At the virtual council meeting Tuesday, August 4 at 6 p.m., Gulfport City Council talked money and future city improvements, including a possible new public safety complex, pickleball court, a downtown splash pad and marina updates. The meeting was held via Zoom.
Council Unanimous on Three Resolutions
In essence, the resolution means that the City of Gulfport is a part of a county-wide plan to preemptively help mitigate extensive damage after a disaster – such as wildfires and flooding caused by storms.
The updated 2020 LMS plan has been approved by the State of Florida, Division of Emergency Management and FEMA and overrides previous versions of the plan.
The second resolution will allow the city to upgrade its current financial software. The total cost for Tyler Technologies Software Upgrade is $153,592. The software upgrade is expected to improve city finance functions, with increased audit capabilities.
The final resolution authorizes City Manager Jim O’Reilly to seek federal assistance offered by Congress to reimburse the city for unexpected expenses due to COVID-19.
Additional COVID expenses included supplies, facility cleaning, facility operations, building modifications, Fire and EMS coverage, IT equipment and operational software, voluntary antibody testing for city employees, a small business Gulfport Gateway Grant and a Residential Recovery and Resiliency R3 Program for residents.
Three Ordinances Passed Unanimously
The first of the ordinances approved the inclusion of the definition of bullying and cyberbullying to the city’s charter (chapter 26-2) under the Human Rights Ordinance.
Read Councilmember Paul Ray’s comments on the amendment here.
Council also approved a three-year lease with the Gulfport Yacht Club at $20,000 yearly for three years.
The newest lease is shorter than previous leases. The shorter lease allows the city to potentially use that parcel of land for any future large-scale marina expansion or other endeavors.
Council also passed an ordinance that will dictate when and where food trucks can operate within city limits.
Look for more coverage on the food truck ordinances in next week’s print edition.
Talking ‘Bout the Budget
The bulk of this week’s council meeting revolved around the review of the city’s proposed 2020-2021 fiscal year budget.
Budget priorities include focus on public safety, utilities infrastructure, technology enhancements to the city service delivery model, city infrastructure improvements and utility rates (water/sewer/storm water/sanitation).
The proposed general fund recommended budget expenses total $14,810,482, which is a $913,482 increase from the 2019-2020 FY budget of $13,897,000.
Anyone who wants to comment on the budget before council votes it into effect can virtually attend public hearings on Thursday, September 3 and Tuesday, September 15, at 6 p.m. Submit public comments to City Clerk Lesley Demuth at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Budget council comments were led by Ward 2 Councilmember Christine Brown and focused on future projects, including building a “Public Safety Complex” in the 49th Street corridor, for the police department, fire department and an up-to-date and standalone professional emergency operations center, separate from city hall.
Brown suggested several other projects: a marina master plan to include the linear park and living shoreline; a previously mentioned splash pad and turning the tennis courts into pickleball courts.
Ward 3 Councilmember Paul Ray agreed with Brown and also alluded to the idea of an outdoor entertainment area near the recreation center.
Vice Mayor Michael Fridovich also suggested possibly acquiring the Wells Fargo property and building at 2001 49th St S.
“I’d like to keep solar in budget,” Ward 4 Councilmember April Thanos added.
Mayor Sam Henderson and Brown still support adding a K-9 unit to the police department, but Thanos balked at that investment right now.
City council meetings will continue to be held virtually until the end of September, pending updates from Governor DeSantis.
Stay tuned to the Gabber for a more comprehensive breakdown of the City of Gulfport’s FY 2021’s suggested budget.
Overheard at the Virtual Council Meeting
“I think the restrictions are a bit severe. I personally wouldn’t mind seeing them in areas outside of Beach, Shore and Gulfport Boulevard. I think that would be ok.” – Councilmember April Thanos on the mobile food vendor ordinance.
“I want to do things for our citizens, not to them.” – Councilmember Brown
“Well, without trying to sound like my normal, usual cynical self, I think it’s a great idea about the police station. What a novel idea. I’m glad I didn’t come up with that eight-years ago. Note my cynicism.” – Vice Mayor Michael Fridovich.
“My dream is for everything to be great and me to be able to see my kids. Hopefully if we all stay safe, don’t touch your face, wash your hands, keep your mask on, we should be able to get through this.” – Brown during closing comments as she prepares to return back to school as a BCHS teacher.