Belleair hopes to get state funding for road, water projects

The town is seeking help from state legislators to fund improvements to north Palmetto Road. Shown is Palmetto Road looking south near the intersection of Bayview Drive.

BELLEAIR — Town commissioners are seeking support from state lawmakers this year to fund a road project and water system study as part of their 2019 legislative priorities.

Included are roadway and drainage improvements for the north end of Palmetto Road. The town is seeking $481,000 for the work.

Both state Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, and Nick DiCeglie, R-Indian Rocks Beach, have offered to sponsor the request for funding, said Town Manager J.P. Murphy at the commission’s Feb. 5 meeting.

“So, we will try to fight for the first time in the legislative appropriations process and see what we learn,” he said.

The road project is considered critical to improving Belleair’s infrastructure. Palmetto has reached such a point of degradation that it has caused flooding, structural problems and safety issues.

With the town’s resources, only small segments of the roadway can be rebuilt at a time, a town report says, resulting in a backlog of projects.

Residents have complained many times at meetings about the condition of the road, demanding that it be rebuilt.

The town plans to reconstruct the roadway this year, including the removal of all damaged infrastructure, from the sub base of the road to the top asphalt layer and drainage routes.

By rebuilding Palmetto Road, town officials expect to improve transportation conditions substantially by reducing the amount of flooding as well as producing a stable road.

The project also is expected to reduce the amount of pollutants and contaminants in nearby waterways.

Belleair’s Capital Improvements plans needs includes 10 years’ worth of infrastructure and roadway projects totaling more than $30 million. The town does not receive any assistance in maintenance or capital construction costs from the county, state and federal governments, the report says.

Bids are expected to be discussed soon for work affecting the south end of Palmetto Road.

Town officials also are seeking legislators’ assistance to obtain funding for a water system project. To increase the quality of potable water for residents, the town is seeking a grant for a pilot test of a reserve osmosis system, which, essentially, is a water filtration process.

The study is considered essential for improving water quality and understanding the true cost of operating a reverse osmosis system. Because of Belleair’s proximity to Clearwater Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, saltwater intrusion in groundwater in the wellfield has been steadily increasing over time.

Concerns are that water quality will deteriorate to the degree that it no longer meets potable standards.

The study is expected to identify considerations to construct a reverse osmosis system that will operate at the maximum efficiency with the lowest costs while providing the highest drinking water quality available.

The average cost of three quotes received for the pilot test is $117,000. Town officials are also seeking help from Brandes and DiCeglie to obtain funding for the work.

Commissioners approved the legislative priorities for this year. Transportation and infrastructure funding is the town’s top legislative priority for this year. Other priorities include protection of home rule, funding for water supply and support for the Florida League of Cities and Suncoast League of Cities legislative agendas.

Along those lines, commissioners agreed Feb. 5 to hire H. Lee Moffitt, a former speaker of the state House of Representatives, to be their legislative consultant this year. Moffitt’s bid was $38,000. The town manager and attorney will negotiate a contract with him.

Murphy said the legislative consultant is needed to follow up with the funding requests and “have some boots on the ground in Tallahassee.”

In other news

• Police Chief Rick Doyle said burglary suppression has been an issue of concern and presented statistics showing a huge decrease in burglaries in the past year.

From Nov. 1, 2016, to Feb. 5, 2017, the town had 22 reported burglaries. From November 2017 to February 2018, they had 27 and from November 2018 to February 2019 they had two.

Doyle said he has seen an increase in field interview reports on evening and midnight shifts, in which officers are stopping more people and getting their information.

“Basically, if they have no business here, they don’t need to be here,” Doyle said. “I can’t prove it, but I think that has a direct correlation with the reduction in what we are seeing.”

• Mike Hansen was sworn in as a new police officer. He will be working part time.

Hansen has more than 25 years as a Baltimore police officer and detective specializing in crimes against children, interrogations, narcotics and criminal background investigations.

A former U.S. Army military police officer, Hansen is an advanced open water diver, rescue diver and dive master.

He was born in the Philippines and is fluent in Tagalog, the Philippine language.

• Murphy recently received the credentialed manager designation from the International City/County Management Association based in Washington, D.C.

Murphy is one of over 1,300 local government management professionals currently credentialed through the ICMA Voluntary Credentialing Program.

Murphy is qualified by 10 years of professional local government executive experience, an ICMA news release said.

Prior to his appointment in 2016 as town manager of Belleair, he served as the assistant town manager in Belleair.

To receive the ICMA credential, a member must have significant experience as a senior management executive in local government; have earned a degree, preferably in public administration or a related field and demonstrated a commitment to high standards of integrity, professional ethics and to lifelong learning and professional development.