Council Talks Budget, Snipes over New Rules

Clam Bayou pier replacement? Shore Boulevard improvements? Marina improvements? These are all presently being implemented in the city of Gulfport, but what’s next?

That was one of the many discussions by council during their four-hour marathon meeting on Tuesday night, April 19.

Council began the process of preliminary discussions for the 2016/17 fiscal year budget. Some of these discussions will include remodeling the Senior Center, upgrading sanitary sewer infrastructure, and on-going community special events.

“We’re starting a dialogue,” Gulfport City Manager Jim O’Reilly said. “This is clearly just a discussion.”

Further ideas to add to the potential budget list came from members of the council.

Ideas such as the mooring field and the removal of derelict vessels are the usual mainstays on the list, but several new projects such as lighting the trail at Clymer Park was brought up during the meeting.

“What I’d like to see us do, because of the vandalism to the artwork on the Clymer Park trail, is add a little light to it,” Mayor Sam Henderson said. “I think it would be a help to discourage [vandalism].”

The mayor also brought up the purchasing of a mobile stage.

“Those are the only other things I’d like to put up for consideration,” Henderson said.

Councilmember Yolanda Roman would like to go to the county for funding for a mooring field.

“It is now open for public input for public entities like us,” Roman said of Pinellas County’s BP money to be allocated to projects in municipalities.

Clam Bayou was also a priority focus during the meeting when the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Mary Yeargan presented the department’s findings on the water quality of the bayou.

Yeargan stated that many people may have become more familiar with the term “fecal coliforms” since the dumping into Clam Bayou last August. Yeargan assures Gulfportians that the fecal coliforms quickly die off once in the environment.

“Once they are in the environment, they live only three to five days,” Yeargan said. “This is not a good indicator of water quality.”

Yeargan explained that the Florida DEP searched for unlikely things in the water such as aspirin and artificial sweeteners. Why? Because those products go through the human system very quickly, therefore, they are a good indicator if human waste is in water.

According to O’Reilly, the study conducted by the Florida DEP, which mimicked their 2009 study, confirms that there is no content of human or bird DNA in the waters of Clam Bayou. Furthermore, all other bacteria found in the water is said to be “naturally occurring.”

Council finished their meeting with a review of council rules and procedures.

According to City Clerk Leslie DeMuth, “Every year after the elections in April, council reviews its rules and procedures.”

Council has yet to vote on any of the suggested changes, but several were brought to the table.

Councilmember Dan Liedtke suggested that the council pages of the city website be reserved for only the councilperson’s bio and contact information.

“We will be limited to putting only our bio, office hours and contact information,” Lidtke said. “The intent of the city website, as I understand it, is for factual information to the public, marketing Gulfport, and to foster business. I don’t think we should be putting opinions on the city website.”

This did not sit well with Roman, who said she felt like she was being targeted by the proposed rule. Roman regularly posts her council comments to her page on the website.

A back-and-forth ensued where Liedtke equated using the city website for personal comment to “self aggrandizement.” Liedtke then accused Roman of posting disparaging words about Representative Kathleen Peters, which Roman denied. When Roman asked Liedtke for proof, the mayor moved the conversation to another topic.

Henderson suggested that council comments and presentations be limited to five minutes at the end of the council meetings. These changes have yet to be voted on.

Overheard at Council

“It feels like home.” – Joe Murphy, member of the New Horizon Band. The New Horizon Band is a non-profit organization of musicians who focus on seniors who either want to learn a new instrument or pick up one the previously played. Their motto is “your best is good enough.” The band found a new home to practice at the Senior Center. Joe Murphy expressed his gratitude towards the city for welcoming the band.

“We’re just a small group of old ladies, but we do well.” – Gayla Davis, the outgoing Town Shores Women’s Club president. The women’s club gave a generous donation of $1,500 to the Gulfport Recreation Center.

The Tampa Bay Beach Bums were presented with the Spirit of Gulfport award on Tuesday evening.

The Tampa Bay Beach Bums were presented with the Spirit of Gulfport award on Tuesday evening.

“The Tampa Bay Beach Bums have grown to become the largest monthly co-ed beach volleyball tournament in the state of Florida.” – Mayor Sam Henderson, prior to awarding the Beach Bums (pictured) with the Spirit of Gulfport Award. The Beach Bums have a “two year track record of community involvement, beach cleanups, building partnerships with local businesses, raising money for charities, and helping create a vibrant community,” according to Henderson.

“It’s a band-aid over heart surgery.” – Cathy Salustri, secretary of the Gulfport Historical Society, speaking to council about the city’s maintenance of Lincoln Cemetery and making an appeal for a long-term solution for the historic resting place.

“The dog park will be re-sodded by Friday.” – City Manager Jim O’Reilly, who explained that the dog park is re-sodded around this time every year.

“I accept this award on behalf of the whole council.” – Mayor Sam Henderson about being unexpectedly bestowed the award of Home Rule Hero by the Florida League of Cities.

“This year’s legislative session was significantly better than last year.” – Representative Kathleen Peters during her legislative update to council. Peters explained that the state’s budget is set at $82.3 billion. Peters broke that down stating that 41.7 percent goes to healthcare, 26.4 percent goes to education, and 15.3 percent goes to transportation and economic development; the rest goes to justice, agriculture and natural resources.

 

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