CLEARWATER – When officials with the city of Clearwater and the Clearwater Marine Aquarium entered into discussions about building a new aquarium on the current site of City Hall – provided the voters approve the agreement on Nov. 5 – several residents of nearby condominiums feared that the facility would cause traffic jams and inconveniences on the downtown bluff.
Two of them, one from the Waters’ Edge condominiums and the other from the Pierce 100 condos, have now filed a lawsuit against the city.
According to a memo sent to the Clearwater City Council by the city’s legal staff, the lawsuit alleges that the proposed 60-year lease of the City Hall site to the aquarium is “misleading and fails to comport to statutory requirements.”
The plaintiffs further allege that the Memorandum of Understanding between CMA and the city is “an unlawful pledge of credit by a municipality to a private entity.” Lastly, they claim that the proposed downtown aquarium “does not serve a valid municipal purpose” and therefore cannot legally be placed on the ballot of the Nov. 5 election.
On Sept. 5, the council authorized City Attorney Pam Akin to hire Alan Zimmet of the law firm of Bryant Miller Olive to represent the city in the upcoming litigation. The council also authorized the payment of “the initial budget … estimated at $40,000” to Zimmet.
Firefighters’ union settles lawsuit against city
CLEARWATER – The Clearwater City Council agreed on Sept. 5 to settle a lawsuit filed against the city by John Kleinfelter, acting in his capacity as president of the union local that represents Clearwater’s firefighters, for $155,000.
Kleinfelter claimed that the city wrongfully deducted several firefighters’ pay for working on holidays from their regular rate of pay and used it as an offset to their overtime pay. City officials said in a staff memo to the city council that they “contacted the (U.S.) Department of Labor in an effort to resolve the issue, but the lawsuit was filed before any resolution could be reached.”
The labor department later informed the city that the Code of Federal Regulations prohibits using holiday work hours to offset overtime hours. The union and the city then agreed to settle the lawsuit for $155,000, which will cover the aggrieved firefighters’ back pay and the union’s litigation expenses.
Funding approved for Lake Belleview trail
CLEARWATER – On April 5, 2012, the City Council approved an agreement whereby the city would accept a $200,000 Recreational Trails Program grant from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection Office of Greenways and Trails for the purpose of constructing a recreational trail around Lake Belleview, which straddles the city’s Ed Wright and Ross Norton Parks. On Sept. 5, the council approved the expenditure of $350,000 to hire Oldsmar-based Keystone Excavators, Inc., to do the job, which is expected to take 120 days.
The asphalt trail will be 10 feet wide and, at 5,262 linear feet, nearly a mile long. The unlit trail, which will be open from sunrise to sunset, is designed to accommodate both walkers and bicyclists.
City antes up another $870,000 for Stevenson Creek project
CLEARWATER – In August of 2008, the city entered into a Project Partnership Agreement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to restore the Stevenson Creek estuary. So far, the city has paid $3,263,400 toward the project.
Recently, the Corps requested another $870,000, which it itemized as $534,000 for contract administration by Corps staffers, $260,000 for hauling additional material to the disposal site and $76,000 for contingencies. On Sept. 5, the Clearwater City Council unanimously approved that request.