On Tuesday, October 6, Gulfport City Council met in person at the Catherine Hickman Theater at 6 p.m. The theater allowed for councilmembers, staff and residents to socially distance, and was streamed over Zoom for residents.
BCYC Lease May Be in Jeopardy
Boca Ciega Yacht Club was accused of profiling, bullying and exclusion by not one, but two residents during public comment. Council plans to take these reports and previous legal issues into consideration prior to the BCYC lease review in December. The Gabber will cover this ongoing issue.
Transit Safety and a Potentially Big Bill for the City
Executive Director of Forward Pinellas, Whit Blanton, presented legislative priorities to council. Hot items included a state mandate to replace all Pinellas County lighted crosswalks, or rectangular rapid flashing beacons, with hybrid pedestrian beacons. This could cost upwards of $20 million to replace all 400 or so in the county. It has not been confirmed whether the county or individual cities will foot the bill.
Council discussed alternative solutions. An initiative, Safe Street Pinellas, collaborates to create a transportation system that is safe for everyone.
The goal, said Blanton, is “for no one to be killed or seriously injured using the roadways in Pinellas County.”
Blanton also informed council of Forward Pinellas’ future interest in redeveloping the 49th Street corridor, addressing affordable and workforce housing and economic opportunity concerns.
Cautious About Re-Opening
Depending on COVID-19 trends in Gulfport and surrounding areas, City Manager Jim O’Reilly said the city hopes to open the Gulfport Casino around mid December for bookings and events.
However, city swap meets and a city-run haunted house are not planned.
City Council Housekeeping
Thursday, October 1 marked the beginning of fiscal year 2021 for the City of Gulfport. With that came several housekeeping items, most focused on renewing yearly contracts for outsourced services.
According to O’Reilly, contracting certain services allows the city to save money by eliminating the costs associated with hiring new city employees.
“I think that’s smart,” said Mayor Sam Henderson. “I think this is an excellent idea because we’ve been down this road before where we ended up with the demand decreasing; if you’ve hired someone then you’re put in the position to let people go. I think it’s good to work with our current staff and contract out our needs.”
The following contracts were unanimously approved by council:
Carr, Riggs & Ingram, LLC for external auditing services. This is the fifth and final year for this contract. City staff will then research other potential bids for the position.
Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office will continue to process Gulfport crime scenes, handle fingerprint identification, evidence storage, dispatch and records management.
The city will continue to use Pinellas County for inspection services and M.T. Causley for both inspection and plan review services.
Council approved a purchase order for Rush Truck Center for anticipated repairs to city sanitation vehicles.
Advanced Engineering & Design, Inc., Avid Group, Cardno, Inc., George F. Young, Inc., HALFF Associated, Inc., and Wright-Pierce will continue with city engineering projects.
The city entered a contract with Hazard Mitigation Grant Program for three permanent generators to be installed at Gulfport City Hall as the emergency operations center critical facility.
Future Meeting Updates and Locations
On Tuesday October 20, Gulfport City Council will again meet at the Catherine Hickman Theater. The Tuesday, November 3 meeting is canceled to allow for uninterrupted voting on election day. However, council plans to resume meetings at City Hall in November, with extensive social distancing measures and limited in-person attendance for the public.