During the regular Gulfport City Council meeting, Tuesday, February 18, a representative from every city department was present to give their yearly review for 2019.
City Manager Jim O’Reilly touched on what was accomplished this past year, but made a point to make mention of the future of Gulfport.
“Our job is to get rid of the trash and take care of the children,” said O’Reilly.
Budgeting talks for the upcoming year will begin either late March or the first of April according to O’Reilly.
For now, here’s look at what the city accomplished this past year:
According to the city manager, 2019 was the eighth consecutive year the millage rate stayed the same. Millage is a taxation rate expressed in mills or 1/1000 per dollar. This is good news according to O’Reilly: “This leaves out of the recession.”
Administrative Services, briefed by City Finance Director Cheryl Hannafin
The City of Gulfport partnered with St. Petersburg College to provide for three internship opportunities in three different programs: Music Industry Recording Arts, Information Technology and Human Services.
“Gulfport has been awarded with $4.5 million in grants and is pending another $500,000 in previously submitted grants,” reported Hannafin. “This an amazing amount of grants for a city our size.”
“These grants were made possible due to the amazing grant writing capability of city staff members,” commented Mayor Sam Henderson.
Some notable grants that were received were the FEMA grant acquired after 2017’s Hurricane Irma for $829,145. Pinellas Public Library Cooperative (PPLC) issued the Gulfport Public Library a grant for $180,000 for library renovations. Three grants were provided from the Community Development Program (CDBG) that resourced $900,000 for the Shore Boulevard and Trolley Market Square revamps.
Two small but mighty grants were also awarded: The Gulfport Public Library received a grant for $2,319 after the Institute of Museum and Library Services awarded the prestigious National Medal for Museum and Library Service for their programs and LGBTQ Resource Center. The Gulfport Fire Department was granted $9,226 from Pinellas County to obtain a new emergency response vehicle.
Finally, Gulfport became fully ADA compliant concerning the budget. This means that alternate means of accessibility have been provided in person and online for people with disabilities to fully access information produced and distributed by the city.
Fire Rescue, presented Fire Chief James Marenkovic
This past year two lieutenants were promoted to captain, fulfilling critical positions in the Emergency Medical (EMS) section and the Fire Inspections and Investigations section.
Gulfport Fire Rescue operates out of a single fire station and is responsible for the protection of 12,500 residents living within the city of three square miles. The station reportedly answered over 3000 calls, up three percent from last year’s call log.
Due to the grant awarded to the fire fepartment, Gulfport will be receiving a custom-built 2019 Ford F450 4×2 with a wheeled coach body for use as an ALS rescue vehicle. Sunstar is still the city’s primary emergency transport, but in the event that Sunstar cannot respond to a call in less than seven minutes, the new vehicle will be capable for emergency transportation.
“This has the opportunity to save many more lives, due previous response times being at times, 10 minutes or more,” according to Marenkovic.
Councilmember Mike Fridovich shared an anecdote with attendees, commending Gulfport Fire Rescue on their proficiency of advance cardiac care, saving the life of a close friend of his.
Gulfport Fire Rescue has also reached out to the Gulfport Police Department, successfully cross-training in life-safety procedures.
Police Department, presented by Commander Mary Farrand
Over all training hours for the department was almost 600 hours higher than in 2018. The increased training hours was due to cross-training with Gulfport Fire Rescue and compliance with active-shooter training and drills.
In 2019, the Citizens Police Academy had one of their largest numbers of participants. According to Farrand, 16 people were able to learn and witness firsthand what Gulfport police officers do when they provide police services to the citizens of Gulfport.
Gulfport Police Department’s biggest fundraiser, Operation Santa, helped make a better Christmas for 261 children and 94 Gulfport families.
Public Library, presented by Director of library and information science, Dave Mather
Besides winning one of the top awards in America, Gulfport’s Public Library excelled across the board, according to Mather.
“We won the award for service to the community, we won it for the children’s program, our outreach to seniors and our LGBTQ center, which is the only one in a library in Florida,” said Mather.
Mather gave a shout out to Youth Services Librarian Callie Klasson for improving the library’s children’s program.
The library went from having three to four children at story time “to increasing story time to four times a week, usually with 30-80 participants,” said Mather.
Mather also informed those present of a few new services the library has started offering and will offer in the near future.
Library-goers can print from home or from their devices to the library. And the printed items can be picked up at the library within 24 hours.
By the end of the year, Mather is hoping that the library will receive its passport certification. Yes, that means you can use the library to receive your passport, the first in Pinellas to do so.
Public Works, presented by Public Works Director Tom Nicholls
In 2019, the Public Works Department received four new sanitation vehicles allowing the department to better handle the 40 tons of trash and two tons of recycling they pick up every single day in Gulfport.
Three years ago, the roads were assessed and given grades based on their quality. By last October, all the roads that were rated very poor had been improved. By this year, October, all the roads rated “poor” will be improved, explained Nicholls. After October 2020, roads in fair condition will be upgraded.
Community Development, presented by Director Fred Metcalf
Two important things were discussed concerning Community Development. The first concerning Gulfport’s Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM). For the past eight years, Metcalf and his team have been working with FEMA to have Gulfport rezoned.
The FIRM is the official map of a community on which FEMA has delineated both the special hazard areas and the risk premium zones applicable to the community. According to Metcalf, one third of Gulfport is in a flood zone, but, thanks to new technology, flood zones in Gulfport are being re-evaluated. This means areas that are currently in a flood zone may not be after further measurements.
“Flood zones are decreasing and no, it’s not because sea-levels are dropping,” explained Metcalf. “We have new technology we can thank and eight years of hard work.”
The second largest change was in permit valuations, according to Metcalf.
“More people are starting projects and spending more money on these projects,” said Metcalf.
According to graphs presented, the amount of money spent on permit valuations has steadily increased over the past five years. More projects mean an increase in property value, explained Metcalf.
As for the future of Gulfport, focus is on several items:
Community Development: Presenting the Waterfront Redevelopment District Height and Parking Ordinance Changes. A Public Works focus on the city’s sewer systems and William’s Pier rehabilitation. As well as exploring the possibility to expand the Community Arts Center at Bryer Hall.
Full State of the City Department presentations can be viewed here.