CLEARWATER — When city engineers asked the City Council on Dec. 2 to approve more than $1.15 million to build permanent restrooms at the Seminole Street Boat Ramp, councilmembers balked.

“What kind of bathrooms are we building for $1.1 million dollars?” City Councilmember Hoyt Hamilton asked. “Are we putting marble fixtures and everything else in this thing or what?”

The four-stall (two for men, two for women) bathroom structure is part of the $6.5 million Seminole Street boat ramp project that saw the installation of new lighting, floating docks, kayak slips, landscaping, and improved truck and boat trailer parking.

According to Thomas Mahoney, the city’s construction specialist who brought the contract to the council, the building, which would measure 40 feet by 40 feet, is to be built in a flood plain. First, that will require the bathrooms to be elevated above tide flood; second, the law requires the city to provide an elevator or wheelchair lift to give disabled visitors easy access to the elevated restrooms; third, to ensure that raw sewage from the bathrooms doesn’t back up and pollute the Intracoastal Waterway, the city will have to install a lift station to pump the sewage higher up the hill and into the city system.

“It is really a primary cost function of where we’re building it, and not what we’re building,” said assistant city manager Michael Delk. “It’s in a very high hazard coastal zone, which makes it a very expensive structure.”

Not only that, the contract includes $105,225 in contingency fees, equal to 10 percent of the bathroom’s overall cost, Mahoney told the Beacon. “The fees cover unforeseen construction problems that are not the fault of the contractor.”

Should the contractor hit underground electric or water pipes, for instance, the money would cover the repair or relocation of the utilities.

The council asked Mahoney to consider locating the bathrooms above the flood plain. That would negate the expense of building a sewage lift station or wheelchair elevator. Mahoney will bring his data to the city council in January.

Salty Bull falls through

The Clearwater Community Redevelopment Agency recently halted negotiations on what was once thought to be a promising craft brewing operation.

Hop Daddy LLC had signed a preliminary agreement with the CRA to build and open the Salty Bull Brewing Co. in a single-story warehouse and adjacent lot near the corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue and Cleveland Street. The City Council — which sits as the CRA — approved the concept in July and gave CRA Director Amanda Thompson the go-ahead to negotiate and finalize the terms of the agreement with Hop Daddy.

Problems arose in October when potential owner Bryan Borosky told Thompson he wanted the option of changing the brewery to a restaurant and bar — at some point in the future — without seeking the City Council’s say, she said.

“They wanted permission to change uses within the 10 years without having to come back to the CRA trustees,” she said. “The city isn’t against changing it, but it has to have council discussion and be voted on, because you’re changing a contract.”

Pedestrian walkway over U.S. 19

The council on Nov. 21 approved two perpetual easements to the Florida Department of Transportation to build a pedestrian walkway over U.S. 19 North at Harn Boulevard.

The state will lease the property for $1 forever, as it were, to allow it to plan for an eventual pedestrian walkway, encased in fencing or other material.

There is an elevated pedestrian walkway over McMullen-Booth Road, to allow pedestrians and bicyclists using the Ream-Wilson Trail. The Pinellas County Trail also has elevated crossings over East Bay Drive and other locations in Clearwater.