Dunedin’s 5-year business plan envisions $81.4 million in budgeted projects

A $4.7 million project to transform Skinner Boulevard from Bass Boulevard to Alt. 19 into the city’s extension of downtown has been budgeted, but construction will not begin until 2024.

DUNEDIN — Projects that include the possibility of converting Stirling Links Golf Course into a city park and building a fire-training facility, an aquatics center and new dog park are all included in a five-year municipal business plan designed to meet the Dunedin’s “five epic goals.”

The epic goals include creating a vibrant cultural experience, serving as a statewide model for environmental sustainability and stewardship, creating a visual sense of place, promoting the city as a premier coastal community and enhancing community and employee relationship strategies.

In presenting the plan at a City Commission meeting Sept. 19, City Manager Jennifer Bramley noted, “the Municipal Business Plan is a snapshot of what is to come.”

The plan identifies 49 initiatives and 84 capital improvement projects budgeted from 2020 to 2025 for a total investment of $81.4 million.

“These initiatives have been selected by the City Commission and city management from a wider array of work underway; each one is critical to advancing the city’s long-term goals,” she said.

While the municipal business plan provides direction for future budgets stretching to 2025, Bramley explained it also “leaves flexibility to adjust each annual budget to appropriately respond to opportunities and threats, ensuring our progress is as effective as possible.”

A potential Stirling Park

The city is contemplating transforming Stirling Links, a 27-acre, 18-hole golf course at 620 Palm Blvd., into a city park while preserving its popular driving range.

Stirling Links is near the city’s 92-year-old, 18-hole Dunedin Golf Club at 1050 Palm Blvd.

In the business plan, Parks and Recreation officials explain the city may explore converting use of the property from a golf course to a city park for an estimated $128,100.

Under the proposal, parks staff will assume the landscape maintenance without a need to hire additional personnel. The driving range will be kept in operation, along with lessons and golf camps, as a revenue source.

Bagpipers at the Dunedin Marina

Meanwhile, the city budgeted $5,000 a year to hire bagpipers at the Dunedin Marina who will provide waterfront visitors with the sound of pipers at sunset some Friday and Saturday evenings throughout the year. The city plans to donate $5,000 a year to the Dunedin Pipe Band to provide two pipers who will “provide an atmosphere reminiscent of Dunedin’s Scottish heritage,” the Business Plan states.

Showing Sister City some love

City commissioners also plan to grow its Sister City relationship with Stirling, Scotland. Future considerations are for a student exchange program, sponsorships of travel to Scotland, and continued support to the city's pipe bands, Highland Games and Scottish Arts Foundation.

Jolly Trolley funding

When it comes to attracting visitors, the city’s 5-year budget plan envisions spending $44,400 a year for the Jolley Trolley to continue bringing visitors to downtown.

State Road 580 improvements

In another business plan project, the city is working with the Florida Department of Transportation to create a landscaped median design project along S.R. 580 from Bass Boulevard to County Road 1.

Currently, S.R. 580 is a five-lane highway from Alt. U.S. 19 to Pinehurst Road, and a seven-lane highway from Pinehurst Road east to Belcher Road, as well as eastward beyond Dunedin’s city limits.

City staff advised “the corridor within Dunedin has a two-way left-turn lane that does little to divide opposing vehicles or provide predictable turning locations. This geometric configuration can lead to crashes and the potential for head-on collisions.”

The engineering division supports constructing raised medians in locations that have existing striping, as these areas are not intended to be traveled in. The raised medians would more clearly define the intersection turn lanes and add some predictability for vehicles in these areas, a city report says.

Raised medians can also provide a more aesthetic corridor by providing the ability to add landscaping and welcome signage.

The intersection of C.R. 1 could serve as a nodal entrance to Dunedin along S.R. 580. Welcome signage could be incorporated in the median just east of C.R. 1, similar to what currently exists along Curlew Road, the report said. The city allocated $50,000 a year for five years to address this goal.

City takes shine to solar energy

The city continues to embrace use of solar energy. Commissioners adopted a solar energy incentive grant for installation of solar panels. As an incentive, the city plans to allocate $50,000 a year to fund solar energy grants, not to exceed $2,500 per applicant.

Under the solar grant ordinance, the city can offer incentives for new construction, new additions, and building conversions involving solar energy.

Incentives may also include fast-track permitting. The grant will be at a rate of 25 cents per watt of solar power, generated to a maximum grant of $2,500.

Aquatics Center delayed

When it comes to a long-desired Aquatics Center, residents will have to wait at least until 2023 to take a dip at a proposed facility to replace the aging Highlander Pool.

According to the latest 5-year business plan budget, the center won’t be designed until 2021 at a cost around $600,000; then, the facility won’t be built until 2022 for an estimated $6.4 million.

A 2009 aquatic feasibility study documented the need to replace the existing pool facility, which has reached the end of its useful life. The study also documented the desire of the community for a recreational aquatic complex, the business plan says.

City to sniff around for dog park site

The Parks and Recreation Department also completed a strategic plan in 2015 that identified the lack of a quality dog park “as one of the city’s major deficiencies.”

Happy Tails dog park, which closed earlier this year to make way for Blue Jays training complex expansion, sat at the edge of a retention pond and was under water large portions of the year, officials reported.

Although the city was able to partner with Achieva Credit Union to expand its dog park, Parks and Recreation officials reported “the goal is still to have a dog park on city-owned property.”

The $150,000 set aside in the 5-year budget is for development only and does not include any potential land acquisition, the report concluded. In addition, the final cost will include landscaping, water stations, and parking improvements. Funds were originally budgeted in 2018, then carried forward to 2019, and are now being reprogrammed into 2020.

Training facility and EOC complex gets funding

The business plan advises that the city’s Draft Comprehensive Plan from 2012 calls for a signature project to relocate Dunedin’s Emergency Operations Center to a new location within five years, along with construction of a fire-training center.

The current EOC location at the MLK Center is directly on the border of the hurricane storm surge maps for a Category 3 storm.

The new 5,700-square-foot, $3.8 million facility will also be available for other city meetings and training. The proposed complex, located north of Fire Station 62 on Belcher Road, will be built to withstand a Category 5 storm.

About 13% of the cost of the project will be offset by revenue from Pinellas County through the fire service district contract.

Skinner Boulevard to get facelift

Another signature project, $4.7 million to transform Skinner Boulevard from Bass Boulevard to Alt. 19 into the city’s extension of downtown, has been budgeted, but construction will not begin until 2024.

The city will apply for a construction grant for $500,000 from DOT this year and $1 million from Forward Pinellas in 2020.

In conjunction with the Skinner Boulevard project, a new downtown entry feature will be installed at New York Avenue, rather than Bass Boulevard, for $150,000.

Marina dredging planned

The business plan also envisions the city undertaking a $1.5 million marina dredging project, which will require a loan for a maximum of three years at a cost of $475,000, starting in 2020 or 2021. About 12,000 cubic yards of material will be removed.

In addition, the business plan also appropriates funds for other major projects, such as a new City Hall-Municipal Services Complex, Pioneer Park restoration, wastewater treatment plant upgrades and others.