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Madeira Beach Mayor John Hendricks presents Commissioner Nancy Hodges with a plaque honoring her for 10 years of service as a commissioner. Hodges is not running for reelection. 

MADEIRA BEACH — Kickoff of a new road improvement project, likely costing around $5 million in total, was approved by the City Commission at its March 9 meeting.

The project is part of the city’s Capital Improvement Plan, and includes East Parsley, West Parsley and Marguerite drives, Lynn Way, and A and B streets.

The work to be done includes replacing the stormwater mains and curbs, plus milling and resurfacing the roads.

The commission also accepted a $549,000 grant from the Florida Department of Transportation for the project.

Mayor John Hendricks said he had just learned there is also another million dollars in grant money coming from the state to be used for local road projects. Hendricks said the grants were obtained with the help of state Rep. Linda Chaney, who he has praised before for her assistance in getting grant funding for city projects.

In a 4 to 1 vote, the commission agreed to pay the Deuel and Associates engineering firm $165,000 to provide design work, surveying, engineering, permitting and construction planning for the project. The “no” vote came from Hendricks, who objected to a line in the proposal letter from Deuel that said, “Any item not specifically stated in items 1-5 will be billed at our previously provided (hourly) fee schedule.”

Hendricks said the city had a problem with Deuel in the past when they presented the city with an invoice for “a half million dollars where they charged us for every phone call and every email. They nickel-and-dimed us to death. The bill was astronomical.”

Public Works Director Megan Wepfer told Hendricks, “I can assure you that won’t happen this time. The purchase order will be worded ‘Not to Exceed $165,000,’ and they will have to come back to the city on any overages.”

Work on the road improvement project is scheduled to begin in April with surveying, Wepfer said. Bids for construction will be received in August or September, with the actual work starting in November.

Completion time for the project is estimated to be two years. City Manager Robin Gomez said the numbers in the Capital Improvement Plan are very rough estimates at this point, but a more precise cost will be determined in the coming months.

City buys first electric vehicles

The commission agreed to buy two electric vehicles, for the building and code enforcement departments.

“With gas prices high and trade-in values high, this is a great opportunity for us to be able to step forward in going green,” said building official Frank DeSantis. He said the city got a good price by using an agreement with the Florida Sheriff’s Association to make the purchases.

The two vehicles are a Ford F-150 truck to be used by the building department and a Ford Mustang for code enforcement.

DeSantis said he got very good prices on the trade-ins for both vehicles. He will get $24,500 for his truck, which he purchased for $27,300 in 2015; and $14,000 for the car, which he bought in 2018 for $17,000.

Total cost of the two vehicles, less trade-in amounts, is $56,000.

The economics of electric vs. gas are impressive, DeSantis said. Operating cost per mile is 6 cents for electric vehicles vs. 34 cents for gas, he said, with the cost of an electric charge one-tenth the cost of a gas fill-up.

Commissioner Helen “Happy” Price said she didn’t like the idea of purchasing a Mustang for code enforcement because of its “sports car” image.

“I don’t like it, and I’ve heard from a lot of people who don’t like it,” Price said.

But DeSantis said the Mustang the city is buying is a four-door hatchback. He showed pictures to the commissioners, and Price said, “It looks pretty sexy to me.”

The vote was 4-1, with Price opposed, to buy the two electric vehicles along with a charging station.

Derelict boats removed

Gomez said he had good news to report about the Pinellas County Sheriff’s two-week old program to remove derelict and abandoned boats around the county, including the bay waters off Madeira Beach.

The effort has been very successful, the city manager said, with 22 local boats being removed so far. The original plan called for removal of 7 boats, then 12, then 16, and now it’s up to 22, he said.

“We have received comments from residents and others who are very excited this has happened,” Gomez said, “and we are very grateful for the Sheriff to proceed with that program.”

Going forward, boats identified as derelict will be tagged by the Sheriff’s marine unit, and the owners will be given 21 days to remove them. If they do not, the boat will be removed and destroyed by the Sheriff’s Office.

Sheriff Bob Gualtieri has said the removal program is well worth the cost because the abandoned boats are a danger to the public.

Hodges honored

The meeting was chaired by Commissioner Nancy Hodges at the invitation of Hendricks to honor her 10 years of service as a commissioner. She chose not to run for reelection this year.