BELLEAIR BEACH — After a 10-plus-year wait, and months of preparation, the undergrounding of utilities in the city’s Belleair Estates Island neighborhood is finally happening.
“I have some good news,” said City Manager Lynn Rives at the April 1 City Council meeting. “If you go north of the city (at the marina), you’ll see some big spools of conduit. Starting in the next week or so, you’re going to see things happening with that for the residents of Bellevue Estates Island.”
What will be happening is that workers will begin placing the conduit underground, the first step in the undergrounding process. The conduit is a protective “pipeline” that contains the utility wires and cables. It will be laid throughout the Bellevue Estates neighborhood, and each of the houses will get an underground connection to the utilities. When that process is complete, the new underground service will be turned on, and finally the old overhead wires will be removed.
The new streetlights will be solar, with no electricity costs, and no power outages during storms.
Rives said after the meeting that the spools of conduit signify that “the construction phase of the project is about to begin.”
In another utility undergrounding action, the council approved spending just over $180,000 for the installation of utility meter boxes. Rives said that is “the final piece needed” to get the connection to the 60 or so homes that have overhead wires.
The amount being spent is about $100,000 under budget, Rives said. The money is all coming out of the assessment that the Bellevue Estates residents are paying, Rives added.
The undergrounding of utilities has been a decade long effort for the Bellevue Estates Island residents. They have said from the beginning they are willing to bear the cost of the project.
Early last year, council member Glenn Gunn made a presentation on the safety, reliability and beautification benefits of utility undergrounding. He was then one of the residents who led the group demanding the implementation of the undergrounding project. Once he and others were elected to council, they have pushed to get the approvals necessary to undertake the work.
Now, with the construction phase getting started, they are seeing the dream of their neighborhood free of unsightly overhead electric wires about ready to come true.
Mayor wants more community events
Newly elected Mayor Joseph Manzo said he wants to see more events that involve the residents in the community.
“We need to get the community back into the Community Center,” Manzo said.
Other cities are doing community events, Manzo said. At a recent Suncoast League of Cities meeting he attended, along with council member Robin Ache, Manzo said officials from other local communities talked about having car shows, street festivals and other events.
“We have a garage sale,” he said.
If Belleair Beach “wants to be a premier community, we’ve got to do better than a garage sale,” Manzo said.
The events “should fit our city,” he stressed.
“Something small like car shows or a jazz festival outside, not like they do in Clearwater, but something that could get maybe 20 people, or game night, things like that,” Manzo said. “Something to get the citizens involved,”
Manzo said he had recently challenged the Parks and Recreation Board to come up with some ideas for community events. Council member Rita Swope said a social committee could be set up to plan such activities.
Regardless of who is responsible for them, Manzo said citywide events are needed.
“They bring the community together,” he said.