BELLEAIR BEACH – The city’s largest recreational park will get only needed repairs to the basketball court, leaving everything else pretty much as is, at least for the near future.
The City Council decided at their June 4 meeting to reject for the present expensive upgrade options for Bayside Park, costing from just over $600,000 to more than $1 million. The proposed improvements included extensive landscaping, a new boardwalk and walkways, new playground and exercise equipment, bocce ball, parking area renovations and more. The most extensive, and expensive, concept added a gazebo, amphitheater and restrooms.
City Manager Lynn Rives said grant money could be available to help pay for the park improvements. But the grants require matching funds from the city in most cases, and that would still involve spending hundreds of thousands of dollars, he said.
Some council members liked certain improvements. Council Member Jody Shirley said restrooms were a good idea, and more picnic facilities. Council Member Wanda Schwerer liked the boardwalk along the waterfront.
But Council Member Glen Gunn said any decision on the proposed upgrades to Bayside Park should be tabled until council heard from representatives of the city’s Parks and Recreation Board.
“I would like to hear from the representatives of the Park and Recreation Board. What is their recommendation? What’s the big picture? What’s the plan?” Gunn said.
Rives said the Park Board has said they favor Concept A, which was the least expensive of three options proposed by Copley Design Associates. He said that at their last meeting the Park Board recommended putting in playground equipment to replace some that had been removed for safety reasons and definitely fixing the basketball court. Concept A calls for enhancements to the park but leaves the site “pretty much as is,” Rives said.
While less costly than other alternatives, the estimated total construction cost of Concept A is $623,975.
The council decided for now to repair the basketball court, which Rives said is unsafe, at a cost of about $25,000. That work involves taking out the old, cracked concrete and laying new concrete, and removing a nearby tree that has been causing problems.
Rives said there is $50,000 in this year’s capital budget for park improvements, but he recommended saving over the balance of the money for use next year. The council still needs to decide how to move forward with the project.
Cul-de-sac to stay, trees to be removed
The council decided not to take out the cul-de-sac island on Harrison Avenue, which some residents had objected to, saying it was unsafe because large trucks, including fire engines, do not have the space to turn around.
Council member Marvin Behm said something needs to be done to the cul-de-sac, which includes landscaping with palm trees, because trucks are larger than they were when the city streets were constructed years ago.
Behm said he believed re-milling of the curb would solve the problem, rather than removal of the cul-de-sac island.
Council member Jody Shirley, who lives on Harrison Avenue, said the complaints about the cul-de-sac were “pretty vague when it comes to safety.”
“We need to pin down what the issue is,” she said.
Rives said he met with fire department personnel at the site, and “the only real issue is the trees, based on what they said.”
Rives said people drive over the curbs, noting “it happens on every cul-de-sac in the city.”
“Go to any cul-de-sac and you’ll see the tire tracks,” Rives said.
That’s not the real problem. The palm trees are, he said.
In a 6 to 1 vote, Shirley voting no, the council decided to take the trees out for now, and consider some sort of landscaping that will not interfere with the trucks’ ability to maneuver.
Workshop looks at financial responsibility
A recent finance and budget workshop focused on “being financially responsible and planning for the future,” said council member Nicholas Pavouris.
Four areas were looked at as ways to accomplish that, Pavouris said.
First, grants, which Pavouris said “could be a big ticket item for us.”
Also, the city marina could be “a significant source of increased revenue,” he said.
Third, the Belle Isle seawall, where docks could be added to minimize the maintenance cost to the city as well as bringing in revenue, Pavouris said.
At the City Hall/Community Center, he said the city needs to consider the best use for the leasable space.
Pavouris said the workshop stressed the need to accomplish financial responsibility in the four opportunity areas discussed.
“We don’t want this to be just talk. We want to complete the task,” Pavouris said.
Council leadership changing
Vowing to bring new leadership and a “fresh vision” to the city, the four new council members elected in March chose one of their own for a key government post, appointing Pavouris to serve on the Board of Directors of the Suncoast League of Cities. Mayor Leslie Notaro had been the representative and said she wanted to continue.
But Gunn nominated Pavouris, setting up a contest for the position. Pavouris won in a 4 to 3 vote, getting the support of the recently elected council members. Notaro will be the alternate representative.
The council also chose Pavouris as the voting delegate to the annual Florida League of Cities Conference to be held in Hollywood, Florida. That was another appointment Notaro had volunteered to do, as she has in the past.
In another action, the council voted, at Pavouris’ request, to increase the number of residents on a committee being set up to review the city code. The size was increased from three to seven residents, after a surprisingly large number of residents applied to serve on the committee. Two council members also will serve on the committee, along with an alternate member.
The ballot divided the residents into three sections of the city to assure all parts were represented.
“That’s a good idea,” said council member Wanda Schwerer. “It can’t hurt to have a little more diversity in terms of representatives.”
Some debate arose about whether a person could serve on more than one city board or committee. Although there are prohibitions in the city charter about serving on multiple boards, it was pointed out that that has not been consistently enforced in the past. City Attorney Paul Marino recommended the application form for boards and committees be revised to ask about current membership on other city boards.
Marino said the number of residents applying to serve on the code review committee was a good sign.
“In the past, the problem has been getting people to serve,” he said