BELLEAIR BEACH -- Plans for a new city hall suffered a huge setback Monday night at the Belleair Beach City Council meeting as approval to spend $24,000 for a conceptual design was sidetracked.
With about 60 citizens on hand, the Council also killed any plans for a marina on Belle Isle Avenue and the citizenry made clear that they opposed giving the YMCA a $20,000 a year donation.
The city hall design plan would have included a site plan, floor plans and elevations for a building to cost between $2.6 million and $2.8 million.
An overriding argument, expressed by several council members and citizens, was why spend money for plans when it is not clear yet what kind of city hall is wanted and needed and how much it would cost.
It was Councilmember Donna Durante's motion to table that killed the issue for the time being.
Councilmember Jeffrey Coulson began the discussion assailing the expenditure of $24,000. "We have not decided yet what we want," he said. "They (the architects) need to know what we want before they can come up with plans. Also, the new city manager should have input."
Belleair Beach will have a new city manager beginning next March which will undoubtedly bring radical and draconian changes to a city that has reeled from pillar to post in recent years with all kinds of questionable dealings.
Coulson's comments drew huge support from the audience.
Durante echoed Coulson's idea of having the incoming manager have input and she also emphasized that no more than $1.5 million should be paid for the building.
The price has gone up, up, up since the city hall idea was broached about three years ago. At first, the cost was put at $1.2 million, then it zoomed upward to the lastest figures of almost $3 million.
Presiding Officer Lynn Rives said, "I do not favor spending $2.5 million. Look at the Bluffs, they paid about one million and have 9,000 feet and it works."
Cutler, the chief proponent of a new building, bitterly commented, "If we can't have a city hall, we might as well give up calling ourselves Belleair Beach and call us Belle Isle Beach."
This was a nasty swipe at many residents from that area of the city who were at the meeting and in strong opposition to the marina idea, as well as questioning the expense and plans for a new city hall.
Cutler went on to explain that the 16,500 feet talked of for the new city hall was because the building had to be 11 feet off the ground in case there was a storm surge.
One observer commented, "this present city hall has been here more than 50 years and has never had any storm surge."
"Are we going to have the people decide or are we going to do our jobs on the council and go forward with this?" Cutler asked. From the audience came the cry, "Citizens, citizens."
The business on the YMCA donation came up at citizen comments with resident after resident speaking in opposition. There is a question of whether taxpayer funds should go to a private organization.
Also killed by the Council, on Durante's initiative, was a plan to pay the mayor and council members. For now, that idea is dead.
One observer wondered after the meeting if the presiding officer was in charge or Paul Marino, the city attorney, who expostulated at length on a variety of subjects.
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