St. Pete Beach Candidates Follow-up Q&A

St. Pete Beach municipal election will be held on March 14. The Gabber asked each of the three candidates running for the office of mayor-commissioner a series of follow-up questions to our introductory questionnaire in the February 19 edition. Due to space limitations, we did not include all of the Q&As in the print issue. However, more questions and responses for each candidate will be included with this article at thegabber.com. Responses were edited for style and content.

Mail ballots are available by contacting the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections Office at 727-464-8683. The deadline to request a mail ballot is March 8. There will be two poling places open in St. Pete Beach on election day. For more information, including candidates’ initial treasure’s reports, visit stpetebeach.org/general-election.html.

John-Michael Fleig

What is the current state of the city’s sewer repair project; what will be the bottom line cost of the completed project?

The current projects are on schedule and on budget. We need to make sure we stay focused and motivated to get it all done and also move on to the next project on the list. There are several, even my own street actually moves near an inch a year, causing ripples and sinking spots. The Boca Ciega Dr. project is a big project moving steady forward.
What are the next two highest-priority infrastructure projects the city should address?

The infrastructure projects have already finally been listed by priority. Thanks in large part to Maria Lowe’s tenure. We need to make sure we stop spending 300k on tress and 300k on boats and 60k on city birthday parties sponsored by a crony insider. All funds right now need to be solely directed to these set infrastructure projects. But parking is a major problem and should be considered an infrastructure problem.
What specific city codes could be rescinded that would benefit residents, and/or what codes are under-enforced or over-enforced that cause residents problems?

One thing I want to do is cut codes fees in half for single family homeowner residents. I want to go over every line of codes and evaluate and streamline each code. Including omitting codes where applicable.

Alan Johnson

What is the current state of the city’s sewer repair project; what will be the bottom line cost of the completed project?

The Pass-A-Grille (PAG) Way road project total cost is about $13M and is very close to being on budget. Only a portion of that cost is for sewer. Elsewhere in the city, there are on-going repairs to the sewer system (pipe repairs, re-lining, lift station replacement, man-hole replacement, etc.) that have been budgeted for in FY ’17 and beyond. The cost varies annually but is on the order of $500K per year.

What are the next two highest-priority infrastructure projects the city should address?

There are two large sewer upgrades as well as a third smaller one that should be our immediate focus. Estimates vary, but the total of these is on the order of $11-12M. The city is currently going out for bids on the Blind Pass Road project which, like the PAG Way project, includes waste water, storm water, undergrounding utilities, additional infrastructure upgrades plus walkability improvements such as buffered sidewalks and bike lanes.

What specific city codes could be rescinded that would benefit residents, and/or what codes are under-enforced or over-enforced that cause residents problems?

I am not aware of any specific codes that need to be eliminated but have heard from many residents they are concerned about short-term rentals of residential properties. I believe our new code enforcement officer is concentrating on this issue along with the help of community volunteers. In general, I believe our codes should be sensible, practical, and designed to achieve a desired result. If it is not clear and/or enforceable, revisions should be made.

What single skill would you employ as mayor that would define you as the city leader?

I’m a team builder and leader. Operating/managing St. Pete Beach is a team effort. It’s a combination of elected officials, city staff, residents and businesses working together to solve problems and improve our city. We are all stakeholders with a genuine desire for our city to thrive while maintaining the charm and character we love.

What do you feel can be done about the non-resident parking situation? Do you think revisiting the PSTA rapid transit bus line from downtown St. Petersburg would help alleviate the problem?

The city needs to look at establishing public parking or engaging in private-public parking options to serve visitors to St. Pete Beach. We can also provide for more pedestrian friendly roadways that would encourage residents to walk and bike. I believe the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line primarily caters to commuters and would not positively impact our non-resident parking issues.

As co-founder and director of the St. Beach Classic and previous experience on the Recreation Advisory Committee, what city events generate the greatest visitor traffic to the city? from what additional events could the city gain revenue?

The St. Pete Beach Classic generates the largest annual economic impact for the city. Identifying revenue-generating events that market St. Pete Beach while balancing the impact on our residents is the right approach. I love St. Pete Beach and am proud to introduce our city to visitors. The key is identifying whether the impact is positive or negative for the entire community. I believe the commission should examine each event on its own merit.

Deborah Schechner

What is the current state of the city’s sewer repair project; what will be the bottom line cost of the completed project?

My first priority as mayor is to the health and safety of residents. I am pleased to state that all our sewer pipes have been cleaned and cameras have taken inventory of necessary repairs or replacements required. Overhauling our 101 worst manholes is almost completed. Our city                                                                                                Public Works department has excellent and qualified engineers on staff developing a needs assessment and priority list for repairs. Costs for repairs will be several million dollars; I am working to source state and county financial assistance. I have been working with Big C Mayors to utilize Pennies for Pinellas to help with infrastructure costs.

What are the next two highest-priority infrastructure projects the city should address?

Without a doubt we must address our stormwater challenges. I have been appointed to the county task force on sewers and stormwater to explore best practices to alleviate flooding. Our St. Pete Beach engineering staff has a great understanding of what is required, where the worst areas are, and are evaluating a best plan of action. Another priority of mine is to protect our quality of life and to keep our paradise beautiful; repaving our neighborhood roads, replacing the buoys in our water for boaters and swimmer safety, keeping our environment clean, sustaining our beaches and protection of our turtle nests and other wildlife.

What specific city codes could be rescinded that would benefit residents, and/or what codes are under-enforced or over-enforced that cause residents problems?

St. Pete Beach has been looking at codes ­– eliminating those that are obsolete, removing any duplicate or contradictory codes, and staff has been proactive regarding our city codes and their effectiveness. We also must abide by federal, state and county statutes which are also reflected in our city codes. I would support making codes more clear and understandable.

What single skill would you employ as mayor that would define you as the city leader?

As mayor of St. Pete Beach my single best skill is my ability to work with residents and business to solve problems. I listen; my goal is to break down walls and open doors, collaborate and have conversations that lead to compromise. Sometimes the issues have been challenging, for instance bringing residents and hoteliers to agreement on a development project; building consensus creates trust. I hold monthly casual conversations with the mayor and city manager; residents and businesses are welcome to sit around a table, ask questions and receive answers in a stress free environment. My door is open to everyone.

What do you feel can be done about the non-resident parking situation? Do you think revisiting the PSTA rapid transit bus line from downtown St. Petersburg would help alleviate the problem?

The nonresident parking pass was eliminated before I became the mayor. I would appreciate a discussion regarding those in our neighboring cities who volunteer in St. Pete Beach having access to a temporary type pass. The PSTA rapid transit bus line is asking us to join PSTA at a cost of over one million dollars. As a steward of taxpayer dollars I cannot in good judgment                                                                                                                                         justify that expense as infrastructure needs must come first. St. Pete Beach continues to have excellent PSTA trolley and bus service.

When you were chosen as interim mayor you said you did not plan to run for the permanent seat in March. Why did you reverse that position and decide to run?

It was not my intention to run at that time. My involvement in our city led to a seamless transition of my becoming our mayor. Continuity of office is important at this time. My experience and leadership working through the development challenge avoiding a costly lawsuit for our city, as well as understanding the needs of our infrastructure, prompted me to run for office. I have built relationships with other mayors and legislators working to find funds to pay for our city needs. Creating consensus to solve problems, and my commitment to our beautiful St. Pete Beach contributed to my decision to run for mayor.

 

 

Don't be shy. Tell us what you think.