Gary Katica

Gary Katica

BELLEAIR — Mayor Gary Katica, ailing from Parkinson’s disease, will remain mayor until his term ends in March, when Michael Wilkinson, who ran opposed for the office, becomes mayor.

The Town Commission is debating whether to connect to Pinellas County’s water supply and billing system or build a new water system for the town. The city charter requires all five commission members to vote on whether to close down a city department.

The commission had considered replacing the mayor with a temporary commission member so it would have that supermajority, but that’s no longer necessary. Because the county is struggling with its COVID-19 vaccination rollout and other business, it has temporarily postponed further water talks with the county. Therefore, the commission vote won’t happen until after Katica’s term ends in March.

Town extends country club deal

The Town Commission voted to give Belleair Country Club more time to review bids and other documents before continuing with its plan to build a new addition to the course, known as the Waterfall West project.

In exchange for a 90-day extension that lasts until April 7, the club has agreed to let the city keep $60,000 of the $350,000 refundable deposit the city received from club owners in July, Town Manager JP Murphy said.

It is the club’s second request for an extension. Club attorney David Phillips told city commissioners Dec. 15 that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had found arrowheads and other native American artifacts on the site, which put the work on hold. The commission granted him until Jan. 7 to evaluate an Army Corps report on whether the land contained any burial grounds or other archeology that might complicate the project.

Phillips told the commission at its Jan. 5 regular meeting — two days before the Jan. 7 deadline — that the Army Corps voiced no issues, but the club asked for more time to review bids. Phillips assured the commission that the club will continue with the project in spite of the speed bumps. In addition to the original 120-day inspection period, the club has until August to obtain permits and clear — after which they can walk away from the project. But commissioners and Phillips have repeatedly assured each other that they are dedicated to fulfilling the plan. The latest agreement puts that money in Belleair’s coffers for public use, said Deputy Mayor Karla Rettstatt.

“We’ve committed to the residents, that we’re going to put X-number of dollars in our parks,” she said.

New vehicles approved

The commission is leasing a fleet of light-duty pickup trucks under a program that saves the town a lot of money, Murphy said.

The town has purchased a 2020 Ford Explorer SUV at a cost of $36,097, sales records show. The rest of the fleet includes 11 Chevy Silverado 1500s and one Ford F-350 with a 9-foot dump body.

Murphy put the annual cost at $22,851, or about $110,000 for five years. However, because the city could raise $100,000 auctioning off its older vehicles, “the program is nearly self-supporting without additional funding from the general fund,” Murphy told the commission.

The town began leasing vehicles through Enterprise Fleet Management in 2020. The leasing company uses analytics to help the town select trucks with the best rebate and resale value.

“Used pickup trucks are in demand,” he said.

Commission OKs multi-jurisdiction coordination

Belleair Police Chief Richard Doyle presented the city with a combined mutual aid agreement that allows the department to coordinate responses with other jurisdictions, such as the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Department, neighboring police departments in Clearwater and Largo, as well as non-contiguous departments, including Gulfport and Kenneth City.

“Belleair has had one for many years with each contiguous jurisdiction,” Doyle said. “It allows for any surrounding agency to aid and assist the other and gives us the authority to perform law enforcement actions in each other’s jurisdictions.”

The agreement authorizes each police department to request and/or provide law enforcement assistance to the other in homicides, sex offenses, robberies, assaults, burglaries, larcenies, gambling, motor vehicle thefts, drug violations and other crimes. The various police departments can also provide backup services during patrol activities and participate in inter-agency task forces and other joint investigations.

A key provision in the agreement states: “Whenever a law enforcement officer from one jurisdiction views a felony or a misdemeanor occurring in the jurisdiction of another cooperating agency, the law enforcement officer may physically arrest the perpetrator and preserve the crime scene.”

Proceeds from forfeitures and fines are to be shared equally among responding department and the department having original jurisdiction.

Doyle thanks Belleair Community Foundation

The Belleair Community Foundation was created in 2013 to “encourage, support, and enhance the lifestyles of the residents of the town of Belleair.” According to Doyle, who honored the foundation at the commission meeting, the BCF as raised more than $1 million supporting more than 40 police and community projects.

The commission formally recognized the foundation for helping the town in big ways in 2020, including:

• Sponsoring the Blues, Brews & BBQ fundraiser for the Belleair Police Department. The money has paid for police vehicles, bulletproof vests, radios, flashlights, and other vital equipment throughout the year, Doyle said.

• Paying for the renovation and furnishing of the Belleair Police Department squad room and locker rooms in December.

• Installing a beverage vending machine in the John J. Osborne Public Works Building and paying for its refreshments.

• Sponsoring and installing holiday lights and decorations for Doyle and Pat Wall parks.

• Hosting Dogs and Donuts, Blues, Brews & BBQ, the 2020 Grads Parade, Christmas at the Parks, and other community events.

• Sponsoring employee recognition programs.

Commission notes top employees for 2020

The town named Darrell “DP” Perry as City Employee of 2020, and the following with top departmental awards:

Robyn Lopez, Support Services Department; Detective James Rudd, Belleair Police Department; Kelly Flowers, Recreation Department; Scott Meyer, Public Works; Adolphus Merricks, Solid Waste; and Jeffrey Campbell, Water Department.

The town also named employees with public service qualities, called Core Value Award Winners.

Neighborly: Vic Tikkanen; Empathetic: Terry Depasquale; Diligent: Ed Luttmann; and a second Diligent award to Adolphus Merricks.

Doyle named Officer Kevin Sheldon Rookie of the Year, and honored Officer Joe Torch with an Excellence in Leadership awards.