BELLEAIR BLUFFS – Change is coming to the city administration, with new positions being created and at least one new face. In reality, city government’s day-to-day functioning will likely change little, as the major player will have a new title with essentially the same job duties, and another key official is already on staff.

Longtime City Clerk Debra Sullivan is poised to become Belleair Bluffs’ first-ever city administrator. The job is similar to a city manager position, but the city’s charter does not allow the commission to appoint a city manager. So, City Attorney Thomas Trask recommended Sullivan be hired as city administrator, though her duties will be very similar, if not identical, to the job description of a city manager.

Actions were taken by the commission at their April 16 regular meeting to create the city administrator position, and appoint Sullivan to fill the job. The commission approved motions to create the city administrator position, approve the job description, and authorize the city attorney and mayor to negotiate an employment agreement with Sullivan as city administrator.

In other action, the commission took steps related to staff positions. They included a motion to revise the job description of the city clerk, the position Sullivan now holds, and also to approve a public works supervisor job description. The city has had no Public Works official since Robert David retired over a year ago. Administrative assistant Alexis Silcox will be named city clerk, Sullivan indicated at last week’s workshop.

Both the city clerk and public works supervisor will report to Sullivan. Sullivan works for the City Commission, headed by Mayor Chris Arbutine.

The commission has said the elevation of Sullivan to city administrator recognizes her for work she has done for years. Her job duties will change little. She said, when the position was discussed at last week’s workshop session, “There is nothing in this job description that I’m currently not doing.”

After all the steps were taken that will let Sullivan become the city administrator, commission members thanked her for taking on the position, and for the job she has done over 16 years as city clerk.

Commissioner Suzy Sofer said the city clerk is “a very, very thankless position.”

“I know, I did it for half a day and it’s always questions and problems,” she said.

Sofer said residents and commission members really put the staff through the wringer.

“Congratulations, Ms. City Administrator,” Commissioner Jack Nazario told Sullivan.

“Thank you so much for your confidence in me,” said Sullivan. “It’s been 16 years (as City Clerk), and I hope to serve a lot longer,” she said.

No more ‘dog beach’

In a surprise announcement, Sullivan said Pinellas County has declared the beach area on the south side of the Causeway Bridge, popularly known as Dog Beach, is now off limits to animals.

Though never an official dog park, the area has for years been known as a place where dog owners could bring their pets to frolic on the sand and in the water. Even before the new bridge was built, Dog Beach was there.

Now, “there are no animals allowed there anymore,” said Sullivan.

Signs have been put up informing beachgoers of the change, she said.

The decision to no longer permit dogs on the beach was the county’s, not Belleair Bluffs’, Sullivan stressed. “We’ve been getting some calls on that,” she said.

Sullivan said when the new bridge was built, amenities such as doggie bag dispensaries and a handicapped-accessible walk were never put in. She said water contamination is bad also, due to dog waste in the shallow water.

So, the county decided to shut it down as a pet-friendly beach.

“That’s unfortunate,” said Commissioner Sofer.

Downed light poles on the bridge will finally be replaced

The light poles on the Causeway Bridge that were knocked down by Hurricane Irma last fall will be replaced, said Commissioner Taylour Shimkus. New poles will be put up in 6 to 10 weeks, she said.

“It’s going to take some time, but we will have new poles for the lights,” Shimkus said.

Realtors compete to market old fire station

The commission heard from three real estate brokers who want to be the Realtor who sells the old fire station property on Indian Rocks Road. The city has had a lot of interest from potential buyers, Sullivan has said, and each Realtor appeared eager to be chosen as the city’s agent. Its value has been estimated at anywhere from half a million to just under a million dollars.

The commission will pick from Brian Andrus of Stonebridge Realty, Clearwater; Kelly Montgomery-Kepler of Engel & Volkers, or John Skicewicz of Coldwell Banker Commercial Real Estate. Both Kepler and Skicewicz have offices in Belleair Bluffs.

The Realtor candidates were recommended by an attorney specializing in real estate who works for City Attorney Thomas Trask’s law firm.

The three made presentations to the commission.

Kepler and Skicewicz stressed their local connections, while Andrus said he had a lot of experience marketing “different types of properties.”

The old fire station is “a unique property” of a type not often offered for sale, Andrus said, adding, “It’s a romantic idea, owning a fire house.” He also said he would leave the building unpriced, and “let the market set the price.”

Kepler said she had “talked about the old fire station with a lot of people,” and had a lot of enquiries about it.

“I want to come up with that right buyer with the right vision of what the city is looking for,” she said.

Skicewicz said his office is right across from the old fire station. He sells properties up and down West Bay Drive, and has experience selling different types of commercial properties.

“We do a lot of different things,” he said.

Skicewicz said he considers the end use as important as the money when marketing this type of commercial real estate.

“It has to fit into the community,” he said.