The town recently completed construction of phase two of the Pinellas/Ponce roadway project, which was a full-scale reconstruction of drainage and roadway systems from Ponce de Leon Boulevard at the roundabout west to Oleander Road and then north to Palmetto Road. Town officials are looking ahead to future infrastructure projects and the best methods to prioritize them.

BELLEAIR — The Belleair Town Commission has agreed to prioritize future road, bridge, and other infrastructure work based on suggestions by engineering consultants McKim & Creed of Clearwater.

The town’s Infrastructure Board agreed that the town needed an updated Capital Improvement Plan and asked the company to develop a roadmap that gives the town a structured and disciplined approach for deciding what to build next and what to pay, said Phil Locke, the town’s engineer of record and senior planner with McKim & Creed.

“The goals that the Infrastructure Board had for us was to develop a structured plan, a disciplined plan, that the town can follow, very clear, Project 1, Project 2, Project 3, along with the costs of those projects,” he said.

Here are the top five of the 16 projects in the new comprehensive plan, the order to be completed, and estimated costs.

1. Ponce de Leon Boulevard from roundabout to Pinellas Trail — $3.24 million

2. Carl Avenue — $1.6 million

3. Indian Rocks Road — Bayview Drive to Belleview Boulevard — $3.42 million

4. Indian Rocks Road — Mehlenbacher Road to Poinsettia Road — $2.82 million

5. Indian Rocks Road — Hunter Bayview to Poinsettia Road — $1.91 million

Commissioner Tom Kurey, in the moments before the commission approved the new 2021 Capital Improvements Plan, suggested some projects may have to be prioritized based on affordability.

“I think it’s a 50%-plus increase on the first four or five projects based on where we thought they’d be before,” Kurey said. “They are going to be hard to finance, so we have to continue to be creative there.”

Town Manager J.P. Murphy told commissioners that once they approve the plan, “we will fully implement it during the budget process.”

In other comments, McKim & Creed said bridges in Belleair are structurally sound and no major foundation work is anticipated over the next 20 years, though work is needed to replace the seawall at Thompson Park.

Citizen donates vehicle for police — again

The Belleair Community Foundation, which has funded the renovation of the police department, bullet-resistant vests, laptops, and other items for the police department, has offered to buy the department a $52,000 metallic grey, 2020 Ford F-150 police pickup.

The unmarked truck, which has police lights and other features, will be used for code enforcement and other law-enforcement activities.

Former Deputy Mayor Karla Rettstatt said one longtime BCF member, Art Hickerson, bought a 2019 F-150 Police Interceptor in January 2020 and wanted to do it again.

“Since then, in this past year, he called again and said he was willing to donate money for another truck,” Rettstatt told commissioners. “He’s amazing, absolutely amazing,” she said.

Mayor Michael Wilkinson thanked the BCF and Hickerson, who was present.

“Thank you doesn’t go far enough,” Wilkinson said.

Shelly estimated that Hickerson has donated as much as $200,000 to the department.

Police Chief Richard Doyle presented Hickerson with a framed photo of the department’s officers and staff around the truck. Each member of the department signed their names to the photo as a way of saying thanks, the chief said.

Town gets water supply update

Additionally, Gerald C. Hartman of Hartman Consultants LLC updated the commission on what it might cost the town to change or maintain its present well-field water supply. Belleair residents are being asked to choose between updating their aging well-field system, build a $12 million reverse osmosis system for the town, or switch to Pinellas County’s water delivery and billing systems.

“Last time we spoke about this in earnest was in January, when we were waiting on Pinellas County to revise their system transfer costs, which were $591,000 at that time,” Murphy said. He said that number was outdated and not accurate. “We’re waiting for that number to be evaluated,” he said.

Each option has its costs and benefits, Hartman told the town commissioners.

Deciding to connect to the county’s water system “will require some education to be done, and I believe needs a lot more discussion with the county, he told commissioners.

Murphy said he asked Hartman to determine the value of Belleair’s present water system because he didn’t want to rely on Pinellas County officials’ estimation of its value during negotiations.

The town’s present system — as of April 30, 2021 — is worth about $3.8 million, Hartman said.

Joining the county’s water system might result in a 13% increase in Belleair residential water bills, Hartman said. Water supply discussions between Belleair and the county “over the past week have accelerated tremendously, and is moving along fairly well,” Hartman said.

Town staff will provide much more detail to town residents as soon as they learn more, Murphy said.