John's Pass

The tourist season normally ends with Easter, but the tourists have not left Madeira Beach this year, according to City Manager Robin Gomez. Parking revenue,especially at John’s Pass Village, was about the same April through June as in March at the height of the season.

MADEIRA BEACH — The tourist season normally ends with Easter, but the tourists have not left this year.

“There’s been no slowdown in tourist activity,” City Manager Robin Gomez said at the July 13 City Commission meeting.

Parking revenue, a good indicator of the number of visitors in the area, especially at the No. 1 tourist attraction John’s Pass Village, was about the same April through June as in March at the height of the season, Gomez said. The city manager’s report showed parking revenues around $350,000 per month during the past four months.

Gomez noted reports from the county confirm what’s happening locally. Passengers at St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport are at an all-time high, and bed tax revenues are up, he said.

“This all shows we still have a lot of visitors coming to Madeira Beach (beyond the season),” Gomez said. “There was no significant decline, as in prior years.”

In addition to the high level of tourist activity, the city manager’s monthly report to the commission focused on all the events and activities occurring in the city just during the past month.

There was the Mad Beach Car Show and Music Fest put on by numerous businesses, the appearance of the county’s BeBot sand cleanup robot, and the usual Final Friday music fest at John’s Pass Village.

A celebration and beach cleanup was held at Archibald Park on June 8 in honor of World Ocean Day. Gomez said hundreds turned out to learn more about water/ocean conservation efforts as well as to help keep the beach as litter-free as possible. The city partnered with Keep Pinellas Beautiful and Byrne Ocean Conservation/Water Warrior Alliance on the event.

On June 23, National Hydration Day, Gomez said recreation department employees distributed about 200 cold water bottles with the city’s 75th Anniversary commemorative koozie to beach visitors.

Utility undergrounding

The undergrounding of utilities in residential neighborhoods will be included in the next five-year Capital Improvement Plan update, at the recommendation of Commissioner Ray Kerr. 

Kerr said the city’s utility grid is aging and unreliable and needs to be upgraded.

While the city has been taking the approach that utility undergrounding will be included whenever road improvements are done, Kerr wanted to give higher priority to the project.

“We shouldn’t wait, because we are in the best financial position we’ve ever been that I know of,” and should be putting the money in the upcoming years’ budgets, Kerr said.

Mayor John Hendricks said utility undergrounding is a very expensive process. The undergrounding of Gulf Boulevard is expected to cost about $4.5 million to finish the remaining two miles, and that cost has increased over the several years since the project began, Hendricks said.

“Think long and hard about spending that much money in undergrounding all of the residential areas. That’s a major, major expense where we’ll probably have to assess the residents quite a bit of money,” the mayor said.

The city is looking into grants to help with that, said public works director Megan Wepfer.

“I would like to see us finish Gulf Boulevard and maybe even 150th Avenue, because that’s the entrance and the main road in the city, and then look at other areas after that,” said Hendricks.

Commissioner Doug Andrews said Duke Energy “has a grant writer that will be willing to help us,” but they will want to wait until Gulf Boulevard is done. He agreed that “as the city gets to that step, it’s going to be a big number, and it’s probably going to need to be broken out over five, seven, 10 years, but at some point, that’s where we’ve got to go.”

Kerr said he wants to get the utility undergrounding “into the discussion and to move forward.” More people work from home (75 percent where he lives) and they need dependable power, Kerr said. A robust electric grid is important, and “the community deserves the undergrounding,” he said.

“We need to put it in the master plan,” Kerr said.

Several years ago, Crystal Island residents were told they would have to pay $10,000 to $12,000 per household for undergrounding, said Chuck Dillon, who ran against Kerr in the last election.

City Planning Director Linda Portal said the neighborhood utility undergrounding needs to be in the Capital Improvement Plan update so it can be funded in the future. The CIP, a part of the Comprehensive Plan, is reviewed and updated annually. An analysis of the undergrounding project costs will take place before the project inclusion in the next CIP update.

The commission gave final approval to this year’s Capital Improvement Plan.