support an effort by the state to have another look at the situation in light of their residential status,” he said. “Make it a carefully worded letter just supporting a review but not necessarily what Belleair Beach wants to achieve.”
Commissioner Jim Labadie wasn’t prepared to even go that far.
“We don’t have a dog in this fight so why don’t we just say good luck to them and leave it at that,” he said.
Commissioner Cookie Kennedy took the opposite stance and asked the commissioners to support what Belleair Beach wants.
“Why wouldn’t we want to help a sister city,” she asked. “Someday we’re going to be looking for their help on an issue that is important to us. I think if we don’t support them this will all come back to haunt us.”
Her words didn’t sway Johnson, who maintained that the fight is up to Belleair Beach alone.
“Parking has never been an issue with us,” he said. “They are asking to be held to a lesser standard than the rest of us. I take issue when they say in their letter that they have done all they could to resolve the issue. I don’t think that is true. They could buy a lot and create parking; they can invest money to install parallel parking along the right of way on Gulf Boulevard.”
Johnson ended the discussion, saying he would get together with Interim City Manager Dean Scharmen and possibly draft a letter addressing the situation.
Belleair Beach lies directly north of Indian Rocks Beach.
Emergency repairs authorized
The commission unanimously approved the spending of just over $49,000 to fix a pipe in the underground drainage system on 12th Avenue. The pipe is actually broken allowing stormwater to flow freely underground and undermine property in the neighborhood.
Scharmen told the commission that with the rainy season ahead the situation with the pipe has to be considered an emergency. The commission agreed.
Interviews set up for new city manager
The schedule has been set for the interviews of the seven candidates for the vacant city manager’s position in IRB. The candidates will be interviewed one by one in 45-minute time blocks beginning at 9 a.m. on June 18.
The mayor and the commissioners will do the interviewing and they have been supplied with a list of 51 suggested questions. They can choose to use questions from that list or ask their own.
The process will end at 4:45 p.m. and after that the commissioners will choose up to three finalists who will undergo an extensive background check. Scharmen said a firm has been hired to conduct the checks and it is a process that will take from 10 to 12 days to complete.
Garbage containers distributed
Scharmen told the commissioners that the new garbage containers had been delivered to all the households in the city. The containers are all on wheels and have fixed lids and have a handle that can be hooked into an automated dumping system on the garbage trucks. Scharmen said that not everybody is happy with the new system.
“We have had our share of phone calls,” he said. “Not everybody is on board. Right now it is a fluid program and we’re asking people to have patience and give the system a chance. We’re asking for 30 days.”
Graffiti to be checked
Labadie expressed some concern over graffiti that has appeared on the concrete wall just as people enter the city from the Walsingham Bridge.
“I’m wondering if it is gang related,” he said. “I have noticed it recently there and in other sections of the city. There is some weird looking stuff on the Tapas Gardens property as well.”
Johnson said he has seen graffiti on signs along the beach and he was concerned about it.
“We had better stop it before it gets out of hand,” he said.
Deputy Noel Dunham told the commission that the Sheriff’s Office has a program that allows teenagers to avoid detention if they agree to clean up such messes. He said he’d look into making that happen in the city.
Flood insurance rates to rise?
Kennedy told the commission she had received an email from an IRB insurance agent, telling her that flood Insurance rates were on the rise. The agent wondered what could be done to fight the issue. Kennedy said the commission should be aware of the pending increases.
“We need to investigate this,” she said. “We need to be proactive and if there is anything we can do we should do it.”
Hanna said he got the email as well and it contained a large increase in the rates.
“It will be 17 percent this year, 17 percent next year, 17 the year after that and 17 the year after that,” he said. “It seems FEMA needs money so the federal government rammed it through at the last minute.”