INDIAN ROCKS BEACH — City commissioners April 9 gave City Manager Gregg Mims the go-ahead to have several new crosswalks installed along Gulf Boulevard and move others to more practical locations.
On and off for years the issue of pedestrian safety on Gulf Boulevard has come before the commission. At one point, former Commissioner Bert Valery suggested that crosswalks be installed at every intersection along Gulf Boulevard.
Commissioners didn’t go that far but decided to accept many of the recommendations of a Pinellas County engineer who had been studying the matter since 2017.
To begin with, three mid-block crossings will be moved to nearby intersections. The mid-block crossing near Eighth Avenue will be moved to Eighth Avenue, the mid-block crossing near 12th Avenue will be moved to 12th Avenue and the mid-block crossing near 26th Avenue will be moved to 26th Avenue.
The new crosswalks will be located at: 10th Avenue, 15th Avenue, 16th Avenue, 23rd Avenue and 24th Avenue.
Mims said he will work with the county to determine what the costs will be. The county will pay the lion’s share of the cost.
In addition to that, Mims got commission approval on other matters dealing with pedestrian safety.
They agreed to stripe, or paint, crosswalks on each side street connected to Gulf Boulevard just to indicate where people should cross.
Commissioners accepted Mims’ recommendation against widening the bicycle lanes along Gulf Boulevard. He said traffic was too tight along the road as it is. He reminded cyclists that they had to move over to let traffic go by and that is especially true when cyclists are traveling two or more abreast.
They also accepted Mims’ recommendation against posting signs on side streets indicating where crosswalks were located.
“I really don’t see where the benefit is in that,” he said. “We’re trying to eliminate excess signage and clutter in our community and that would only add to it.”
Mayor Cookie Kennedy wondered how the city could help educate people on how to use the crosswalks. All the crosswalks will be equipped with flashing lights, called rectangular rapid flashing beacons, that must be activated by the pedestrians doing the crossing.
“I see people who just don’t know how to use them,” he said. “I don’t think they are lazy; they just don’t know.”
Mims said it is a losing cause.
“We have hundreds of thousands of people visiting here every year,” he said. “We just can’t get to all those people who are only here for a short time.”
Mims wasn’t sure when the work on the new crosswalks would begin, but he said it would take some time and they would likely be phased in rather than done all at once.
County and city officials have been identifying ways to make Gulf Boulevard safer for bicyclists and pedestrians. At a Feb. 12 city work session county Traffic Engineering Manager Tom Washburn said the rectangular rapid flashing beacons aren’t required by law but are recommended for Gulf Boulevard, which carries 18,000 vehicles a
Mims gets raise
Commissioners unanimously agreed to give Mims a 10 percent raise. The decision came after each commissioner submitted their evaluation of Mims’ performance and he received mostly fives, the highest score, with the rest fours.
Commissioner Diane Flagg recommended the 10 percent based on Mims’ salary compared with others in the County in comparable sized communities.
“The 10 percent would bring him in line with Belleair and Treasure Island,” said Flagg. “His new salary of $137,000 puts him just ahead of the $132,000 in Belleair and just behind the $140,000 in Treasure Island.”
The evaluation for City Clerk Deanne O’Reilly was different.
Commissioners gave her scores of 3s and 2s with some 4s. A year ago they openly criticized her work. They did grant her a cost of living increase at that time but complained that even with a 3 percent raise her salary of $88,000 meant a significant increase.
This year, with the evaluations made public online, two residents stepped up to O’Reilly’s defense.
“The city’s actions during her 25 years of employment and my personal experience with Deanne O’Reilly since moving to IRB years ago simply doesn’t match up with these performance reviews,” wrote Nancy Obarski, in a letter read to the commission. “I have never seen anything but respect, hard work and competence from this 25-year valued employee even under some difficult circumstances.”
Resident John Pfanstiehl supported the words of Obarski.
“Over the years and through a number of charter officers who have left a lot to be desired she has been the steady hand here,” he said. “Deanne has given continuity to city government. IRB is lucky to have her.”
Before discussion by commissioners could begin, O’Reilly acknowledged that her salary was probably at its maximum limit, and she would not expect a merit increase. However, she said a cost of living increase would be fine.
Commissioner Ed Hoofnagle said once again a cost of living increase is a high number.
“I said last year it was maxed-out,” said Commissioner Phil Hanna.
“I am fine without one,” she said. “I don’t want this to be an issue, and I am happy to receive nothing.”
Commissioners agreed, and O’Reilly will continue with her salary of $88,710 annually.
Commissioners also evaluated City Attorney Randy Mora, who received high marks. However, compensation for him was not an issue because he operates under a separate contract with the city.
City audit gives high marks
The city’s auditing firm, Moore Stephens Lovelace P.A., has given the city high marks for its financial dealings in the past year.
Auditor Jeff Wolf said the report identifies the City Commission as well as the administrative staff as professionals in municipal management.
“This is a clear report,” he said. “There are no issues identified in this report. It has been another strong year for the city and that’s great really.”
“Numbers like these make these meetings a lot easier,” he said.
“It is good to see your auditors come in and give you an ‘A’,” Hoofnagle said.
“We’ve done such a great job financially in this city,” remarked Kennedy.