TREASURE ISLAND – It’s the topic for debate and discussion all over town and on social media; Should Treasure Island relocate its City Hall, police, fire and municipal services buildings? And, if so, where should these facilities be placed?
Consultants reported the city’s current buildings have outlived their usefulness, are cramped, provide poor air quality, are not secure, suffer from leaky roofs and mold and are not up to modern hurricane proof design standards.
Yet, during public hearings and on social media some residents voice concerns that the estimated $21 million price tag to rebuild on another site is too high, pinning hopes that the buildings can be remodeled, an idea that consultants assert is not feasible.
Others fear it will destroy greenspace at the community park if buildings are relocated to 104th Avenue, as recommended by consultant Harvard Jolly in a series of options.
Under options recommended by the consultant, City Hall, the police department building and fire department headquarters, which have stood along 108th Avenue for decades, would be demolished. The only current structure that cannot be relocated is the public works pumping station. The 108th Avenue property could then be transformed into a waterfront park.
It’s proposed that City Hall and municipal buildings would be rebuilt at Community Center Park, with a retention pond and additional parking areas taking up much of the greenspace. Residents living near the park are vehemently opposed to that idea.
During a work session, July 7th, Commissioner Heidi Horvak presented a compromise plan, designed to save Community Center greenspace and still provide for a waterfront park on 108th Avenue.
“We’ve reached a critical point where we need to make a decision. Treasure Island is unique. We are not Madeira Beach or St. Pete Beach; we are different. What is implemented in Madeira Beach and St. Pete Beach will not fit us,” she told commissioners.
She explained what struck her about the consultant’s proposal is that it’s “an all or nothing approach. Putting the buildings all in one place is part of the problem that people are reacting to. I don’t think every site is good for everything. You don’t put your entire team on the same plane, and we shouldn’t put all staff in one building; a more distributed approach is better.”
Downtown is perfectly positioned for a City Hall annex in the center of Treasure Island on 108th Avenue, she explained.
“There can be some development in Community Center Park, but only in the same footprint as where the building is currently located. “
The community center is surrounded by residential property and those people bought properties along 104th thinking they would have a park to look at and enjoy forever, Horvak said. “Once you lose a park space, you lose it forever.”
“A distributed phase approach lessens the ‘not in my backyard problem,’” she said. “A phased approach allows reassessment as we go.”
Horvak envisions sprucing up the pump station area on 108th Avenue to include instillation of odor control devices and construction of a two- or three-story city hall annex, public works and sanitation garage.
Other facilities, such as police, fire department headquarters and administrative offices, could be added to the footprint at the current Community Center site.
Commissioner Ralph Kennedy took exception to residents who commented that they did not know these plans were in the works.
“We put this issue in the sunshine,” Kennedy said. “Anyone who feels they are in the dark that is their choice. We had meetings after meetings. We have been straight forward with options. The notion that we have not been transparent is disheartening. All the effort to stir the pot is unfortunate and irresponsible; this process has been straightforward.”
Mayor Larry Lunn envisions a waterfront park on 108th Avenue, with a fishing pier and boat dock including about 40 slips. “We will have a net gain of square footage of green space, over what we have in (Community Center) park.”
The mayor added rumors that the city would use the current City Hall site for retail or restaurants, has never been considered.
The mayor said additional parking can be provided in space surrounding the community center, rather than taking up greenspace, and a holding pond in the park might not be necessary.
Commissioner Deborah Toth said designing a public marina along 108th Avenue could provide access for boaters to come to Treasure Island and for people to use water taxi.
She added municipal buildings for the fire and police can be built near the 106th Avenue side of Community Center Park closer to the Publix.
“I realize most people don’t like change, but we have to think of making progress and keeping up with the times,” the mayor added. “It’s important to factor in as many good ideas as we can. Ultimately, the decision will have to be made by the commission.”
After the commissioners commented, resident Denise Schultz said the compromise design suggested by the commissioners seemed like a good idea.
In other news, at the end of the work session Commissioner Ralph Kennedy announced he has “taken on more responsibility at work” and must resign from office immediately. He said it has been an honor to serve residents.
City Clerk Ruth Nickerson said the commission has 30 days to appoint a resident from District 3, which includes the downtown and Paradise Island area, who will serve until March 2019. Those interested can send a résumé and letter of interest to the City Clerk’s Office. Commissioners will discuss filling the seat during an Aug. 21 work session and vote at their Sept. 4th meeting.