Council Denies Modifications to Sidewalk

To protect people from traversing the area between street-level bump outs and the lower sidewalk along Shore Boulevard between 54th Street South and Beach Bouleveard, the city has added hand railings and pollards with chains to prevent them from stepping into the storm drain next to the sidewalk.

When the Gulfport City Council considered three options to modify the sidewalk area on the north side of Shore Boulevard between 54th Street South and Beach Boulevard at their meeting on Tuesday, October 16, they unanimously chose a fourth variation – make no changes.

Earlier this year, after street improvements in the area were made as part of the second phase to complete the Shore Boulevard Beautification project, a potential safety issue surfaced.

“We have outside cafes that are in that area and we also have smoking restrictions,” said City Manager Jim O’Reilly. “What was happening was, individuals were going out into the public roadway or standing on the bump outs and smoking.”

The bump outs or islands are raised sections located near the existing sidewalk that “are there to protect the parked vehicles that are now part of the 60-degree angled parking,” said O’Reilly during the April 2 council meeting. In the past, the area had parallel parking.

The difference in the level of the islands and the sidewalk prompted city staff to add safety barriers in the form of bollards and chains to protect pedestrians from stepping into storm drains that are located between the two, he said.

“I didn’t think people would step over bollard and chain barriers,” said O’Reilly at the April 2 meeting.

Though modifying the existing sidewalk was not part of the original engineering for the beautification project, council members discussed a replacement solution involving brick pavers at a cost of $83,775 as a way to solve the safety issue related to pedestrian behavioral issues.

At the time, Councilmember Dan Liedtke proposed the idea for the staff to look into other solutions that would be effective but less costly. The council approved.

At the October 16 meeting, the following three options were presented: raise the sidewalk elevations adjacent to the bump outs or replace the whole sidewalk using either concrete or brink pavers. Low bid costs ranged from $48,145 to $98,820 respectively.

A fourth option that is always available is to do nothing, said O’Reilly.

“I’m really glad that you said or ‘do nothing’ because I thought it was initially so dangerous but now, the way it’s been redesigned, it’s such a visual thing, we see it,” said Karen Behmke Love, a resident who frequents the area. “I don’t see people tripping the way they were.”

Now, in addition to decorative bollards and chains that were the initial fix, hand railings have been placed near the storm drain areas to provide something “more substantial that is aesthetic and more permanent to keep people from traversing” the area, said O’Reilly. One is on one side of the drains and one is on the other.

Having the staff facilitate the rebid of the sidewalk modification project with multiple choices “gave us some options and time to see what was working,” said Mayor Sam Henderson.

“I don’t see a problem so I don’t see anything that needs to be fixed,” said Councilmember Michael Fridovich.

Margarete Tober, president of the non-profit Gulfport Neighbors volunteer group and the main organizer of the annual Mayors’ 49th Street Cleanup and Chiefs’ Chat Forum, presented three Certificates of Appreciation and golden trash pickers to, from left, City Manager Jim O’Reilly, Mayor Sam Henderson and Chief of Police Robert Vincent at the October 16 council meeting. The 5th-annual cleanup was held Saturday, October 13 at what is now known as Trolley Market Square park. “We decided since it was the fifth anniversary that you all should receive the golden picker awards,” said Tober. A complete list of people that helped produce the event will be published in the Gabber newspaper, she said.

Municipal General Election Date Approved

Council unanimously approved the date for the 2019 municipal general election as Tuesday, March 12.

At that time, voters will have the opportunity to make choices regarding three seats on the five-member council. The mayor serves a three-year term while councilmembers for Ward II and IV both serve two-year terms.

The qualifying period begins Monday, December 3, 2018 at 8:30 a.m. and ends on Monday, December 10, 2018 at noon.

The anticipated cost to conduct the election is $12,074.

Currently, Sam Henderson serves as mayor while Vice Mayor Christine Brown represents Ward II and Michael Fridovich represents Ward IV.

Three Dates Changed for Council Meetings

First, council approved the cancelation of the Tuesday, November 6 regular meeting because the City Council Chambers is a polling place for the election being held on the same day.

Second, to extend the Thanksgiving Day national holiday that occurs on Thursday, November 22, council approved the rescheduling of the Tuesday, November 20 regular meeting to Thursday, November 15.

Third, since Tuesday, January 1, 2019 is New Year’s Day, a national holiday, council agreed to cancel this meeting.

City council is normally scheduled to conduct regular meetings on the first and third Tuesday evenings of each month beginning at 7 p.m. at Gulfport City Hall, 2401 53rd Street South.



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