The March 2 Gulfport City Council meeting concluded in under 90 minutes as council quickly ran through five resolutions related to upcoming events and the city’s ongoing sewage system maintenance.
Council Continues Sewage System Repairs
The council approved a $39,000 payment to Paramount Power to cover a rented generator needed for one of the city’s lift stations. The generator at the sewage pumping plant next to the Gulfport Recreation Center failed in early December and could not be repaired, so the city rented a replacement, which it plans to use through April until a new permanent generator can be installed. Council also approved a Fiscal Sustainability Plan for ongoing maintenance to the city’s sewage system over the next 10 years.
Events and Programs
Council signed off on its annual Summer Recreation program, which looks after children during seven of the eight-week summer vacation. Due to COVID delays in the school year, summer break this year starts June 9 and ends August 10. Gulfport residents can get a 25% discount when signing their children up for the program, if their child receives free or reduced lunch at school or another form of financial aid.
Council also approved O’Maddy’s St. Patrick’s Day Celebration, the annual March 17 event that was shut down last year due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Ward 1 Councilmember April Thanos called O’Maddy’s owner Joe Guenther up to the podium to answer questions she had about the COVID safety precautions the restaurant was taking for the event.
According to Guenther, they will surround the event area with a fence, with two entrances, and “when the guest enters the area, their temperature will be taken, they’ll be required to wear a mask anytime they’re standing up or walking around… tables will be six feet apart… there will also be staff walking around making sure folks are wearing their masks,” Guenther said.
Council approved the event, with Thanos dissenting out of fear that it will be “too much of a spreader event.”
Council also unanimously approved the application for the March 6 Pink Flamingo Garden Tour, which takes participants through a series of Gulfport’s gardens. The event starts at 11 a.m. at the Gulfport Recreation Center.
“I think people will be very impressed with the properties that we’ve lined up. It is Covid-friendly, we have spacing, we have masks, and we have hand sanitizers at the registration area,” said Caron Schwartz, who spoke on behalf of organizers. Tickets are $10 until Thursday night; and $15 after.
Overheard at Gulfport City Council
“I really want to thank the city manager for agreeing to meet with Margot and myself and for the approval of the very first ‘Art in the Yard.’ If you haven’t heard, that’s gonna be March 27, and that’s going to be the first opportunity for actual local Gulfport artists to put out art in their own yard to sell it without the need for any special permits; it will be an outside event with very limited hours, 10 to 2… The only rule is that people can put up their art, how good it is, or how not-so-good it is, but it must be made by them, no resale of any items at Art in the Yard.” – Karen Love
“I’ve been up here a number of times speaking to city council – I think this is number seven or eight – about Boca Ciega Yacht Club and the disgusting attitude they have towards our community… Mr. O’Reilly, you did receive the letter from 11 women from Boca Ciega Yacht Club explaining gender discrimination, and still you did nothing as our human rights officer.” – Ray Rodriguez on what he claims is a pattern of antisemitism, ableism, and sexism stemming from Boca Ciega Yacht Club, and what he says is the city’s refusal to provide him documents related to BCYC. The Pinellas County Office of Human Rights did perform an investigation on behalf of Rodriguez in 2019, but found “insufficient evidence to substantiate the allegations of unlawful discrimination.” City Manager Jim O’Reilly responded by saying the city provides as much documentation to the public as they are legally able to.
“The other thing I wanted to bring up… is to add something to our council meeting rules about not having any talk about campaigns either from the public or from us, during the council meetings. We could have a lawyer draw something for us to review, since that’ll be coming up after the election, when we adopt our new council rules.” – Councilmember April Thanos, as part of her closing statement. Mayor Sam Henderson agreed with the idea, saying it had “always just kinda been the rule,” but had never been adopted formally.
“I don’t have any comments other than enjoy your health, enjoy the people around you – you never know how long you’ve got them. I’ve been spending some time with my father in Texas at the beginning of this year; his health is failing, he’s not doing too great. It’s hard to see someone you thought was so strong, so resilient, finally succumb to some things. So appreciate your loved ones, and appreciate the health that you have now, even if it may not be where you want it to be. If we’re still above ground it’s a good day.” – Mayor Sam Henderson in his closing comments