Belleair Bluffs receives $100K donation for playground, park improvement

A $100,000 donation that honors David Berolzheimer, the longtime owner of the Bluffs Plaza shopping center on Indian Rocks Road who died last year, was given to the city of Belleair Bluffs recently.

BELLEAIR BLUFFS — This summer, the city received a $50,000 grant for improvements to the playground next to City Hall. Now, that money has tripled, thanks to “a very generous gift” that honors David Berolzheimer, longtime owner of the Bluffs Plaza shopping center on Indian Rocks Road, who died last year.

City Administrator Debra Sullivan announced the $100,000 contribution at the Nov. 9 City Commission meeting. The money is to be used for playground and park improvements, and raises the total amount of funding for that purpose to $150,000.

The gift was given in Berolzheimer’s name by his longtime companion Bonnie Starr. Sullivan said the gift, added to the grant money, would pay for “a total renovation of our outside area.” She mentioned the possibility of a shuffleboard court, adult exercise and play area, and a gazebo, in addition to items already planned with the original grant. Those include replacing the preschool kids’ equipment and enhancing the older children’s play area as well as the addition of another picnic area.

“This will give us money for a total renovation,” Sullivan said. “We don’t have to piece things together.”

Starr, who described herself as “the messenger” for the gift, said she and Sullivan have discussed what to spend the money on.

“I told her, it could be anything you might need, would like to have and don’t have. I want to help you in that journey of creating something special for the community to enjoy,” Starr said.

Sullivan said she thought of the playground, which Berolzheimer was so fond of, where the money could be added to the grant money.

“We can do something really beautiful,” Sullivan said. “We’ll see what the residents want.”

Starr said the gift is “totally in your hands. Do whatever you like. It’s unrestricted.”

Sullivan, who was emotional to the point of tears in speaking of the gift and benefactor, said, “I am totally amazed at the generosity. We’ve not received anything like this in all my tenure. We’re thrilled to have it and accept it.”

Mayor Chris Arbutine and commission members were also greatly appreciative. Sullivan and Starr’s remarks were followed by applause and expressions of thanks.

The commissioners’ closing comments as the meeting ended focused on Berolzheimer and his $100,000 gift.

“I am so touched by his generosity,” said Commissioner Suzy Sofer. “This is truly leading by example.”

Arbutine said, “Even from heaven, (Berolzheimer) is reaching down and he’s going to make something better.”

Commissioner Taylour Shimkus said to Starr, “Thank you again for remembering us, and for making the children very, very happy.”

Arbutine suggested naming the site Dave Berolzheimer Park, and the other commissioners agreed.

When Arbutine said a memorial plaque would be placed in the park, Starr said, “But keep it small. That’s how he’d want it.”

Mayor, two commissioners running for reelection

Arbutine, along with commissioners Jack Nazario and Shimkus, are up for election in March. All said they are running for reelection. The qualifying period to run for a seat on the commission begins Nov. 30 and ends Dec. 15 at 4 p.m.

Holiday event to be “a little different” this year

The city’s holiday event Dec. 4 will be done “a little different” due to COVID-19 concerns, Sullivan said. The cookies will be baked and “adorably decorated” by a Belleair resident, and individually wrapped. Water and cookies will be served and the “wonderful popcorn stockings” will be supplied by the Bluffs Business Association.

“We’ll still be doing the hayride,” Sullivan said. Singing by a group of youngsters, lighting of the tree, and a visit by Santa will highlight the occasion.

This year, the Holiday Stroll at Antique Alley and the holiday event at the E&E Plaza will all be on the same night as the City Hall event, Dec. 4.

Home deliveries by the city on behalf of Santa will be on Dec. 23 rather than the 24th this year.

New city banners on Indian Rocks Road

New city banners, larger at 3.5 feet-by-4 feet than the current signs on West Bay Drive, are going up on Indian Rocks Road, Sullivan said. They invite residents and visitors to “Dine, Shop, Stroll, and Enjoy” the city.

“They are beautiful and make a great addition,” Sullivan said. The signs “will make our Indian Rocks corridor awesome.”