The Shore Boulevard sidewalk replacement proposal was tabled by Gulfport Council at their regular meeting on May 1 pending the consideration of additional options.
When Phase 2 of the Shore Boulevard Recreation Trail project was completed, it included what are called “traffic calming bump outs” or “islands” located near the existing sidewalk that runs along the north edge of the road from Beach Boulevard to 54th Street South.
The islands “are there to protect the parked vehicles that are now part of the 60-degree angled parking,” said O’Reilly. In the past, the area had parallel parking.
The difference in the level of the islands and the sidewalk prompted city staff to add safety barriers like the current bollards and chains to protect pedestrians from stepping off the sidewalk and into storm drains that are located between the two, said O’Reilly.
The problem is, people have not been observing the barriers according to city planning.
Mayor Sam Henderson noted that the islands were “part of the original design” and that the city did not pay for a solution between the two areas as part of the development project. “We didn’t pay for it and not get it,” he said. Therefore, any changes made to the sidewalk are the city’s responsibility.
O’Reilly said, “It is not a design flaw. It’s a mistake, I’ll admit. I didn’t think people would step over bollard and chain barriers. That’s the issue. We’ve looked at options and some are more expensive than others. Council can make any decision it likes but our number one goal is to stop individuals from stepping into a storm drain.”
During their April 3 meeting, council discussed using brick pavers instead of concrete on the sidewalk for any type of repairs so the area would match the completed parts of the project. During the May 1 meeting, city staff presented the council with a brick paver solution resulting in a price tag of $83,775.
Henderson summarized and said, “What we have to decide is how far are we going to go trying to fix the problem because ultimately there’s only so much we can be responsible for [regarding] people’s behavior. If somebody chooses to step over chains and bollards just like they choose to climb over a fence or anything else, I mean, at what point are we supposed to defend them from themselves?”
Councilmember Dan Liedtke suggested the council should table the topic to provide more time to research additional options that would be more cost effective.
“Potential options are putting it out for bid or narrowing the scope of the work a little bit,” he said. “We have to do something because over the years, that sidewalk has sunk down to street level and in moderate rains, you’re walking through puddles. So, somehow, we need to elevate that sidewalk.”
Liedtke, Councilmember Paul Ray, Vice Mayor Christine Brown and Henderson agreed to table the topic. Councilmember Michael Fridovich was absent from the meeting.
Police Department Reaccreditation Approved
Last week, the Gulfport Police Department completed another assessment by the Commission for Florida Law Enforcement Accreditation that takes place every three years, said Police Chief Robert Vincent.
“In their exit interview, the reviewers said they would be recommending to the commission that we be reaccredited once again without conditions,” he said.
This will maintain their status as an Excelsior Recognition department.
“You have to have five consecutive reaccreditations without conditions to achieve this level, which we got last time,” said Vincent. “That was 15 years worth of work.”
The commission will meet on June 20 in Orlando to formally approve the recommendation.
According to the commission’s website, on July 1, 2010, the commission formally adopted the Excelsior Recognition program and it “became the highest level of achievement in Florida accreditation a criminal justice agency can receive.”
With this most recent achievement, Gulfport’s Police Department has been accredited for a total of 18 years.
“That’s something to be very proud of because there are very few law enforcement agencies in the state that have achieved reaccreditation that many consecutive times without conditions,” he said.
Vincent has been chief for eight years.
“I’m very proud of the team,” he said.