Council Eases Path to Historical Designations

Gulfport City Council voted to make it easier for Gulfport historic buildings, structures, sites and districts to be declared historical. At the regular Tuesday council meeting February 6, ordinance 2018-01 passed unanimously and allows for a less difficult path to historic designation by expanding the ability of a property owner to utilize a third-party consultant or the Gulfport Historical Society to prepare a designation report. It also states that in the absence of a city council-appointed historic preservation committee that council may prepare the report and allows for designation by the council via resolution or ordinance.

“I own an old house on Delette Avenue South and am glad it will be easier to get the historical designation,” said resident Karen Schwartz in the meeting’s public forum.

Wildlife Officer Gives Coyote Education Presentation

Officer Randall Bibler of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) spoke to council about the coyote sightings in Gulfport and how citizens should take precautions to keep their pets and property safe from coyotes.

According to the FWC website, coyotes are common in rural, suburban and even some urban landscapes, and the “presence of coyotes has been documented in all 67 Florida counties.”

“Don’t leave food outside and use a locking garbage can,” said Bibler.

The officer said small pets such as cats and little dogs are at the most risk of being attacked by a coyote.  “If you are walking a dog at night keep a short leash on your dog so that the dog is close to,” said Bibler. “A coyote usually won’t come near people but if you see one yell loudly at them, stomp your feet, or even spray them with water.”

Bibler stated that while the FWC will help with education and finding contractors to trap coyotes if they are on your property, the organization does not actively look to exterminate them.

“Wildlife commissions have tried in the past and have failed,” said Bibler talking about organized attempts at removing coyote populations from city areas. “They are very resilient and when their packs are diminished the females will even have bigger litters to keep the population level.”

Bibler said that while coyotes are considered “nuisance wildlife” they do help to control the rodent population because they eat anything. He also emphasized that coyotes generally are scared off by humans and if the right steps are taken, they should not be able to harm you or your pets.

“Coyotes are usually 15 to 30 pounds so aren’t much of a threat to people,” said Bibler.

The FWC coyote FAQ, including how to report an attack or encounter, can be found at myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/profiles/mammals/land/coyote/faqs

Federal Funding Allows for New GEMS Van 

A referendum was unanimously passed authorizing City Manager Jim O’Rielly to enter into an agreement for Federal Assistance grant for funding of a replacement Gulfport Extended Mini-Bus Service (GEMS) vehicle.

According to the council memorandum, GEMS supports the independence and increased quality of life of its participants by providing door-to-door transportation for seniors and disabled residents for medical appointments, grocery shopping, social or recreational activities, and any other need within the area that GEMS serves.

“GEMS was also used a lot during the last hurricane evacuation,” said Councilmember Christine Brown.

The grant funding will be used to replace the current 2000 Ford Crown Victoria with advanced mileage, which has a capacity of only three ambulatory passengers, with a Ford Transit van. The new van will have a capacity of five ambulatory passengers and two wheelchair passengers. Because of this federal assistance Gulfport will only have to pay $6,641 of the vehicle’s total cost of $66,417. The old vehicle will be replaced in late 2018.

Council Approves Repair of Police Vehicle

In a consent item, city council approved repair on vehicle #531, a 2017 Dodge Charger that the Gulfport Police Department uses for law enforcement. On November 1, 2017, an officer driving the vehicle, while on duty, collided with another vehicle resulting in substantial damage to the vehicle.

The Charger was appraised and inspected by an insurance adjuster from Gallagher Bassett Insurance and the estimate for repairs was $23,205.70. The city will be reimbursed $22,205.70 after the $1,000 deductible is applied.

Damage to three onboard computers located on the body, transmission, and engine had to be recalibrated, which can only be completed at the Dodge dealer.

This incident occurred when the driver of stolen vehicle was driving down an alley in the area of 56th Street and 21st Avenue South fleeing from a taskforce operation outside of Gulfport.

According to the Gabber reporting of the incident on November 1, 2017, “As Officer (Justin) Guillory drove south on 56th Street, the stolen vehicle came out of the alley and crashed into his patrol car, causing the patrol car to then hit another vehicle that was parked on the side of the road.”

The driver of the stolen vehicle, Rodney Allan Foster, was arrested and charged with multiple felonies, according to Gulfport police. Officer Guillory had no reported injuries.

Bid Approved for 56th Street South Road Rehabilitation

Council unanimously approved the budget for the 56th Street South Road Rehabilitation Bid Award, and authorized O’Reilly to enter into a contract in the amount of $39,775.00 with J Nandlal Maintenance Service to repair heavy rainfall damage from Hurricane Hermine in 2016. The rainfall taxed the internal storm water collection system causing continuous sheet flow of storm water on 56th Street South between 28th Avenue South and 29th Avenue South.

According to the referendum, city staff teamed with FEMA consultants to assess the damage after the storm. It was determined that the road required rehabilitation and was subsequently approved by FEMA as an eligible project. The J Nandlal Maintenance Service bid came in at nearly $20,000 less than the second contractor bid.

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