BELLEAIR BEACH — There will be no informational sign of any type at City Hall, at least for now. The City Council decided at its March 1 meeting to reject a bid of $55,000 to construct an electronic sign.
City Manager Lynn Rives recommended the bid be turned down, saying it was far higher than an expected cost of around $35,000. The city’s Communications Committee had reported that estimate for an electronic sign was actually less than the $40,000 cost for a sign like the one that stood previously at City Hall, which had no digital features. That sign was damaged in a recent storm and could not be repaired, Rives said.
Rives also said a recent resident survey showed little interest in a message board as a means of communicating information about the city. The majority preferred emails or text messages, he said.
A sign similar to those at the city’s entrances is all that is needed, said Rives, adding that signage should simply identify the building as Belleair Beach City Hall.
Mayor Joseph Manzo said he agreed.
“I got one email saying ‘I miss the sign,’ but I got a whole bunch saying ‘I don’t want that digital sign,’” said Manzo.
Council Members Rita Swope and Glenn Gunn both said they favored something simple.
“Go back to the drawing board” and look for a smaller, less expensive sign, Council Member Jody Shirley said.
Council Member Dave Gattis said he wanted the City Hall message sign replaced in some form, saying it had been his number one means of getting communication on the city since moving to Belleair Beach.
“I want our sign back,” said Gattis.
Resident Debbie Maul, who lives across Causeway Boulevard from City Hall, was strongly opposed to the digital sign. She pointed out that neighboring communities of Belleair, Belleair Bluffs and Indian Rocks Beach have no digital signs and yet they are bigger cities with a lot of events going on.
Following a unanimous vote to reject the $55,000 bid for a digital sign, Manzo said the sign issue will now go back to a work session for reevaluation.
The City Hall sign has been missing since last September. For now, there is no sign even identifying the building.
‘Disgusting’ beach crowds
Crowds of people using the city’s access points to the beach this time of year are causing problems, Manzo said. The mayor said he observed the behavior of beachgoers at the Sixth Street access point in Belleair Shore, which Belleair Beach residents are allowed to use, and their conduct was “disgusting.”
There were dogs on the beach, Hoverboards and a boom box “that could be heard from 100 yards away,” all illegal, said Manzo.
People were illegally parked, he said. There were no stickers on vehicles, which are required for Belleair Beach residents to use the Belleair Shore accesses, so the beachgoers likely were not local residents. The general public is not allowed on the Belleair Shore beach.
“What we’re seeing is the same old same old,” Manzo said. “People without stickers, they’re using the beach. They’re not only illegally parked, they’re actually trespassing.”
This type of behavior “annoys the people in Belleair Shore and makes for bad relations” between the two communities, Manzo said.
Manzo asked Police Sgt. Dan LaFave if the patrolling of the beach is going to increase. LaFave said the patrols can increase. “It is possible there’s been less enforcement because of newer deputies not understanding the rules there, so we’ll make sure that gets taken care of,” he said.
Manzo said the problem is on the weekends and at sunset, when “there is a massive influx of people.”
LaFave said he would talk to the supervisors about “putting on an increased patrol” for greater enforcement.
E-bikes on the beach a problem
Electric bicycles, or e-bikes, on the beach have become an issue of concern in Belleair Beach and other beach communities. But banning them would be difficult, Rives said.
“There is a state statute that says an electric bicycle is a bicycle,” said Rives. If the city wants to get rid of electric bicycles, Rives said an ordinance would have to be created to ban bicycles altogether.
Manzo said a resident told him she was almost run over on the beach by someone riding an electric bike.
“When I get complaints like that, it’s not good, somebody’s going to get hurt,” Manzo said.
The subject of what to do about e-bikes could be put on the agenda of a future commission workshop, said Manzo.