Gulfport knows how to throw a party. However, the city’s traditional benevolence with in-kind services for special events may be reduced up to 50 percent during the 2017-2018 fiscal year according to budget talks at the council meeting on Tuesday, July 18.
“The 50 percent number is a good place to start,” said Mayor Sam Henderson.
Before the next council meeting, city staff plans to contact regular event organizers individually to talk about “give and take” regarding in-kind services, said City Manager Jim O’Reilly.
“We are a very inviting city,” said Councilmember Yolanda Roman. A reduction in in-kind services that the city can no longer afford can be obtained “with better cost-sharing options that are equitable across all events.”
For the first time in Gulfport’s history, Justin Shea, the city’s cultural facilities events supervisor, prepared a detailed accounting of total costs associated with special events.
The new report “shows the level of support we provide to special events,” he said. “It’s a way to put a value on it.”
Another way to reduce in-kind services and increase revenue related to renting city venues like the Casino is to eliminate repetitive topical events that currently occupy entire weekends Friday through Sunday, said O’Reilly. If a Saturday or Sunday is freed up, the city can then charge a rental fee.
In the future, organizations like Goodwill wishing to use the city as an event destination may need to partner with a local Gulfport group like the Chamber of Commerce or Merchants Association, said O’Reilly. For the past two years, Goodwill has sponsored a 5K charity run that winds throughout city streets.
“We are not unique” when it comes to looking at how special events are handled in the future, said O’Reilly.
Additional workflow changes for planning purposes could include locking down the annual city calendar after a certain date and charging a late fee to groups who wish to add their events after the deadline.
“People should pay for what they are using,” said April Thanos, a Gulfport resident who has been a Ward 1 council candidate.
Further nuances regarding the management of special events and other aspects of the proposed budget for fiscal year 2017-18 will be discussed during the August council meetings. To view the proposed budget, visit: mygulfport.us/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Proposed-Budget-FY-17-18-07.11.2017.pdf.
State Report: Clam Bayou is Improving
Gulfport recently asked the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to update their research and according to the report’s findings just received by the city, a “low-level detection of a human source marker was found.”
That means, according to O’Reilly, “Some treated or untreated waste water does reach Clam Bayou during heavy rain events. There was also the presence of a shore bird specific marker,” indicating that bird feces is also present under these conditions.
However overall, said O’Reilly, reading from the report’s summary, “the decreasing sediment contaminant levels along with an increase in the number of macroinvertebrates and bird species is a positive sign that Clam Bayou has benefitted from the restoration habitat enhancement activities and that the ecosystem is starting to recover.”
Smiling, O’Reilly said, “It’s been a long path and I’m just happy we finally have some documentation that it’s improving.”
Mooring Field Grant Request Denied
The 17.5-acre sailboat mooring field, if funded, would be located in the waters that face Williams Pier, the Casino and beach areas. A total of 25 slips would be available to serve an estimated 62 boat visitors annually. The total original projected budget for the project during the first year was $350,000 in February.
The city’s grant application to the Florida Boating Improvement Program administered by the state’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission was “unfortunately denied” on June 21, said O’Reilly. “Our project was like 15 out of 52 but they only funded the top 10.”
Gulfport is still scheduled to receive $100,000 in Pinellas County BP monies and has received “about $80,000 in funding” – twice as much as originally expected — from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection Clean Vessel Act program administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for a pump-out vessel, which has been acquired, he said.
Now, in order to move the construction project forward, an estimated $75,000 in city funds will be needed, said O’Reilly. In February, the city earmarked from $35,000 to $100,00 of their BP funds for the project, so the new estimate falls within that range.
Operating costs for the first year can be absorbed by the normal operation of the marina, said O’Reilly.
“The staff needs direction from the council,” so the mooring field topic will be added to budget discussions planned for the next council meeting, he said.
Beach Nourishment Project Stalls
The city has been negotiating with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Pinellas County Tourist Development Council to obtain permission and funding to move forward with beach nourishment, but the costs and project scope “got out of hand,” said Henderson.
“What we wanted we couldn’t get from anyone,” said Henderson. “The only thing they were willing to give us was basically a Cadillac of storm protection for the 100-year storm that would be the most severe,” meaning the city would lose “any sort of a natural beach feel, which is what the people want. If we want to nourish that beach, we’re going to have to pursue something ourselves.”
Discussion of specific funding options was deferred to a future council meeting.
Highlights of Other Business
For the sixth consecutive year, a millage rate of 4.039 was proposed for fiscal year 2017-2018. Public hearings will be held during regularly scheduled city council meetings on September 5 and September 19, said O’Reilly.
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Cameron Althaus, Teen Council treasurer, has won third place in a new contest sponsored by the Florida League of Cities. His photo depicts some of the art work in Clymer Park. He will be recognized at a future council meeting.
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As a group, members of the council were scheduled to receive an update from the city’s contract attorney beginning at 6 p.m. on July 18 during a non-public shade meeting about pending litigation involving three non-profit groups: Suncoast Waterkeeper, Our Children’s Earth Foundation and the Ecological Rights Foundation. The lawsuit claims that Gulfport’s sewage discharges violate the Clean Water Act.
However, the certified court reporter did not show. A transcript of the group’s briefing would have been public record after the litigation process is completed, said City Clerk Leslie DeMuth.
To comply with the state’s Sunshine law, City Attorney Andrew Salzman instructed each city council member present to meet with the contract counsel individually for about 15 minutes in the city manager’s office. The following council members received an update: Mayor Sam Henderson, Vice-Mayor Daniel Liedtke, and councilmembers Yolanda Roman and Michael Fridovich. Councilmember Christine Brown was absent as she is on vacation. Transcripts of these meetings were not required or recorded.
The 7 p.m. start time of the regular city council meeting was delayed about 15 minutes to accommodate the meetings.