BELLEAIR — The deal to lease an acre of town-owned land to the Belleair Country Club was unanimously approved by the Town Commission on Aug. 4.
At the previous commission meeting, the specifics of the agreement were discussed at length. Over the 30-year term of the lease, the town will receive just over a million dollars from the club. In exchange, the club gets a piece of land overlooking Clearwater Harbor along the bluff. The club will build a new hole on the site, one which club official Hal Bodley once described as comparable to the No. 7 hole at the famous Pebble Beach Golf Course in California.
Bodley thanked the commissioners for their approval Aug. 4.
“It has been a long process,” he said. “We first asked about this in May 2017 and to say there have been a few bumps in the road would be putting it mildly. We needed to make sure it would be a win-win for everybody, and I think we achieved that.”
“It has been a dream come true for us. We will be dedicated caretakers of this land and we will make you proud,” he said.
As part of the deal, the club will, at its own expense, replace and maintain the seawall around the property that is adjacent to Hallett Park along the bluff.
Debris dumping area
The town has reached an agreement with the city of Largo to use some land for dumping storm debris in the event of a hurricane this season. The land is one and a half acres at Eighth Avenue and West Bay Drive.
During Hurricane Irma about three years ago, the town was able to use land provided by the Pelican Golf Club, which was under renovation at the time. That meant that the contractors responsible for picking up debris didn’t have to waste time driving it to a distant landfill site. Instead, they could stay in town and got the job done much quicker.
According to Town Manager J.P. Murphy, the land in Largo is just a seven-minute drive away.
Largo is not charging Belleair for the use of the site. The town will be able to use the land for 90 days after any storm.
“I’m happy that Largo was on board with this,” said Murphy. “We will pay all costs and any restoration work that might need to be done.”
The town will be reimbursed by FEMA for whatever costs are involved.
Flag football out
After much discussion, it was decided to cancel the fall season of flag football at the Rec Center. Recreation Director Ricky Allison asked commissioners to weigh in on a plan he had to resume flag football in the weeks ahead. The summer season had already been canceled because of the coronavirus.
Allison said in order to have a fall season, changes would have to be made to the structure of play so the children could be safe. That included limiting the number of fans and those that do go would have to wear masks.
He also warned that in order to have flag football the town would have to break its own rule about resuming the season.
“We had decided that we would not resume any play until Phase 3 of the reopening was in effect,” he said. “Right now we are in Phase 2.”
As discussion took place, it quickly became obvious that the commissioners were not in favor of the idea.
Commissioner Tom Shelly wondered if they could put off a decision for a month until they knew more about where the pandemic stood. Allison said he needed an answer right away in order to have time to make it happen before the holidays.
Vice Mayor Karla Rettstatt expressed her doubts clearly.
“If you want an answer tonight, I would say no,” she said. “I might say different in three weeks. Florida is hot right now.”
Commissioners Shelly, Tom Kurey and Michael Wilkinson also expressed doubt about having a season before the spring.
Rettstatt, who chaired the meeting in place of the absent Mayor Gary Katica, put an end to the discussion.
“It is obvious how we all feel,” she said. “So why should we wait for a future meeting, let’s vote now.”
They voted unanimously in favor of not having flag football this season.
Basketball had already been canceled. Allison said the fact that it is played indoors made it impossible to ensure the children’s safety.
The long-awaited renovations to the public bathrooms at the Town Hall are about to happen.
Commissioners voted unanimously to award the contract to upgrade the facilities to the contracting firm of Specialized Property Services of Tampa. The company won the bid over four other companies. Their bid was just under $75,000.
Murphy said he was pleased to be able to finally make it happen.
“We have been through two budget cycles trying to get this done,” he said. “We have been talking about it for five or six years.”
Rettstatt wanted assurances that touchless fixtures and dryers would be used in the upgrade. She was told the town will make it happen.
The Aug. 13 budget workshop will be in person at Town Hall.
Since COVID-19 restrictions were put in place in March, the town has held meetings using Zoom. For the budget, Deputy Mayor Rettstatt said she wanted it to be held face to face where people can be better involved in the discussion.
Murphy said he could make it happen by spacing out chairs in the meeting room. He said staff might have to wait outside until they were called so as not to take up valuable space from the public. Zoom will also be used for people who cannot get into the meeting or who may feel uncomfortable about attending in person.