In a year-end meeting that lasted less than 30 minutes on Tuesday, December 18, Gulfport City Council gave final approval for the purchase and installation of regulatory buoys in Boca Ciega Bay along with shade sails for the beach playground and marina areas.
At their December 4 meeting, Marina Director Denis Frain explained to councilmembers the benefits of clearly marking waterway regulatory areas for two reasons.
First, signage could inform boaters about the no anchoring buffer zone around the entire perimeter of the new mooring field located in the bay off Bayshore Boulevard.
Second, and if approved by the state and council in the future, signs could mark the establishment of a slow speed, minimum wake zone between Williams Pier and the Recreation Center in a 40- to 50-yard open space that borders the swimming zone and the landside or northern border of the mooring field. The zone would increase safety for everyone using the waterway and the quality of life for mooring field patrons who are located in a condensed area.
If marked, these waterway regulations would require signage mounted on buoys.
On December 4, Councilmember Dan Liedtke objected to the unbudgeted expense of purchasing additional buoys for signage and he voted against the ordinance in its first reading, which passed 4-1.
At the December 18 meeting, Liedtke identified the total cost of the buoy ordinance at $41,472.
“No other mooring field in Florida that I have found marks the no-anchor boundary with a separate set of buoys,” said Liedtke. “Only the actual mooring field is marked, like we have now.”
Liedtke also said, “it’s a state law that you can’t anchor within 100 feet of a mooring field. It’s up to the boaters to know that without having signage even though we would be wise to provide that signage.”
Liedtke then suggested that the existing mooring field boundary buoys be marked with signs that also label the no-anchor zone thus eliminating the need to purchase 18 separate buoys at a cost savings of $22,000.
“We can do this,” said Frain. “I contacted the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) in Tallahassee and with the proper wording” the field’s boundary buoys can be marked for both purposes and be enforceable. “We can do a trial of a year or two” to see how it works.
Other councilmembers agreed.
On December 4, Frain said the slow speed zone, if approved in the future, could be marked with the same buoys used for the no anchoring buffer area by affixing additional signage stickers.
In summarizing his proposal on December 18, Liedtke said enforcement could happen three ways. “We have the FWC, the Gulfport Police marine unit and then we have a pump out vessel that goes there three times a week.”
The second and final reading of the ordinance then passed unanimously.
Legislating Sun Protection
Council approved a resolution for the purchase of shade sails from Creative Shade Solutions, Inc. of Tarpon Springs that will be permanently installed at the beach playground and marina areas for a total cost of $75,000.
According to the company’s website, their product “can block up to 96 percent of harmful UV rays. It will be 15 to 20 degrees cooler under our shade.”
The manufacturer also states their shade sails are engineered to withstand 150 mph winds.
As a precaution, city staff can easily remove the sails from the support polls in the event of extreme weather such as tropical storms or hurricanes, but the manufacturer will need to be paid to reinstall the fabric, said City Manager Jim O’Reilly.
In their 2018-2019 budget, the city allocated $92,344 for a total of five shade sails and the final pricing came in lower at a savings of $17,344, said O’Reilly. Two shades will be installed at the playground and three will be located at the marina.
2019 City Candidate Forums
Following a discussion of options, councilmembers directed city staff to identify a moderator and a date when all qualified candidates running for the mayor and two council seat positions would meet at the Catherine A. Hickman theater, 5501 27th Avenue S., to field questions about their candidacy. The facility has technology that allows for televising the event.
For the format, it was agreed that candidates for mayor would speak first followed by those seeking the two council seat positions because the questions may be different between the two groups.
Both forums will be held on the same evening in 2019 during the last week of January or the first week of February, said City Clerk Lesley DeMuth.
The general municipal election will be held on Tuesday, March 12, 2019.