As 2015 draws to a close, I want to give you an update on some of the projects either completed or underway in the City of Gulfport. We’ve had a very active and successful year, and in spite of our continuing battle to curb external sewage discharges to our waters, we are moving in a positive direction. We’ll start with an old favorite.
* Sewer assessment and repairs are ongoing as we utilize funding from the state revolving loan program. This is one of the few debts the city has taken on in recent years, and we did so in the interest of accelerating our rate of wastewater infrastructure repair and replacement. Many of our priority repairs, particularly near the shore and bayou, have already been completed at a cost of 1.5 million as these are most prone to groundwater infiltration. Council will be discussing the potential for further expansion of this program in early 2016.
* I spoke again with district 13 Congressman David Jolly recently regarding federal funding for nourishment (more sand) on Gulfport Beach. He has pledged his continued support in helping us to secure this funding and continues to advocate for our project with the Army Corps of Engineers.
* Based on extensive community input regarding the proposed bicycle/pedestrian trail that will connect Gulfport and our waterfront district to the Skyway Trail just east of Clam Bayou, we have greatly scaled back the plans for this project. In order to mitigate impact to residents, council will be reviewing a revised trail plan in the next month that eliminates a constructed trail through our neighborhoods and instead incorporates an on-street design demarcated by signage and street striping. My hope is that we will still achieve the trail connectivity that our biking and walking community desires while also easing any real or perceived burdens to residents who live along the proposed route. Thanks to Community Development Director Fred Metcalf for his continued efforts and flexibility in developing an agreeable solution.
* In what I view as a wise and pragmatic move, council has thus far been amenable to using the recently received 1.2 million dollars of BP settlement money for infrastructure improvements (roadway paving and sewer rehabilitation), environmentally friendly surfacing options for the beach parking lot, resurfacing of the marina parking lot and a complete renovation of Tomlinson Park’s play areas. I would be remiss not to thank Councilman Liedtke for bringing this funding opportunity to our attention a few years back.
* Many thanks to City Manager James O’Reilly, Cultural Facilities Director Justin Shea and city staff, as well as John and Marjorie Milford, for their role in securing designation for the Gulfport Casino on the National Registry of Historic Places.
* Installation of 10 boat lifts at the municipal marina, as well as securing contracts for renovation of the remainder of the marina facilities. Thanks to Denis Frain for all the time and energy he has invested toward this end.
* Completion of the new grant-funded floating docks adjacent to the Casino.
* Completion of renovations to the Gulfport Library. Stop in to see the changes if you haven’t already, and be sure to thank Dave Mather for all of his efforts on that front.
* Completion of the Pasadena Place culvert replacement in PYCC. Thanks to district 69 Rep. Kathleen Peters for her role in securing state funding for this much needed project. As always, a big thanks to Public Works Director Don Sopak for his outstanding performance
* Conversion of all city street lights to high efficiency LED bulbs. This conversion was performed by Duke Energy at no cost to the city.
* Completed re-paving of the most damaged portions of 18th Ave and 25th Ave. Don’t worry 31st Ave and others, you are in the queue.
Lastly, thanks to my fellow Council Members and our hard-working city staff, emergency responders and motivated volunteers for their performance over the past year. It hasn’t been easy by any stretch, but we have accomplished a great deal and will continue to do so in the coming year. My family and I wish you Happy Holidays, Gulfport!
Mayor, City of Gulfport FL