BELLEAIR BEACH - A joint meeting Tuesday of Belleair Beach and Belleair Shore commissioners got an update on the Gulf Boulevard Improvement Program which may be so much pie in the sky if you judge by the cost.
County Commissioner Bob Stewart doesn't think that. He seemed to be pretty sincere spelling out the cost of the project that has now mounted to an estimated $131 million.
The pie in the sky element comes in when you hear that the county proposes to pay half the cost. That leaves the remainder - $65.5 million - to the cities along the 21-mile path of Gulf Boulevard from St. Pete Beach to the Clearwater line at Sand Key (which already is undergrounded and beautified).
Adjusting the microscope to view the Belleair Beach-Belleair Shore in blown up focus and the cost to these two teentsy-weentsy villages (small and very much smaller) is $4,660,148 to Belleair Beach and $1,996,091 to Belleair Shore.
In Belleair Shore, that shares out to about $33,268 per home. Belleair Shore folks are recognized as affulent, but, hey, c'mon.
In Belleair Beach, the cost of prettying up Gulf Boulevard in the two miles it runs next to the town would be about $3,000 for every man, woman and child in the town.
Stewart showed up at the Belleair Beach City Hall Tuesday evening with Peter Yauch, the county's Director of Transportation, and Keith Wicks, an assistant county administrator.
The obvious question - even with any kind of innovative and inventive financing - is where are these little towns going to get that kind of dough?
Belleair Beach is fixing to take on a $3 million debt to build itself a new city hall. Adding another $4.5 million-plus to that may be a burden that taxpayers are unwilling to shoulder.
And what would they get for the money?
Undergrounded utilties, streetscaping, some palm trees, some mile markers, some benchers. No doubt it would look prettier, but it isn't exactly downtown Baghdad now.
The cost figures given by the county are by 2008 measurement. Once all the preliminaries are out of the way (spreading the word, interlocal agreements, contract negotiations, design process, etc.) construction would begin about July, 2008.
Four sections of the boulevard would undergo simultaneous construction by four separate teams with a year being allocated for every 2.6 miles of completed road. This would take three years, according to county figures, with completion by September, 2011.
Emphasizing how delays build up the cost of these projects, Stewart pointed out that, in 2002, a $74 million price tag was put on the project. (Even earlier, then county administrator Fred Marquis had a $2 million a mile - $60 million - price tag on it.)
As a footnote to the rising costs theme, Stewart said that the Belleair Causeway Bridge has zoomed to $72 million from the original $38 million estimated. Nothing has been done on it yet, although it has been talked about for eight years.
Where does the money come from? Well, Stewart says the county is going to get its end from Penny from Pinellas funds - the third Penny from Pinellas which isn't even law yet.
As he outlined this, commissioners from the two towns might have been wondering "where do we get the big bucks?"
Hope springs eternal, obviously. The first Local Option Sales Tax, the official name for Penny for Pinellas, barely scraped into being by 1,000 votes or so and ran from 1990 to 2000.
A second round, which governments are now in the midst of, was approved by 64 percent of county voters to run until 2010.
A third round would go to 2020.
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