It was a relatively full house at the Catherine Hickman Theater for the Tuesday, December 1 Gulfport City Council meeting, yet there was only one item on the agenda – renewal of the Boca Ciega Yacht Club lease.
BCYC members of the past and present filled the seats and nearly the entire two-hour meeting with commentary on why the club is essential to the community.
Due to ongoing legal matters, the BCYC and the City of Gulfport have been unable to negotiate a new lease. This forced the city to wait until the last minute to decide whether council would approve BCYC’s continued use of the waterfront property where the club has resided since the 1960s.
Council’s decision turned out to be a cliffhanger.
After a short discussion and many questions, council directed City Manager Jim O’Reilly and City Attorney Andrew Salzman to draft a month-by-month agreement for BCYC to remain in place until the conclusion of the active litigation.
Council did not discuss the details of the agreement as they have yet to be decided.
Mayor Sam Henderson made a point to assure residents that Sea Scouts, the youth sailing program BCYC oversees, will still have a home in the community, even if the city does not agree to a longer lease for the club.
“The city is going to support the Sea Scouts as long as there are people willing to do it; we have options to do that,” Henderson said. “That’s not something that will go away.”
Santa is Going to Rock and Roll Through Town
That’s right, Mrs. Claus has cleared Santa to travel to Gulfport, Monday, December 7 at 6 p.m.
“I got a phone call the other day: Santa is coming to town,” Gulfport Fire Inspector James Lundh said.
Gulfport’s finest first responders – the Gulfport Police Department and Gulfport Fire Rescue – will escort Santa atop his vintage fire engine in a parade through Gulfport.
The parade will start at Clymer Park and wind it’s way through the city’s four wards before ending back where it started. See full map and more information here.
City of Gulfport Holiday Decorating Contest
In preparation for Santa’s visit, the City of Gulfport encourages residents and businesses to decorate their homes and storefronts for the City of Gulfport’s Holiday Decorating Contest.
Apparently, Santa enjoys a good ol’ friendly competition.
Residents can pick up applications at the Gulfport Recreation Center, 5730 Shore Blvd. S. The applications must be returned no later than noon, Wednesday, December 16. Call 727-893-1068 for more information.
Bike Trails Near Completion
Gulfport Public Works Director Tom Nicholls announced that the Osgood Point Bike Trail and the extended county bike lane are open and ready for use.
Gulfport’s Osgood Point Bike Trail runs north and south of Gulfport with easy access from Gulfport Boulevard, 55th Street and 58th Street near 23rd Avenue South.
“I had a chance to ride both of those trails in the last week,” said Henderson. “It’s a great town for biking.”
According to Nicholls, a few more signs and pavement markings need to be placed to complete the project.
Pier Reopening Update
As of Wednesday, November 25 folks are back to fishing and promenading on Gulfport’s Bert and Walter Williams Pier, which closed in July for its first major overhaul since opening in 1987.
While a few non-safety related items, such as paving and lighting, are still in the works, inspectors gave the city a thumbs up to reopen. Due to contractor, holiday and weather delays, paving around the pier has not been completed.
According to Nicholls, paving should pick back up in two weeks, and the city is hopeful the project will be fully finished, including lighting, in the first weeks of January.
Council Talks Mental Health
The holidays can be hard for many people, and this year has been especially cruel.
Councilmember Christine Brown asked O’Reilly if the city could regularly post available mental health and drug addiction services on the city’s website and social media.
“Let’s not forget about the first responders that respond to these calls,” said Brown. “What they go through – emotionally, physically and mentally – it’s hard on them.”
“The holiday season is typically the toughest season mentally for people and of course, now we have COVID, which makes it even worse,” Councilmember Paul Ray said. “I just hope that everybody pays attention to family members and neighbors during this period of time, because depression isn’t always very noticeable, but it is treatable.”
Residents can expect a PSA on this from the mayor soon.
Overheards at the December 1 Gulfport City Council Meeting
“Who investigates discrimination in the City of Gulfport and are they asleep at the wheel?” – Resident Ray Rodriguez during open public comment.
“All of us must do some deep introspection because the road moving forward is dangerous. Decisions tonight will reflect how this council, this democratic republic body, contrasts with the greater democratic republic in which we all live.” – Resident Richard Fried during open public comment.
“My job is to look out for the city, for our liability and for what we can be put at risk for.” – Mayor Sam Henderson during BCYC lease discussions.
“I did have COVID, but I don’t have COVID now.” – Henderson during council comments, announcing that his last COVID-19 test came back negative.