BELLEAIR — Town commissioners unanimously approved the details surrounding the refinancing of the town’s multimillion-dollar infrastructure loan Nov. 5.
The money is to pay for the road and drainage work that has been going on for the last three years.
The town had borrowed $10 million for the infrastructure work that had to be done. At the time, commissioners lamented that over the years there was no plan in place for the upkeep of the underground pipes and the drainage system. In addition, the town’s streets were crumbling and there was no money in reserve to pay for the fix.
As time went on, some commissioners, notably Tom Kurey, complained about the pace of the projects. He pointed out that with interest rates falling it might be prudent to refinance the loan and add more on to more quickly get the work done. That is what happened.
Refinancing was done on the $8 million left from the original loan and another $4.6 million was added to it. Interest rates had dropped from 3.61% to 2.46%. The refinancing of the original amount means a saving of $550,000, according to Town Manager J.P. Murphy.
It will cost the town $970,000 annually to pay off the loan by the due date of 2034.
Murphy says apart from using some of the money for improvements to Belleair Creek, all the money will go to road and drainage work.
Police agreement approved
Commissioners unanimously approved the contract for the town’s police department, represented by the Fraternal Order of Police.
The agreement deals with pension and retirement benefits and shift differentials. Officers will get an additional 5% when working the evening shift and 10% when working the overnight shift.
The collective bargaining agreement had already been approved by the FOP members.
Fire chief report
Largo’s new fire chief, Chad Pittman, gave his first report to the commission. Belleair has a contract with Largo to provide fire service. Pittman began by introducing himself.
“I am a lifelong resident of Pinellas County,” he said. “I was born in Tarpon Springs and still live there.”
Pittman spent 26 years with the Special Fire District in Palm Harbor and rose to the position of deputy chief. A year ago, he applied for the position of chief in Largo and got the job.
He indicated that there was an average of 150 medical calls each month in the Belleair area and said the response time goal of seven minutes or less was met every time. He said in all the stations in Largo respond to 27,000 medical calls in the city.
In other news
• The commission agreed to proclaim Nov. 9 as Henry B. Plant Day in Belleair.
On that day, the Daughters of the American Revolution were expected to unveil a plaque at the Belleview Inn.
It was back in 1897 that Plant built the Belleview Hotel. The hotel subsequently hosted thousands of tourists to the area from the north. It also hosted many celebrities and presidents.
• Commissioners unanimously agreed to appoint resident Tom Kane to the board of trustees for the town’s police officer retirement plan. Kane will serve a two-year term and was appointed to fill the vacancy left by the resignation of Mayor Gary Katica from the board.
• Katica also paid tribute to veterans at the end of the meeting. He wore a special Air Force/Korean War veterans hat during the meeting.
“I wear this hat only in the month of November,” he said. “It is an emotional time for me.”