Belleair Beach dune walkovers being replaced

Belleair Beach will be replacing beach walkovers such as this one at 2900 Gulf Blvd. that is covered with sand. Four walkovers will be completely reconstructed and elevated to protect the sand dunes and beach vegetation.

BELLEAIR BEACH — This mostly residential beachfront city will be spending more than $100,000 to provide better protection for its beach vegetation and to give residents an environmentally friendly access to its prized beaches.

City Manager Lynn Rives announced at the Oct. 5 City Council meeting that the city’s four beach access/walkovers are being replaced.

Rives said the walkovers have become buried in sand over the years and “we’ll pull all that out.” An information memo on the project said, “The four walkovers will be completely reconstructed to provide the necessary clearance over the sand dune.”

Rives also said the county is paying $50,000, or nearly half, of the $108,000 cost.

Keeping the beach walkovers in good condition is important for environmental reasons. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection encourages elevated walkovers “to prevent disruption to vegetation and the coastal ecosystem from foot traffic.”

Belleair Beach has seen its dunes build up as the beach vegetation has grown over the past decade, which is beneficial for erosion control and promoting sea turtle nesting.

Keeping the beach walkovers in good condition is also important to the many residents who live on the east side of Gulf Boulevard and must use the beach accesses, or Morgan Park, to get to the beach.

Mayor Joseph Manzo said the city has been talking about doing the beach walkover restoration and replacement for some time “and I’m glad to see it coming to fruition.”

Drainage improvement project continues

The city will be spending over $300,000 for drainage improvements on Seventh and Eighth streets and Harbor Drive. The work includes new outfalls and pipes, replacing inlets with new graded inlets to reduce water infiltration. Rives said the pipes sometimes clog up from water coming in at high tide.

There will also be some roadway resurfacing and curb replacement, as needed.

The council gave a unanimous approval to award a bid for the project, which Rives said would begin in three to four weeks.

The city is spending nearly $4 million to control flooding, which is a major problem. Similar work on First and Second streets and Fifth and Sixth streets has been completed. The areas are all considered highly flood-prone locations. Rives said 12th and 13th streets will be next.

Residents will begin paying a $15 monthly fee, which will be added to their utility bills starting this month, to help pay for the stormwater/road improvement projects.

City-sponsored garage sale is off

The next citywide garage sale, scheduled for Nov. 7, has been canceled because of coronavirus concerns. The sale is normally done twice a year, in the spring and fall.

Residents can still hold their own garage sale on that date if they want, “we’re just not involved,” Manzo said.

The council was divided at first on whether to go forward with the garage sale, which is usually handled as a routine event by Rives. But Manzo said because “it’s a different time” during the pandemic, he wanted the council to be involved in deciding whether to hold the event.

Council member Jody Shirley said, “The date’s set, let it go. I don’t think we should change it at this point.”

But Council member Marv Behm advocated against having it this year. “It’s too risky,” he said.

Council member Robyn Ache, a medical doctor, said, “This is advertised by the city and attracts large crowds. We should not encourage large crowds. I say no.”

Rives came up with the solution to drop the city-sponsored event and just let individuals hold a garage sale if they want. “Anybody can have one,” he said. “We just won’t be involved.”

All council members agreed by consensus.

Replacement of City Hall sign

The sign in front of City Hall has been damaged and must be replaced, Rives said. The Communication Advisory Committee recommended going with a digital sign, an upgrade from the existing standard sign. Rives said he has gotten complaints from people that the current sign is hard to read.

After much discussion, Council decided to get bids on both a digital sign and a conventional non-digital sign.

Several council members recalled there was controversy over a proposal several years ago to convert the city’s sign to digital and place it on the corner of Gulf Boulevard and the causeway.

Manzo said he was concerned that some people may also object to a digital sign at City Hall, because it is in a residential neighborhood, and he wanted to make sure residents are able to give their input before the city makes a decision on the sign.

Rives said he would get bids for both sign types, and present drawings and product information to the council.