In the wake of the recent tragedies that struck places like Ankara, Turkey; Beirut, Lebanon; and Paris, France, Gulfport City Council opened their November 17 meeting with a moment of silence to, as councilman Michael Fridovich put it, put things into perspective.
After this period of reflection, council took care of business immediately by awarding the city’s Halloween decoration contest winners with a plaque.
Vinny Seplesky and Julie O’Connor received the award for the haunted house theme while the Beach Bazaar won for the commercial themed business. Mark and Sonia Walling won the general theme Halloween décor award.
Council presented Police Chief Rob Vincent with the proclamation deeming November “Walk like MADD and MADD Dash month” to raise awareness for Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Vincent is the chair of the Walk Like MADD committee of Pinellas County.
Council was also excited to announce that it has finally joined tweens, teens and adults alike by signing up for Facebook.
The city of Gulfport will have a Facebook profile where city officials will post events, news and information.
The medium is a “one-way street” according to Vice Mayor Yolanda Roman, meaning it is not there for engaged conversation with the city and residents, but is there to inform residents only.
“We’re going to enter 2007 with our Facebook page,” Gulfport IT Director David Mather said. “We saw the need to step into this because when people want to look for an event, the first thing they look at is Facebook.”
An app will also be available to Gulfportians and allow people to send information on ways to improve the city such as reporting potholes.
Also on the agenda Tuesday were several improvement plans passed by council.
Shore Boulevard will soon look a little brighter with 22 new LED street lights lining its north side, as well as the beach parking lot.
“The [lighting fixtures] are a more appealing fixture and will bring in the ‘beach look’ for us,” Public Works Director Don Sopak said. “The project should begin after the first of the year for sure.”
Before Shore Boulevard gets new lights, however, correcting a mistake on Beach Boulevard takes precedence.
Beach Boulevard was getting new LED street lights as well until it was realized the wrong lights were being installed. Several white poles were put up along the road instead of the intended black poles. That problem will be addressed prior to Shore Boulevard.
The stretch of 31st Avenue South between 58th Street and Beach Boulevard will receive an upgrade after council approved work to replace the water line beneath it.
“What [the project] does is replace the water line under there and also repaves the road,” City Manager Jim O’Reilly, said.
O’Reilly added that the street will get a much-needed paving, which will remedy several potholes that line the avenue.
“Of all the roads, 31st Avenue is one of the most often talked about for resurfacing,” Mayor Sam Henderson said.
The construction on 31st Avenue will begin sometime near spring of 2016 and last roughly 90 days.
In addition to road improvements, phase one of the Shore Boulevard improvement project has been approved. Phase one includes the installation of street lights as well as the bike path that will travel from the base of the pier to 58th Street.
According to O’Reilly, phase one and phase two will cost roughly $160,000, with the whole project costing about $1.2 million
The mayor concluded the meeting with an update on the status of the agreement with St. Petersburg over Clam Bayou.
Henderson stated that he has sent the final draft to St. Petersburg to review, but does not expect to hear back from them immediately.
“Hopefully that will be back to us soon, but I’m not expecting it to be any time in the next couple of days,” Henderson said. “It took a month to get their draft agreement the first time so I’m expecting the same timeframe.”
Henderson also said that the draft agreement is a more collaborative effort on what will happen if St. Petersburg is again in a situation where they would have to pump sewage overflow.
“We’ve made some pretty significant changes to what they initially gave us,” Henderson said. “We made it stronger and included real specific improvements for emergency notification and specific request for infrastructure improvements.”