St. Pete Beach Commission Update

The St. Pete Beach City Commission held its regular bimonthly commission meetings on October 11 and October 25 at 6 p.m.

The first meeting was preceded by a commission workshop to discuss a possible collaboration with the Pinellas County Transit Authority regarding a proposed bus rapid transit system (BRT) that would run between Central Avenue in St. Petersburg and St. Pete Beach. After presentations by the PSTA and discussion that such a partnership would cost the city of St. Pete Beach $700,000 to implement, it was determined that the proposal would be an action item at the regular commission meeting on October 25.

Pension Plans: The October 11 regular meeting began with a motion to retain special council Lewis, Longman and Walker, P.A. to assist the city regarding pension matters of law. Negotiations about pensions for city firefighters has been ongoing. According to St. Pete Beach City Manager Wayne Saunders, negotiations are “going well,” and the city is “trying to come up with the best solutions for our fireman that the city can afford.” The law firm, if retained, would advise on an “as needed” basis only via telephone. The firefighters do not support the hiring of this particular law firm, as one of the attorneys was an advisor in the pension change from full benefit to the current hybrid plan. The commission voted unanimously to approve hiring the firm.

Support of Change in Alcohol Sales Hours: The commission unanimously approved a motion to write a letter in support of the city of St. Petersburg’s request to Pinellas County for a change in hours for sale of alcoholic beverages on Sundays. The current law states that no Sunday alcohol package sales can occur between 3 a.m. and 11 a.m. and consumption is not allowed between 3 a.m. and 11 a.m. Many municipalities have already written such letters of support.

Notice of Appeal: Another action item was a formality to approve City Attorney Andrew Dickman filing a notice of appeal in the final judgment of the district court in the case of Chmielewski et al v. City of St. Pete Beach, in which the appeals court ruled the city violated Sunshine Law by not releasing a transcript of a July 2008 closed door, or “shade,” meeting. Dickman said he filed the notice of appeal as the deadline was approaching at the same time the city was busy preparing for Hurricane Matthew. The commission voted 5-0 to approve.

No Action on Bus Rapid Transit: At the October 25 meeting, the St. Pete Beach Commission decided to take no action on the PSTA bus rapid transit initiative. PSTA CEO Brad Miller requested that the commission write a letter explaining its position on the proposal. The commission declined to write the letter at this time, but will instruct the city manager to meet with PSTA to get additional information for further discussion. The commission voiced concerns about cost, ridership, current routes and proposed routes. Commissioners unanimously agreed they are supportive in concept and are interested in keeping the lines of communication open but have other financial priorities at this time.

Hotel on Hold: One anticipated action item that was to be considered, a conditional use approval for a property at 5750 Gulf Blvd. for a 217-room hotel with an 810 space multi-story parking structure and other amenities, was withdrawn by the applicant with a request that the item be voted on at a later date.

The St. Pete Beach City Commission meets on the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month at 6 p.m. More information can be found at stpetebeach.org.

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