After an extended break since the last regular meeting in March, Gulfport City Council put in three and a half hours of business at Tuesday night’s meeting. Even still, council recommended moving two discussion items – board appointments and council rules of procedures, and 2016/17 capital improvement program and budget – to the upcoming April 19 meeting.
The meeting, the first since last month’s municipal election, began with the swearing in of reelected members of council. Both Yolanda Roman, who ran unopposed, and Dan Liedtke were sworn into their council seats, while Sam Henderson was sworn in as mayor.
Along with the swearing in, a new vice mayor was selected: Councilmember Michael Fridovich.
Yeas and Nays over Skate Park, Volleyball
Following the presentation of David Mather as Florida’s top librarian (see thegabber.com/gulfports-mather-librarian-of-the-year), the meeting began with a standing-room-only crowd ready to make public comments. These were focused on disapproval over moving the skate park to the city Recreation Center, largely by residents of Town Shores. An apparently equal number of proponents of the skate park stepped up to the public microphone to voice their opinions, citing the need for a proper skate park in the city.
“I kind of like that idea,” Pat Kidder said. “I grew up with the old and made a few friends, exercised, got outside, didn’t sit in front of the TV; it kept me out of trouble and I think it would be good for a lot of kids in Gulfport. These kids are growing up here. A lot of people in this crowd, they didn’t grow up here, they moved here; they live here a couple months out of the year. So it’s important for the kids that are here all the time to have a place of their own.”
Many residents also complained about the whistles during beach volleyball matches, citing it as a noise violation according to city ordinance section 14-36. The ordinance states, “No person shall sound or cause to be sounded a steam whistle or any whistle of similar character or volume except to give notice of the time of beginning or stopping work or as a warning of danger.”
City Manager Jim O’Reilly said that he interprets whistles “as part of an athletic event” as an exception to the ordinance, though this may be subject to reinterpretation in the future.
Clam Bayou Update
O’Reilly also had a chance to announce that the water quality of Clam Bayou has, in fact, improved.
“I am comfortable recommending that we treat this as there is no presence of bird or human DNA,” O’Reilly said.
This information comes from an independent study conducted by Gulfport. The results of the study further back up similar claims by a St. Petersburg study that was released in December of 2015.
In light of the news, council also decided to accept the letter of agreement with the city of St. Petersburg that set forth protocol in the event that a similar situation arises.
“This is what we asked for,” Mayor Henderson said regarding the most recent draft of the agreement sent from St. Petersburg. “It took us a lot longer than I think we needed to.”
The letter describes plans that include St. Petersburg giving advance notice for any need to redirect water overflow into any waterways shared with Gulfport and promised to work with Gulfport to help avoid such a situation. It also mentions St. Petersburg’s construction of a new water treatment storage tank, two new deep well pumps that will pump water into the ground, and increasing funding on projects that will help avoid future problems.
The motion passed with a 4-to-1 vote, with Councilmember Yolanda Roman the sole hold-out.
“I’m not opposed to it,” Roman said. “But it doesn’t excuse them and never will.”
Bike Trail Compromise Moves Forward
There was further development on the proposed bike trail during the extended meeting.
Council was given the task of choosing one of the options for the bike trail or route extending from the Osgood trail connector to downtown Gulfport. Option one consists of the widely criticized trail that would be paved for cyclists. Options two and three consisted of a variety of signage and road markings to denote a clear route. Council ultimately chose option two to have a paved pathway connecting the St. Petersburg tail system to a designated route that is marked by road markings.
The specific road markings for the route are called “sharrows” or arrows that designate the road to be a shared road between motorists and cyclists. The total cost for the the project will reach $243,700. Over $38,000 will be designated for the paved portion of the Osgood trail connector, which according to Gulfport Community Development Director Fred Metcalf, will be “strong enough to roll a tank over.” Gulfport is still in talks with St. Petersburg to help absorb some of the cost and city staff is working to insure that secured grant money will still cover the changed plans for the trail.
“I’m comfortable starting here and maybe building on it,” Henderson said. “We wanted a route, and that’s what we’re going to get.” Henderson also explained that this solution is a compromise from the plan the city originally had.
49th Street Outfall
The 49th Street outfall improvement project is taking shape, according to Dr. Bob Brown of the environmental engineering firm Cardno Ltd. and Gulfport’s Public Works Director Don Sopak.
The baffle boxes – devices designed to help collect solid debris and sediment – as well as two ponds to filter storm water runoff before it enters into the marina waters, will be put in place along 49th Street and should be completed by June 2017. According to Brown, 7500 fewer pounds of trash will be going out to Boca Ciega Bay thanks to this project.
The Gabber reported on December 16, 2015 that the project also creates two detention ponds connected by a pipe that would be located in the small patch of land directly west of the Municipal Marina.