The Walsingham Road/Gulf Boulevard intersection is Indian Rocks Beach’s signature entryway and likely tops the priority list for upgrading.
INDIAN ROCKS BEACH – City commissioners gathered on June 12 for a special workshop meeting to discuss their plans and priorities for the city of Indian Rocks Beach for the years ahead.
After the two-hour meeting was over, no definite decisions were made but the city manager was given a sense of what projects the commissioners favored.
In fact, City Manager Chuck Coward gave the commissioners a list of five major projects that he considered should be given some sort of order so he could begin working on them.
“Given our finances I can tell you we can do all these in the next five to seven years,” he said. “But we can’t do them all in year one. So I need your priorities.”
The project on top of Coward’s list and the one likely to get the go-ahead soonest is the upgrade and improvements to the Walsingham Road/Gulf Boulevard intersection. Long touted as the city’s signature entryway the intersection has already seen some improvements. This year the city purchased the old Schmidt residence at the intersection. That was immediately demolished and a pocket park was established. Further development of that park will be included in the intersection’s overall improvements.
In addition there will be new traffic signals, new vegetation, and crosswalks. In fact at the regular commission meeting later that evening Coward was given the go-ahead to engage Holmes Architects to begin design work on the project.
Second on Coward’s list was the installation of sidewalks and signs in the Narrows Business District.
Next on the list was the relocation of the Solid Waste facility, which is located adjacent to Keegan Clair Park. There was a consensus among commissioners that it should happen. Mayor R.B. Johnson said he would like to see it happen sooner rather than later.
“I’d like to see us keep that property and turn it into a park where people can gather and have picnics,” he said. “It would be the only place where that can happen near the water.”
Coward noted there is a catch. Because they want to relocate the solid waste facility outside the city, somewhere along the route to the dump, a referendum would have to be held. Even though the facility is used primarily to park the garbage trucks, anytime city money is spent outside the city it must be approved by referendum. Coward felt it might be two years before all that happens.
Fourth on the list was the facelift for City Hall. Commissioner Phil Hanna suggested that was a project that they could tackle right away without any outside interference.
“City hall is all ours,” he said. “We don’t need anybody else’s approval to go ahead with that.”
Commissioner Cookie Kennedy agreed.
“I wonder why it is even that far down the list,” she said.
Later that evening, during the regular commission meeting, city staff saw plans for the City Hall facelift and upgrade and gave city staff the go ahead to work with Holmes Architects to further develop those plans.
Last on Coward’s priority list was the underground wiring along Gulf Boulevard. He said the money was there to pay for the first mile of the project, from the south end of the city, possibly up to Seventh Street.
“We have a good plan in place for that project,” he said. “But the county still has to develop their plan for Gulf Boulevard.”
Kennedy noted that putting the wires along Gulf Boulevard underground has been talked about for a long time.
“I think it was first suggested back in 1996,” she said. “We have talked about it and talked about it. I’m shocked it is at the bottom of the list, I’d put it third.”
Johnson said he’d like to see the projects done in the next five years.
“So far we have been good at keeping our focus,” he said. “We’ve had several projects and we’ve been knocking them off one at a time. We don’t let other things creep in and stall us.”
Vice Mayor Terry Hamilton-Wollin said they should move on something.
“If we have the money we should go ahead,” she said. “If we’ve got it, go for it.”
“We don’t want a year to go by without doing something,” he said. “We have to keep the momentum going.”
Coward said he’d like to have a more definitive direction on the priorities before the end of the summer.