New Senior Center, Cars and Trails

Pick and chose your favorite topic, because Gulfport City Council covered it all this week at their regular meeting Tuesday, October 20. From schools to police to awards and the senior center – there was something for everyone.

Finance Director Honored

Cheryl Hannafin, the finance director for the city of Gulfport, was the spotlight that kicked off the meeting when she was honored with a certificate of achievement for excellence in financial reporting. According to the agenda memorandum, the Government Finance Officers Association established the award in 1945 and is the highest form of recognition in governmental accounting and financial reporting.

Gulfport’s First Poet Laureate

Several presentations followed, including the announcement of the Gulfport’s first poet laureate.

“The winning poet is Peter Hargatay,” said Director of Library and Information Technology David Mather. “He is a resident of Town Shores and is a retired English professor whose native language is Hungarian.”

Mather explained that when Hargatay was nine years old, he and his family escaped communist Hungary and came to the US. He learned English from a high school classmate who would later become his wife, and went on to teach English at the university level.

Senior Center Renovations?

Much focus was then turned to the proposed renovations for the Gulfport Multi-Purpose Senior Center. The center has not seen any significant renovations since it opened in 1983, and the city is looking to update the space to better accommodate the community’s growing senior population.

“We went through an exhaustive effort analyzing the current space,” Phil Trezza of Harvard Jolly Architecture said.

Trezza presented two options in detail to council.

“The first option is to selectively demolish the multi-purpose center and build additions,” Trezza said. “The second option is to explore the option of building a brand new building.”

According to the presentation provided by Harvard Jolly, the total cost for the first option would be an estimated $3.762 million. To complete a totally new building would cost about $4.5 million.

“This is step one to analyze space and use of the building,” said City Manager Jim O’Reilly.

Senior Center supervisor Rachel Cataldo presented council with the results of a survey regarding center services and to decide whether to extend the hours. The survey was conducted via Internet with Survey Monkey and saw 103 total responses from residents.

“Overall satisfaction; we’ve got 88 percent,” Cataldo said. “We also have 85 percent of participants saying ‘yes [the hours of operation] we have available now are accommodating.’”

Crime Statistics

Police Chief Rob Vincent presented a crime statistics report for council showing that almost all areas of crime are decreasing in the city, except for one.

“Auto thefts are the one area where it continues to move in the wrong direction,” Vincent said. “The numbers still aren’t very high. When you look at us in comparison to St. Petersburg, our rates are much much lower.”

Chief Vincent stressed that locking vehicles is the first step in preventing auto thefts.

Proposed Bike Trail

Attention then turned to the proposed bike trail with O’Reilly giving an update on the process. While the original plan has been scrubbed, a new plan is in the early stages of development.

“The trail revisions have been drafted. They are very simple, basic and fundamental,” O’Reilly said. “When we receive the final drafts, we will share them with council.”

O’Reilly shared the draft version, which turns its focus closer to Clam Bayou.

“The trail actually takes place around the Clam Bayou ponds. The 10-foot-wide trail will be around the north ponds of Clam Bayou. It will then head west on 26th Avenue to 49th Street. It will then proceed south on 49th Street to 28th Avenue where it will turn west and go buy council member Brown’s house to 55th Street to the library and Beach Boulevard,” O’Reilly said.

The finalized draft will be presented at a later date.

Equipment Purchases

Some of the housekeeping items on the agenda included authorization for the purchase of several city vehicles.

Council agreed to the resolutions in purchasing:

-One 2016 Chevy Express cargo van for the public works department to replace the aging van currently in use since 1995. This will cost $23,706. It will be purchased under budget.

-One 2016 Chevy Silverado pickup truck for the public works department to replace the current truck purchased in 1991. The truck will cost $21,573.25 and will be under budget.

-One Toro Workman Heavy Duty ACG for the public works department to replace the one purchased in 2001. The equipment costs $18,152 and is under budget.

-One multi-passenger Ford SUV for the Gulfport Police Department. The vehicle costs $23,372 and will be paid for with the Law Enforcement Trust Fund.

-Two 2016 Dodge Chargers that will be fitted as police cars. The Charger was chosen due to its rear-wheel drive and and performance capabilities. Two Chargers plus additional police equipment will cost $76,568.

There will be no council meeting on November 3,
and regular meetings will resume on November 17.

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