BELLEAIR BLUFFS — The city will likely have a monthly outdoor market, similar to the popular seasonal events held in Clearwater, Dunedin, Indian Shores, Madeira Beach and other communities.
Plans for the market were discussed at the May 17 City Commission meeting, where the commission decided by consensus to move forward with the idea and a timetable that could have it in operation by September.
The market would be held on Sunset Boulevard in front of City Hall, which would be closed off on market day, most likely Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. The location is in the city’s commercial district on Indian Rocks Road, just north of the Bluffs Plaza shopping center.
The outdoor market would be set up and run by Karen Rodowicz, a co-owner of the former JK Flowers on Indian Rocks Road. City Administrator Debra Sullivan said she and Rodowicz were discussing possible city events when the idea of a market came up. She said Rodowicz told her, “I can do that.”
“Karen has a lot of contacts and has run the Clearwater Jazz Festival,” Sullivan said.
Rodowicz said she had done a lot of vendor shows over the years. “I know about running a show and also being a vendor,” she said.
There could be a farmer’s market, along with handcrafted items, plants and a fruit stand, as well as an event stage for entertainment, Rodowicz said. “This would draw a variety of people and bring revenue to the city,” she said. Vendors would be charged a fee to participate.
The reaction from Bonnie Trembulak, President of the Bluffs Business Association, was very positive, said Sullivan.
Commission members were also supportive of an outdoor market.
“Every city that has this gets great turnout. This gets people into the community,” said Commissioner Taylour Shimkus.
Commissioner Suzy Sofer added, “I think it’s great. I’m all for it.”
Mayor Chris Arbutine said an outdoor market “would draw more than normal business to the city.” The Bluffs Business Association could promote in on-line, he said.
“City staff is all for it,” Sullivan said.
After getting a unanimous commission consent to move forward with the outdoor market, Arbutine told Rodowicz to “bring us what it will look like, what you would like us to approve.”
Road improvement projects going strong
The work to repair and improve the residential streets on the east side of Indian Rocks Road, especially on Dolphin Drive, is underway. The roads on the west side of town, where drainage was a big problem, were done several years ago, with help from Southwest Florida Water Management District (Swiftmud) grants.
Now, “The dust and dirt is flying (on the east side), and that’s good,” said Public Works Director Russ Schmader. On Dolphin Drive, the water main installation has been completed, stormwater infrastructure has been installed, and the curbs and pavement are being worked on, Schmader said.
Shimkus, who lives on nearby Southwind Drive, which connects with Dolphin, said she is especially glad to see the work going on and the progress being made.
“This is a huge project,and our staff is out there every day,” Shimkus said. “They start at around 7 a.m., but I don’t mind, because people are working and everybody’s happy about the fact that we’re having another street done.”
The roadwork was badly needed, and “this shows how bad it has gotten,” Shimkus said. “We’re very excited and thankful we have the money to do this and for you to be there,” she told Schmader.
County gas tax agreement approved
The commission unanimously approved an interlocal agreement with the county to allocate funds from a possible increase of 1 to 5 cents per gallon on the price of gasoline. Under the agreement, the county would get 60 percent of the revenue from the tax and the municipalities would share the remaining 40 percent, based on population.
Belleair Bluffs’ share would be 0.12 percent of the total, or about $24,000 a year with a 5-cent per gallon increase, Sullivan said. The city is already getting that amount on the existing Pinellas County gas tax.
“The gas tax affects everybody that drives on our roads and buys our gas,” said Sullivan, “and is a much more opportunistic way for the city to gain revenue without taxing our residents.” The funds go toward roadwork.
Fifty-one percent of the municipalities would have to approve the interlocal agreement before the tax increase can be considered by the county, Sullivan said.
Arbutine said the gas tax is “probably something the county is going to do, and we want to make sure the pre-negotiated portion is going to our city. I don’t agree with the tax increase, but I will vote yes just so we can get the money that comes from it.”
The rest of the commission also voted yes.