Council Talks Volleyball, Spillways and Budget 

A few volleys for reserving courts were heard at the September 6 Gulfport City Council meeting and Councilmember Dan Liedtke confirmed there will always be room on Sundays for members of the “legendary ProSuzy volleyball group” that started playing weekly on Gulfport’s beach about 30 years ago.

Liedtke has championed the expansion of volleyball tournaments in the city, which has “the finest beach volleyball courts in Pinellas County.”

At the June 21 council meeting, Liedtke requested that the Tampa Bay Beach Bums volleyball group, which hosts the largest co-ed tournaments in the state, be given permission to set up additional temporary courts on Gulfport Beach.

“Things are changing,” he said. “They’re growing and they’re interested in our entire beach.”

At the time, he said the Beach Bums would need the courts on August 13 and 14, October 8 and 9, and December 3 and 4. Three of these dates are on Sundays.

And, on Sunday, August 14, there was no room for the Gulfport Women’s Volleyball Group, said Julie Latimer, group leader, in an August 29 telephone interview.

“I had to find a new court [for us] to play volleyball on,” she said. “Everyone in the past has always been able to find a court for us or accommodate us. But, they [the Beach Bums] are really growing. After that, I decided to go down to the Recreation Center and reserve some courts to get out ahead of the problem so I wouldn’t have to worry about it anymore.”

That’s when Latimer discovered that the Beach Bums had already reserved two more Sundays in 2016 and six in 2017.

“I knew that people would be out there on Sundays as they become more aware of how great those courts are,” she said. “For years, we’ve been so lucky to just show up there every Sunday and get a court. Since ProSuzy is a nationwide thing, we’ve had women show up here on vacation because they had already heard about the volleyball game.”

Thanks, in part, to Latimer’s presentation to the council on September 6, council is now more aware of the roots the group has in the community.

The packet of materials she gave to council included a photo of the group from 1987.

“It’s the oldest picture I’ve been able to come up with,” she said at the meeting. “We play every Sunday, rain or shine. We even played in a tornado one time.”

A photo taken on June 12, 2016 was particularly poignant.

“After a rainy weekend that left puddles all over the court, we showed up with rakes and shovels and buckets,” she said. “We drained the court and we played all day. We especially needed our game that Sunday. It was the Sunday after the Pulse nightclub shooting [and it gave] us a sense of community. It’s a safe place where we belong because it’s in Gulfport – where we feel safe because many of us live here.”

After the presentation, Liedtke said, “I’d like to get with you folks later and see what we can work out to definitely make sure you always have a place to play on Sundays.”

Terminal Streets and Spillways Focus of Concern

Terminal streets in east Gulfport that allow surface water to flow into Boca Ciega Bay are detailed with red circles on the locator map.

Terminal streets in east Gulfport that allow surface water to flow into Boca Ciega Bay are detailed with red circles on the locator map.

On Thursday, September 1 and Friday, September 2, Councilmember Christine Brown inspected several areas of Gulfport as part of the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT).

“Being out in the storm every couple of hours, I was able to see firsthand how the spillways are doing” regarding getting rid of rain quickly, she said. The one at “the end of 50th [Street South] would be the number one priority to get fixed.”

Terminal streets in east Gulfport that allow surface water to flow into Boca Ciega Bay are detailed with red circles on the locator map.
Overall, she said, “I feel really great about 53rd [Street South], 52nd [Street South] is just smooth sailing, and Quincy and 44th [Street South] were pretty good.”

“Is this something we can work into our regular schedule?” asked Mayor Sam Henderson.
City Manager Jim O’Reilly said, “Yes. We’ll be looking at it. The big issue that we face at the street ends is [identifying] invasive exotic plant materials that can be removed versus other materials that limit what we can do with them.”
“I want to make sure the end of 50th is flowing better,” Brown said.

Proposed Budget and Millage Rate Approved on First Reading

In routine business, the council initially approved the 2016-2017 balanced budget of $11.46 million. The second and final reading on the budget will occur at the council meeting on September 20.

