Gulfport City Council members approved a heavy load of city upkeep at the September 18 meeting, including an awarded bid for the city’s newest historical park.
The Trolley Market Square Improvement Project, also known as the Tangerine Greenway Infrastructure Improvements Project has been discussed for over six years, said City Manager Jim O’Reilly.
The city has just recently entered into an agreement to build the park with Tampa Contracting Services for the amount of $379,557.05.
Originally the bid amount was set at $531,864.02, but a few revisions to the plan saved the city $152,306.97.
“We had the opportunity to make better use of the space and make better use of the money, which was secured through community development block grants and the EPA,” said Mayor Sam Henderson.
The park will include a large white “Welcome to Gulfport” sign alongside 49th Street South, a mounted historic trolley will decorate the park and will double as a concessions stand during events.
“The idea was to make that a little bit more of a formal entrance into the city from our west side,” said Henderson. “It gives us the ability to have somewhat of a formalized park there.”
Henderson explained that the area will also serve as a space for performing arts.
“I think it’s going to be a great addition to the city,” said Councilmember Paul Ray.
The 49th Street South Business Association, or So49, actively supports the new addition to Gulfport and plans to coordinate public events in the area.
“I’ve actually had bands that we haven’t heard from in years contacting me because they’ve heard of it,” said Jeri Reed, president of So49. “Thank you, we are very excited.”
The council unanimously agreed to the bid from Tampa Contracting Services; a date has not yet been set for the completion of the project.
Budget and Millage Rate Officially Approved
Both the fiscal year 2018-2019 budget and millage rate were approved upon their second reading.
Each ordinance goes into operation beginning October 1, 2018 and ending September 30, 2019.
The General Fund balanced budget is $12,970,000.
“Thanks to all our department heads and the folks that put time and energy into doing this and jumped through all the hurdles to budget our city just like you have to budget your home,” said Henderson.
The 2019 millage rate of 4.039 mills represents a 7.41% increase from the rolled-back rate of 3.7602 mills.
This corresponds to a generated $3,599,476 in taxes to the city for the 2019 fiscal year.
Smoking J’s Owner Receives Spirit of Gulfport Award
John Riesebeck, the owner of Smokin’ J’s Real Texas BBQ in Gulfport, received the Spirit of Gulfport Award for his commitment to the community.
“If you’ve ever been to nearly any event that’s been hosted in the city, John and Smokin’ J’s have likely donated food to it,” said Henderson.
Currently, the BBQ restaurant is taking donations for those affected by Hurricane Florence in both North and South Carolina.
Riesebeck urged community members to come to his restaurant to donate “anything and everything,” aside from perishable foods and clothing, because the sizes of garments limits who can be helped.
Said Councilmember Paul Ray to Riesebeck, “It’s nice to have people like you in Gulfport because it really gives us that true community spirit.”
Riesebeck has had a hand in donating food and funds to a number of local events, including Gulfport Chefs Table charity fine dining event, the Tiny Homes for Homeless Veterans project, and a Hurricane Matthew donation fund in 2016.
Gulfport Votes 100% Prompts Locals to Hit the Polls
Ingrid Bredenberg and Lisa Vanover came to the September 18 council meeting to spread their organization’s grassroots message “100% is possible, are you all in?”
Gulfport Votes 100% is a political organization that has a single goal: getting all registered voters in Gulfport to cast their ballots, regardless of party.
“Gulfport in our mind is a little unusual, and that’s what we take pride in,” said Bredenberg. “We really want to make a difference here.”
The two presented woven bracelets that represent an individual’s vow to vote, and presented plans of getting 100% of registered local voters to vote by the year 2020.
“I think we can do this,” said Bredenberg.