BELLEAIR SHORE – The 16 buoys that keep boaters from venturing too close to the shoreline and endangering persons in the water are gone in Belleair Shore. Their absence was a cause for concern at the Sept. 20 town commission meeting.
The commission has in the past discussed not replacing the buoys because of the cost, which can run about $500 per buoy, Commissioner Raymond Piscitelli pointed out.
“They do not hold up,” he said.
That’s not an option, Commissioner John E. Hayes, Jr. said, since the buoys are needed for safety reasons.
“They are very effective in keeping boats out,” he said. The town should try one more time to replace them, a process done periodically in conjunction with neighboring Belleair Beach.
Mayor John Robertson said at last month’s commission meeting that Belleair Beach had agreed to include Belleair Shore in a planned replacement of their own buoys.
“They will do it,” he had said, “for a charge.”
Robertson updated that comment by saying the buoy replacements would not start until after hurricane season, meaning December at the earliest.
Commission members were puzzled over the continuing loss of buoys, which puts swimmers and others venturing out into the Gulf in danger.
Piscitelli said the cables anchoring them are breaking.
“They are rotting through,” he said, “even though they are not out there that long.”
He said the cable appears to be rusted out at the bottom and breaks loose.
“We lose the buoys right away,” Piscitelli said. “Any good windstorm will take them out.”
Indian Rocks Beach, which borders Belleair Shore to the south, does not appear to have the same problem with buoy loss, he said.
Belleair Shore does not renourish its beach, and Hayes speculated that may be a contributing factor to the excessive numbers of buoys that break away and wash ashore. Hayes said there may be a difference in the floor of the Gulf in Belleair Shore due to the lack of sand replacement. The buoys are placed closer to shore, he said, making them more impacted by the wave action.
In any event, Hayes said replacement of the missing buoys is critical to protect anyone in the water.
“If it saves one life, or prevents a bad injury, it’s worth having (the buoys) out there,” he said.
Indian Rocks Beach Mayor R.B. Johnson later confirmed that buoy loss had not been a big problem in IRB. There are no major gaps in the city’s line of buoys that establish a no wake zone and keep boats and people in the water apart, he said.
“We lose one occasionally, but not that often,” he said.
Public Services Director Dean Scharmen told the Bee that IRB does yearly maintenance and a six-month checkup on its buoys “to make sure we don’t lose any.”
The city uses a Storm Soft regulatory down line attached to a stainless steel chain that he said acts like “an outsized bungee cord to provide give and take.”
Budget, millage rate adopted
The commission gave final approval to a millage rate of 0.6646, the county’s lowest, for the upcoming year.
The rate was the same as last year’s, despite a $4,500 increase in the town’s budget. That was accomplished by lowering some contingency and reserve funds, which Robertson said had not been touched in years.
A budget of $88,680 also was approved. The biggest expense by far was a $31,400 outlay for policing costs, a 40 percent rise. That increase was based upon the 2010 U.S. census which showed a jump in the town’s population (78 to 109).
Both budget-related measures were passed unanimously. Commissioner Richard Jordan was absent from the meeting.