Council Talks Home Registry, Beach Closure

The newly-worded Vacant Home Registry ordinance was a hot-button topic at Tuesday evening’s city council meeting, and discussed in depth by Councilman Dan Liedtke and Vice Mayor Yolanda Roman.

Councilman Liedtke was concerned with the wording of the “$150 fee.” According to Liedtke, the money was more of a tax, as he maintained it would exceed costs.

City Manager Jim O’Reilly stated that the money would cover the cost of the hourly rate of the employee to actually register and enter the registry information as well as other administration costs.

Liedtke suggested the city lower the fee to $50; the issue will be up for discussion in the future.

The councilman, who has been a vocal opponent of the ordinance, also stated that he did not believe there was a need for the registry.

Of the 32 institution-owned residences in Gulfport, 17 of them are owned by federal institutions, which means the registry would not apply to them and therefore Gulfport would have no authority to ensure their upkeep, even though they are vacant.

Of the remaining 15 institution-owned residences, only eight are vacant, leaving those residences the only ones eligible to be put on the registry.

Vice Mayor Roman has been adamant that she believes the ordinance would be a success if it registers even one abandoned home and helps the community.

“Our job for the citizens of Gulfport is for that neighbor, that resident who lives next to a blighted, abandoned home and on our dime, we board it up, we mow, we send a code enforcer to cite it, so my measurement [of success is] ‘Mrs. Jones’ who has to deal with a blighted home says, ‘Wow, there is someone taking care of it,’” Vice Mayor Roman said in defense. “We are here to do a job on behalf of our citizens, and I want to be measured by knowing I listened to those concerns.”

Council voted 4-1 in favor of continuing to discuss the ordinance and take further action in the near future.

As the Gabber reported online Tuesday [see story on front], Gulfport’s municipal beach was closed for the first time in nearly 15 years due to overfilled sewers leaking into Boca Ciega Bay, contaminating the water. The meeting provided a short update on the issue.

“The city of St. Petersburg advised that we close Gulfport Beach and the surrounding waters until this issue can be resolved,” City Manager Jim O’Reilly said. “We monitor this on a daily basis and we will have results within 24 hours and we expect the flushing and tidal action to clean this in a couple days, but we will keep the beach closed up to that point.”

Mayor Sam Henderson stated that St. Petersburg has a plan to ensure this will not happen again in the future, but declined to elaborate on the plan.

Council continued on the agenda by addressing several ordinances including the elimination of the right-of-way located between 51st Street South and 52nd Street South, north of 8th Avenue South. The ordinance was approved unanimously.

The meeting was capped off with another unanimous vote on a point-of-sale (POS) system for the Gulfport Casino. The modern POS system will replace the old forms of payment with a new, Internet-based medium to read credit cards and take payment.

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