Council Approves Skate Park Details, Helps Little League

The first Gulfport City Council meeting of the new year kicked off with skate park regulations being decided, a new contract with a revived Little League and a modification to how the city deals with high unpaid water bills. 

The January 15 meeting was centered around a topic that has had community buzz going since it’s proposal in 2016 – the new skate park to be located at the Michael J. Yakes Recreation Center.

The park, which borders the west side of the center at 5730 Shore Blvd. S., is expected to be completed in the new six to eight weeks. 

“We’ve started construction on the skate park, but there is one step we need to take,” said City Manager Jim O’Reilly. “Everyone 17 and under needs to wear a helmet.”

Council approved the first reading of an ordinance that requires helmets for minors in the park and prohibits any type of biking on the premises. 

“You’re right. With bicycles there is a lot more potential for injury,” said Mayor Sam Henderson. 

The park will be open Monday through Sunday, 8:30 a.m. to sunset, and will be locked and unlit at night to prohibit unsupervised use. 

According to the city manager, children under eight must be accompanied by an adult, children under 12 must wear protective gear and all minors must have a helmet on. 

“I’m super excited. It’s moving along really quick,” said Nick Nicks, co-founder of the St. Pete Skatepark Alliance. “It’s really good for Gulfport. Going to be the perfect little skate park.”

Eric Plage, an environmentalist from the Tampa Bay Watch, presented a vertical oyster garden at the January 15, Gulfport Council meeting. Plage explained that the stack of oysters can be hung off public or private docks and will eventually filter the water, providing better quality. “Citizen scientists can suspend them from docks, and they will filter out the bay,” Plage said. “More oysters, more biomass.”

Little League is Back

Another recreational addition that has been dropped for the past few years will be reemerging in 2019: Little League in Gulfport. 

“With the skate park and the Little League, I’m glad we’re decreasing the age gap a little bit,” said Councilmember Michael Fridovich. 

The city is leasing the Lum Atkinson Ball Fields at the Tomlinson Lake Park Complex, located at 1820 55th St. S., as well as Hoyt Field, located at 2306 56th St. S., to the organization. 

Teams will be using the fields for the Fall League from September 1 to November 30, and the Spring League will require the field from February 1 to July 31. 

“I just want to give back to the community,” said Gulfport Little League President Trevor Mallory. “It really opens up the children and gives them an opportunity to build with others.”

Little League will pay an annual rent of one dollar to the city, as stated on the lease agreement. 

“Everyone has a Little League picture somewhere and it’s really great to have it come back,” said Vice Mayor Christine Brown. 

Water Bill Forgiveness 

Gulfport residents that have extremely high, unpaid water bills due to a vacant property or other reasons, will be getting good news this year. 

The council unanimously voted to change the interest on accumulated unpaid bills from compounded to simple interest, effective immediately. 

“This is much friendlier to the people,” said Henderson.

An analysis of utility accounts with zero use over the last five years was conducted, and accounts with six months of unpaid bills were identified, according to Finance Director Cheryl Hannafin.

Hannafin identified 18 properties that fit the criteria, each with a back story. 

“This isn’t just houses and properties that are vacant,” O’Reilly said. “These are people that have moved to a nursing home and people that cannot afford to do anything with the property.” 

O’Reilly stressed that this change does not adjust the amount on the bill, but changes the interest so that the amount is more reasonable. 

 

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