BELLEAIR BEACH — Planned upgrades for Bayside Park will get a big assist from a $200,000 grant the city has received from the federal government for park improvements.
City Manager Lynn Rives announced the grant award at the Dec. 2 City Council meeting.
Rives said Belleair Beach’s application to receive a portion of $3.8 million in federal grant money had ranked second of all the submissions in the state. The improvements include a new boardwalk, renovation of the playground and tennis courts, a bocce ball court, exercise equipment, a bike rack and public restrooms.
The grant requires the city match the money awarded.
“They pay half of what we spend,” Rives said. “We have to spend the money first to get the (reimbursement) money.”
Rives also said the city must respond within 30 days whether they want the grant, and, if so, will then get a notice to proceed in 6 to 8 months. So, Rives said, it will be late summer before the project can begin. The funds would be budgeted in the 2020-2021 fiscal year. Spending can be spread over three years, Rives said.
Rives said the city received points for the items requested in the grant application. Some council members had concerns the restrooms could attract homeless people, but Rives said restrooms “are worth a lot of points” in ranking the grant application. The city could lose those points if the restrooms were eliminated.
Council Member Jody Shirley wanted to know if the city could choose which improvements they want to move forward with. Rives said he would check on that.
Council Member Dave Gattis said the grant is “a win for the city, and now it’s up to us and the Finance Committee to see if we can actually afford it.”
The cost of the park improvements includes not only paying for the initial installation but also the ongoing expense of maintaining them, said Vice Mayor Glenn Gunn. He recommended the city’s Finance Committee take a look at the overall cost of accepting the grant.
Park Board chairwoman June VanScoyoc, who signed up corporate sponsors to help pay for the city’s recent Fall Festival, said that could be an option to finance the city’s portion of the park improvements. She said she could do some further research on pursuing that option and present it to the Finance Committee.
The council voted unanimously to execute the agreement for the $200,000 grant for Bayside Park improvements. Members agreed agreed to wait for the Finance Committee to do its review before actually committing funds to the project.
“This is a really big thing for us,” said Mayor Joseph Manzo. “This is one of the biggest grants we’ve seen in a long time.”
City treasurer appointed
The council voted to appoint Andrew Tess, a contracted employee, as treasurer. The position has been open since former Finance Director Melanie Kruszona resigned last July. Tess and his associate had been handling the city’s financial affairs on an interim basis, and this makes it permanent, said Manzo.
Rives said he was very satisfied with the job Tess and his associate are doing.