Tom Washburn of Pinellas County Public Works was at the Gulfport City Council meeting February 20 to discuss delays in the project at Gulfport Boulevard and 53rd Avenue due to soil contamination from an underground tank left from The Little General gas station 30 years ago. Sammy’s Citgo station currently is located in this spot.
“This does not reflect on the current business,” said Mayor Sam Henderson, emphasizing that this delay was not caused by the current business or landlord.
“We were told it should be a two- to three-day cleanup,” said Washburn. “There also is a line with asbestos that needs to be removed on the north side of 22nd [Avenue South].” Washburn said that there is a mid-March goal for the remaining cleanup and changing of the pipe, and then the paving project can begin.
“[Paving] is expected to be done by early May, which puts us six weeks behind,” said Washburn.
Pinellas County Public Works will be at the next city council meeting to give an update on the project’s progress.
Council Final Approval on Mooring Field
Council voted 5-0 to allow a 25 slip, public mooring field within a 17.5-acre area within Boca Ciega Bay. The mooring field will be constructed with 25 permanent anchored buoy systems. Support facilities for the mooring field will be provided by the City of Gulfport Municipal Marina and include restrooms, showers, laundry, fueling facilities, garbage drop-off and sewage pump-out facilities.
“I am against a mooring field because of the pollution they cause,” said Beverly Comstock of Town Shores during public comments.
“I spent a lot of time on Chesapeake Bay and, while dumping of porta-potties is illegal, it happens,” said resident Patrice Shannon, also voicing her concern.
City Manager Jim O’Reilly discussed Gulfport’s plan to try to limit potential polluting the bay related to the mooring field.
“We will have a pump-out vessel to pump out the vessels [toilets],” said O’Reilly. “Ideally, pump-out vessels will run seven days a week.”
Council Has Heavy Discussion About Parkland School Shooting
Council took a section of the meeting to reflect on last week’s shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, which left 17 dead.
“Our society has so many cracks in it,” said Councilmember Christine Brown. “I don’t think life is valued as much as it used to be.”
“I spent fifteen minutes explaining escape routes and safety to my students at USF instead of just being able to teach Earth Science, but this is what we are faced with,” said Henderson.
Councilmember Yolanda Roman said she was directly affected by the shootings.
“I have a friend, Fred Guttenburg, who lost his daughter Jaime in Parkland,” said Roman trying to hold back tears.
Roman has been vocal to council about gun control in the past, proposing that council pass a resolution on the issue. In a Facebook post this week, Roman reiterated her position:
“My purpose for requesting that the city of Gulfport take a position with the state of Florida and our congressional leadership with a simple ‘Resolution’ was to make it known that Gulfport would stand alongside other cities in calling for sound gun laws that preserve the 2nd Amendment, but that would begin to enact regulations to keep our cities and its residents safe.”
At Tuesday’s meeting, Roman said, “I stand by my proposal from last fall,” referring to a resolution she proposed during a council meeting November 21, 2017 calling for the city to “express support for gun control,” and create a “Gulfport position statement expressing public safety.”
The resolution failed 4-1, with councilmembers expressing concern over wording and the fact that there are state and federal laws that take precedence over the positions provided.
“We already have laws on the books for over half of the items in this document,” said Councilmember Dan Liedtke at the time.
Council Approves Information Technology Deal for One More Year
Council voted 5-0 to approve Resolution 2018-14 which initiates year two of a possible two-year optional extended agreement period between the City of Gulfport and Extensys, Inc., for information technology managed services. Extensys provides a fully functioning 24/7 IT staff complete with monitoring, maintenance and on-hand service during business hours at a fraction of the cost a team and operation of this size would normally cost a traditional IT city program. According to the memorandum, the financial impact originally saved the city approximately $71,819. The cost of the contract will remain fixed for the next year resulting in no extra cost to the city.
Gulfport Library Receives Major Award
Henderson announced that David Mather, the Director of the Gulfport Library and Information Technology Department received the American Library Association’s Newlin-Symons Award for excellence in serving the LGBT community. Presented by the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Round Table, the award honors a librarian, library staff member, library, or library board that has designed programs or initiatives responsive to the needs of the LGBT community.