BELLEAIR BEACH — Shortly after being elected this March, Mayor Joseph Manzo said he wanted to see more events that involve the residents of the community. He had attended a Suncoast League of Cities meeting where officials from other communities talked about doing car shows, street festivals, seasonal happenings and other events.
“We have a garage sale,” he said. “If Belleair Beach wants to be a premier community, we have to do better than that.”
At the July 1 City Council meeting, the city’s Park and Recreation Board answered the mayor’s challenge. Board chairwoman June VanScoyoc announced a year of events and happenings on a scale not seen in the city for years, if at all.
Coming in September this year will be a Fall Festival, featuring an entertainment group, demonstrations by police and fire units including K-9 dogs, a bounce house or slide and a dunk tank for council members.
That will be followed by Trunk or Treat, a Halloween event with a creative costume parade for kids. The year wraps up with a Christmas holiday event with Santa.
A car show is also part of the schedule.
VanScoyoc said the goal is for the events to be self-funded. She and others have reached out to local businesses for sponsorships to make that happen. A budget of $6,000 is being requested for the coming fiscal year, but VanScoyoc said she hopes that will not be needed.
Manzo commended VanScoyoc and the Park Board members for the planned events.
“This is my challenge come to life. It’s way beyond what I ever intended,” he said.
The council unanimously approved the four scheduled events and directed the Park Board to go forward with plans for soliciting sponsors.
Sewage problem being addressed by county
Manzo and City Manager Lynn Rives jointly announced a solution that could end a longstanding problem with sewage-contaminated flooding on 7th Street.
The problem, Manzo said, is an antiquated lift station that pumps sewage to the county’s processing site. It is unable to handle the overflow that occurs during major storm events such as heavy rains, tropical storms or hurricanes. During those times, jet trucks are brought in that “pump 24/7” to help control the flooding. During Hurricane Irma, “sewage was floating down 7th Street,” Manzo said.
That situation is unacceptable, Manzo said, so after being elected mayor he and VanScoyoc began contacting county commissioners in search of a solution. Manzo said he and Rives recently met with county officials and came back with an agreement where the county will spend about $2 million to install a pipe that will take sewage from Belleair Beach to the main pump station for the area, which is in Indian Rocks Beach.
That is due to happen next year, Rives said. Rives also said the contract for the project has been approved.
“That sewage treatment equipment is going to get fixed, and couple that with the work we’re going to do on the flooding, I think 7th Street is going to cease to be a big problem for us in the future,” Manzo said.
Finance director is leaving
Melanie Kruszona, the city’s finance director since 2006, has announced she is leaving. Kruszona told the Bee she has accepted what she described as “a really good opportunity where there is a lot of room for growth and where I will be making a lot more money.”
Kruszona said she loves her work at Belleair Beach, but the new job “is absolutely perfect for me.” Kruszona said she will remain in the public sector, in government, but declined to be more specific until her contract is finalized.
Kruszona was praised by Manzo, who told her at the commission meeting, “Your work is excellent. I appreciate your doing it and I wish you the best in your career.”
“Thank you so much for your service,” said council member Robin Ache.
The city is apparently looking to outsource the finance director job. The council considered a resolution “to authorize the City Manager to negotiate an agreement for accounting services.” The vote was delayed to the budget meeting on July 8. Rives said a temporary firm would be hired, and “within six months we will go out for bids” on the job.
Dedicated budget/finance committee backed
Vice Mayor Glenn Gunn said the city needs to reconsider a proposal by Manzo to establish a committee dedicated to budget and financial issues.
The need is critical, Gunn said. He warned the city’s expenses are increasing faster than revenues. Money is being taken out of reserves to fund capital projects, Gunn said, and that is occurring at a rate that will nearly deplete the reserve fund by 2024.
Pay and benefits are another big issue, Gunn said.
“We need to reduce expenses and increase revenues, and proactively seek grants,” Gunn said.
He said a dedicated budget and finance committee is needed to do trend analysis and forecasting and to look at “how we are going to address some of these shortfalls.” He asked that specifics for forming the committee be addressed at the city’s next budget workshop.