The budget supports a full-service city for more than 12,000 residents that includes a staff of 123 full-time and 60 part-time employees. The services include police, fire, community development, code enforcement, street maintenance, a library, a marina, cultural facilities, events, parks and recreation, and water and sewer utilities.

For “anyone who did not get a chance to attend the August 11 budget workshop, there was a lot of great information – quite detailed – that really help [to] explain how we got here,” said Councilmember Yolanda Roman. “I look forward to any comments on the second reading if you find anything in those documents that interest you.”

A millage rate for fiscal year 2017 at 4.039 mills was also initially approved. The city says the proposed rate will generate approximately $3,093,083 in ad valorem revenue. For more information on the budget, including a detailed breakdown, visit mygulfport.us.

Overheard at the September 6 Gulfport City Council meeting.

“We probably [do] not [have] one street in Gulfport that’s got a clean, straight sign on it. In fact, on Gulfport Boulevard there’s a sign that says ‘curve ahead’ and it’s curved. I guess there’s something subliminal there.” – Margaret Tober about the street sign project in Gulfport.

“And, the fourth thing I wanted to say is that I for one really appreciate the three-minute rule at these meetings. If you can’t communicate what you need to communicate in three minutes, then you probably need to set and ask for an appointment. I have found that all of our council people have office hours or newsletters and are very willing to listen to our thoughts. So, I made four points in less than three minutes.” – Karen Love just before the timer announced the end of her public comment time.

“You can attack me all you want but don’t attack our city employees who are doing a fabulous job.” – Councilmember Yolanda Roman on someone from the public who she says attacked her and the city for what was being done during Hurricane Hermine.

“So you know, I teach high school [math]. I want to thank the 99.9 percent of the people that get it. That got what was going on. And understand. And, stayed current with the news and that the city of Gulfport is not horrible and they worked really hard. Those guys out there in the streets for hours and hours and hours were working and going here and there and 99.9 percent of us get that and are thankful and respectful of the work that was done.” – Councilmember Christine Brown as part of a poignant speech about the “99.9 percent” of people who, during Hermine, “stayed home and bonded with their families and enjoyed life together instead of staying behind the keyboard” and being critical.

“We are a part of Keep Pinellas Beautiful and there is a cleanup coming up October 15 in Clam Bayou from 9 a.m. to noon.” – Roman. Brown added, “There was even one of those big black dumpsters that was washed up in the mangroves [after Hermine]. So, there’s a lot that needs to be done on that cleanup.”

“I want to thank my neighbor Verna, who before the storm was out with her broom sweeping out the storm drain in front of her house because she’s part of the solution. And, if you feel so inclined to give the city a little bit of help, try to keep your storm drain clean. If there’s debris in it, without hurting yourself, of course, try to keep it clean because those kinds of proactive things are what helps the water move when we have events like this.” – Brown

“I would like to request the city provide workers with water boots because many of them were out there [in Hermine] in their leather work boots that got completely ruined. So, one of the guys had on fire boots that are steel toed with steel shanks. It would be nice if they all had them for incidents like this.” – Brown

“We’re nearing the end of our beach parking lot refresh and I wonder if it wouldn’t be a great idea for us all to be able to lay one of the last bricks as a ceremony. As a grand opening or whatever. I’d love to see that happen.” – Brown

“Regarding rain. I mean, anyone who’s lived in Florida for more than a week, I mean the reality is that when you have a low sea level [elevation] and you have high tide and you have gallons and gallons amounts of rain, you have flooding. It’s just a simple fact. I’ve never lived in a beach town in Florida or the Caribbean that doesn’t have flooding when you have too much rain. So, again, going back to that 99.9 percent, they get it. That’s all I have to say.” – Vice Mayor Michael Fridovich

“I am a grandma.” – Roman

“Congratulations!” – Mayor Sam Henderson and others in unison.

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