Gulfport Council Talks Greenway, Lawsuit

Update, 1/25/17, 2:15 p.m.: Gulfport City Attorney Andrew Salzman notes that the cities of St. Pete Beach and Treasure Island were sued by the three environmental groups that filed a lawsuit against the city of Gulfport. The city of St. Pete Beach has not received a 60-day notice of intent nor has a lawsuit been filed against the city. The city of Treasure Island received a 60-day notice of intent to file lawsuit on November 18, but has not been formally served with a lawsuit.

Members of Gulfport’s City Council discussed various options for improving the Tangerine Greenway – including increasing green space and planting gardens for monarch butterflies – at a highly attended meeting on Tuesday, January 17.

The Tangerine Greenway discussion resolved around authorizing the city manager to apply for federal money for the Tangerine Greenway Trolley Market Square Project , which has been rejected for funding several times in the past few years.

The city revived the project last year after receiving funds under the federal Brownfields Program and held public meetings on how to improve the area. The Greenway runs from 54th Street S. and Tomlinson Park on the west to 49th Street S. to the east.

At the meeting, City Manager Jim O’Reilly displayed renderings of a proposal that includes a pavilion for concerts and other activities, a parking area constructed from pavers and a trolley designed to highlight the area’s historic role as a transportation hub.

He noted the plan would serve as a “bookend” to $250,000 worth improvements slated for Tomlinson Park that include new playgrounds and exercise equipment and the removal of the old skate park.

“It’s a sizeable investment,” he said. “We anticipate this project will be in the half-million dollar range.”

Much of the discussion revolved around removing old fences erected to control vandalism, how to better integrate the park with the Greenway and whether the tennis court, which is in disrepair and slated for removal, could be preserved.

Resident Charlotte Downey asked council to consider refurbishing the tennis court, but members decided it would be too expensive and said they preferred converting it to green space. They were however, enthusiastic about her proposal to plant flowers that would promote the survival of monarchs, whose numbers have diminished dramatically in recent years.

In the end, council voted to authorize the city manager to apply for the federal money and to sign a contract with Cardno, an Australian infrastructure and environmental services company, for engineering work.

View proposed Greenway plans here. 

Environmental lawsuit update

City Attorney Andrew Salzman updated council on the lawsuit against the city by a three nonprofit environmental groups. The lawsuit was filed January 4 in U.S. District Court in Tampa for alleged violations of the federal Clean Water Act related to sewage spills.

“We have turned it over to our insurance carrier for coverage,” he said. “We’re waiting to get a final decision by them.”

Salzman noted that St. Pete Beach, Treasure Island and St. Petersburg had also been sued. He said St. Petersburg had filed a motion to dismiss the case claiming that none of the plaintiffs were local and thus were not directly affected by sewage that overflowed into area waters from overtaxed sewage systems during heavy rains last year.

The lawsuit was filed by Suncoast Waterkeeper of Sarasota, and Our Children’s Earth Foundation and Ecological Rights Foundation, both based in California.

Housekeeping

The council also unanimously approved a number of resolutions, including ones allowing the city to contract with outside providers for IT and janitorial services; to spend $10,655 for an additional 100 banners to be used to promote the city outside of the waterfront district; and to ask the state legislature to amend the Florida Civil Rights Act to provide members of the LGBTQ community equality in every aspect of civil rights.

Overheard at the January 17, 2016 Gulfport Council Meeting

“This is clearly an old problem. … I can only conclude that there are gaps and breaks in the system.” – Resident Tiffany Taylor describing how, despite numerous complaints, certain dogs have continued to attack and kill cats in the city, including her own pet, which died after a January 9 attack in her enclosed yard. She asked council to come up with ways to address the problem. Council agreed to seek more information on the issue and to address it at its next meeting.

“The firefighters actually bought the swing set with their own personal funds.” – Resident Margarete Tober describing the installation of playground equipment for a local child as part of the city’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service.

“I have the video on my website. It’s beautiful.” – Councilmember Yolanda Roman describing a video of events during Gulfport’s MLK Day of Service.

“Please don’t call the council members marshmallows, thank you very much, and we won’t call you the same.” ­– Mayor Sam Henderson reprimanding Gulfport resident Chuck Broich for calling some council members “marshmallows” for what Broich viewed as an insufficient response to Gulfport and St. Petersburg’s sewage discharge events.

“Our ballots and our ads will be both in English and in Spanish.” – City Clerk Lesley DeMuth explaining that literature for the March 14 municipal elections would be in both languages in line with new county guidelines.

 

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