INDIAN ROCKS BEACH – Two crosswalks in Indian Rocks Beach on Gulf Boulevard are going to be moved. The crosswalks are presently located at Sixth Avenue and 26th Avenue and they will be moved to Seventh Avenue and 27th Avenue.
The changes are being made as the result of a traffic study done by Pinellas County. IRB commissioners learned about the changes at the regular commission meeting on Aug. 27.
The consulting firm HNTB of Tampa conducted the study and company engineer Sergio Quevedo told the commissioners that their research showed that since 2006 there have been seven crashes involving bicycles and three involving pedestrians.
“That is not extraordinarily high,” he said. “But still we want to be proactive about this.”
Quevedo said their study showed that 62 pedestrians an hour cross Gulf Boulevard at Walsingham, and 32 at Seventh Avenue. Those are high numbers he said.
“We usually consider 20 crossings an hour a good number, any more than that requires some sort of controlled crosswalk,” he said.
The pending remake of the Walsingham-Gulf Boulevard intersection will include upgraded crosswalks. The Seventh Avenue situation will be solved by moving the crosswalk from Sixth Avenue where there is much less pedestrian traffic.
In addition to the crosswalks moving, upgrades will take place at all the other crosswalks along Gulf Boulevard. “Pedestrian X-ing” signs will be painted on the roadway leading up to the crossings, and new solar powered pedestrian signs with flashing strobe lights will be installed. The light will be activated by pedestrians who will be able to push a button to get them to flash.
Commissioner Cookie Kennedy said she was delighted with the news, especially the crosswalk at Seventh Avenue.
“I’m happy about Seventh Avenue,” she said. “Citizens who live there are complaining all the time. They say they often can’t get out of Seventh Avenue because of the traffic. This will make a lot of people happy.”
Mayor R.B. Johnson said he was happy to hear the results of the study because for years he said the city has contemplated adding some crosswalks, particularly along the north end of Gulf Boulevard. He said he was pleased to see that won’t be necessary.
He did urge the county official who was at the meeting to begin construction on the upgrades quickly. He was assured it would happen soon.
“Work will begin as soon as possible,” said County Engineer Tom Washburn. “We plan to resurface the road so we want this work done before we do any resurfacing. We’re also working with the Florida Department of Transportation on the project and they may help pay for some of the work.”
Commissioner Jim Labadie noted that the study also included bicycles.
“We haven’t heard anything about what you plan to do for bicycles,” he said. “I often hear people complain that our bike lanes are too narrow.”
“There was no need to do anything about bicycles,” said Quevedo. “Everything is up to par in that regard. We all wish the bike lanes could be wider, but there are no huge issues.”
Rain costing money
City Manager Gregg Mims told the commissioners that the heavy rains these past few weeks have seen a spike in the city’s stormwater costs, money paid to the county for disposal of the water.
“Normally our bill at this time of year would be $80,000,” he said. “This year it is $185,000 because of so much rain. Every community around us is facing the same thing and we are confident that by the end of the year we’ll still be within budget.”
The $185,000 is for a two-month period.
City attorney contract approved
The contract for City Attorney Maura Kiefer was unanimously approved by the commissioners but not before there was considerable discussion about her use of paralegals to do some of the city’s work.
Approval of the contract was expected to be a rubber stamp. Commissioners had already held considerable discussion at a workshop meeting two weeks ago. Kiefer would get a $100 raise in her monthly retainer, giving her $3,200. She would also receive $135 an hour for work not covered under her retainer, up from $110 an hour.
While thanking the commission for giving her the increases Kiefer noted that they hadn’t acted on her previous suggestion of allowing her to use paralegals to do some of the work at $75 an hour.
That issue came up at the workshop but several commissioners noted that Kiefer wasn’t there to explain it so they let it drop.
Kiefer said she was involved with three cases on behalf of the city that she could use paralegals and save the city money.
Commissioner Terry Hamilton-Wollin wondered why Kiefer just didn’t use the paralegals without needing commission approval.
“Because it isn’t specified,” replied Kiefer.
Commissioner Phil Hanna asked the same question and Kiefer again replied that she felt uncomfortable using paralegals when it wasn’t specified in her contract.
Commissioner Labadie said he was in favor of the paralegals but not the time it took to discuss the issue.
“This could have all been solved if you had been here at the last meeting,” he said to Kiefer.
In the end they unanimously agreed to allow her to use paralegals in doing city work.