REDINGTON SHORES — A year ago, “free” parking for residents at town-owned lots got a lot more costly. The town commission decided to replace a hang tag costing $3, which would allow residents to park annually at no charge, with a $50 sticker. Now the town is looking to reverse that decision.

The price increase has brought complaints from residents, and a drop in the number of parking passes purchased, Commissioner Cinda Krouk said at a Sept. 29 workshop. She said many residents park in the town’s lots when going to the beach, particularly those who live on the far east side of town who would have a long walk to get there.

Krouk, who is new on the commission this year, said the town should consider going back to not charging residents for parking. She said Redington Shores had put pay stations at the town-owned lots, and then increased the cost of resident passes from $3 to $50. That caused discontent among the residents, and resulted in only about half as many requesting the parking passes, Krouk said.

In researching what other local beach communities are doing, Krouk said she found that most do not charge residents to park in their city. She named Madeira Beach, the other two Redingtons, plus Indian Shores, Indian Rocks Beach and Belleair Beach. Treasure Island has a $45 annual parking pass for residents, Krouk said.

“People moved to Redington Shores because they wanted to have access to the beach. The beach here is mostly for our residents, not tourists,” she said. The income the town receives from the parking fee charge is a little over a thousand dollars a year, Krouk said. “That’s a small income for the town and a big dissatisfier to the residents who use the beach.”

Commissioner Jennie Blackburn said she had “always felt guilty about charging the $50. I think that’s a bit steep,” she said. “We should go back to $3, or even charge $10, but not $50.”

Commissioner Michael Robinson said getting rid of the $50 resident parking charge is a good idea.

“I don’t think any residents will object if we eliminate the fee,” Robinson said.

The commission decided by consensus to eliminate the $50 fee for a resident parking pass, effective January 1, 2022 when the parking passes expire and must be renewed. A formal vote will happen before that date, along with a decision on what the fee, if any, will be.

Town to do stormwater system evaluation

The town’s aging stormwater system, which commissioners say has serious problems, will be evaluated in an upcoming study. The commission decided in its Sept. 29 special meeting to hire a consultant to study and evaluate the entire system, rather than just the outfalls that are having the worst problems.

Commissioner Bill Krajewski, who oversees the stormwater system, had proposed having the engineering consultant focus on the 43 outfalls with known problems such as blockages due to debris or tree roots. That way the repair work could start as early as November or December.

“Let’s move as quickly as possible on this,” Krajewski said, to fix the flood-prone areas by the next rainy season.

But Robinson said he wanted to expand the evaluation to include the whole stormwater system citywide, even though it may mean a delay in starting the work. He recommended a “staged evaluation,” which identifies and prioritizes the repair work to be done in stages.

Krouk agreed. “I am absolutely thrilled that we are going to get an engineering study,” she said, “and then let that study dictate what the priorities should be.”

Krajewski said he saw other commissioners’ heads nodding in agreement, and revised his motion to send out a request for quotations on an evaluation of the town’s entire stormwater system. It was approved unanimously.

Ex-town attorney picked as special magistrate

The commission needed to choose a special magistrate, who handles code violation cases for the town, to replace Thomas Trask of the Trask Daigneault legal firm. Trask stepped down as special magistrate when his colleague, Rob Eschenfelder, recently became town attorney for Redington Shores.

The commission picked longtime Town Attorney James Denhardt, who just resigned after serving the town for over 43 years.

Mayor MaryBeth Henderson said Denhardt “knows our town, knows our codes, and knows the history of things around here. I don’t think in a million years we would find someone better suited to be our special magistrate.”

County Park to get ADA beach access mat

County Park in Redington Shores will be getting a Mobi-Mat, which provides a surface that allows beach access for people with disabilities. They not only help people in wheelchairs, but also those with knee or hip complications, or anyone who has a problem walking on an uneven surface. They are also useful for taking children in strollers to the beach.

Former Mayor Jody Armstrong, who is associated with the Disability Achievement Center and other disability organizations, said the county is planning to install the mats on the sand at County Park in Redington Shores. It is one of 13 Pinellas County beach locations that will be getting Mobi-Mats, Armstrong said. They are finishing up work at the Tiki Gardens beach access in Indian Shores, and Redington Shores is next.

“The county really wants to make this a reality,” Armstrong said. They will be getting permits from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP), which takes a long time, she said.

Blackburn has taken the lead on installing Mobi-Mats at Redington Shores.

“We identified that there is plenty of handicapped parking at County Park,” Blackburn said. The county is responsible for the initial site prep, and the town will purchase and maintain the mats.

Armstrong said the Mobi-Mats are very lightweight, easily rolled up and can be cleaned with a leaf blower. They need to be removed every day.