ST PETE BEACH — The last two months of summer promises to be a challenging time for businesses along Corey Avenue at Blind Pass Road. That’s when the city will close the intersection for two months to install a 16-inch water pipe and other new utilities.
However, Public Works Director Mike Clarke told city commissioners things could be a lot worse. The intersection could be closed for six months to connect to the county’s new water line.
During a regular meeting April 23, Clarke told officials the city has to relocate and reconnect several utility lines, including sanitary sewer, an 8-inch water pipe, reclaimed water lines and a 16-inch water main, as part of the Blind Pass Project.
“The options on Corey Avenue and how to get through the intersection are enormously challenging,” he said.
“The choreography of this pipe dance is basically set not necessarily in which pipe is first, but which is deepest, and which pipe is in the way of the other pipes,” he explained.
In an initial plan, the contractor would be ready to go through the intersection in the beginning of May, and without a change in plans, the intersection would be closed through September.
However, Plan B is a $47,000 alternative change order, recommended by Clarke, that will only see the intersection closed from August through September. It brings the water main up to the south side of the intersection and stops, connecting to the existing water main to allow service to continue.
“If we use the change order to connect to the existing water line, we maintain water service, we don’t have to punch through the intersection, and that gives us time to bring all the utilities up to the same point; Then in the beginning of August we basically charge through on our galloping horses for two months and the intersection is only closed for two months instead of six,” Clarke explained.
“It’s the most ideal time,” Commissioner Melinda Pletcher said. “It makes perfect sense to support businesses on Corey Avenue. You couldn’t ask for a better time of year than August through September.”
“The date was not picked by accident,” Clarke noted.
“It’s a no brainer; bring us change order,” Mayor Al Johnson said.
During the two months in which the intersection is closed, motorists traversing both sides of Corey Avenue will have to make a u-turn, since they will not be able to cross over Blind Pass, Clarke advised.
No large trucks will be permitted access to that portion of Corey Avenue, because they will not be able to turn around and will have to back out of the street.
“If everything goes well the intersection will be closed 8 weeks,” he added.
The city will also coordinate a repaving project scheduled for Corey to take place at the same time.
“The devil’s in the details, but we will bring the spider web together and we will put a lot of confidence in our contractors,” Clarke said.
Commissioners will formally adopt the change order at a future meeting.
In other items, City Manager Alex Rey told commissioners the city has not been able to recruit building inspectors in this competitive market. The city is posting the position with a pay grade from $57,000 to $64,000.
“We have an ad out there but no bites,” Rey told commissioners.
To fill the gap the city is paying contractors $90 an hour or $180,000 a year for building inspection services.
“In a sense, it’s being penny wise and pound foolish,” Rey said.
He asked permission to raise the base salary for building inspectors in the hopes of attracting applicants, “so we can be more competitive in the market.”
Commissioners approved Rey’s request to raise the city’s pay grade to $72,000 to see if that attracts more applicants.”
Having the same building inspector will provide continuity. One of the complaints has been the city gets different inspectors, and they have a different perspective, Rey explained.
Making people waiting for inspections drives people away who are refurbishing a building, Commissioner Doug Izzo said.
Pletcher suggested maybe the city should offer a signing bonus. Johnson said he would support the idea.