BELLEAIR BEACH - Some old business has been cleaned up in Belleair Beach.
The City Council, at its meeting Monday night, managed to fill the seat left vacant on the board when Ken Lucci resigned March 15.
After almost three months, the council is once again up to its full strength of seven members, although Jeff Coulson was absent Monday night.
Kathleen Mortensen, a long-time resident of the city, was chosen to fill the empty seat. Her only rival was Tony Gevo.
Each candidate gave a brief presentation to the council, answered a few generic questions and then the vote was taken with four members - Richard Crowl, Lynn Rives, Mary Schoonover and Mayor Rudy Davis - opting for Mortensen while Stan Sofer voted for Gevo.
A settlement has been reached in the long-standing lawsuit, Clearwater Gazette vs. Kelly et al., with $25,000 going to the Gazette's lawyer, Bob Walker, in the two year and nine month old suit that was delayed again and again by the city's lawyers (with one notable exception).
The city also had to pay $3,000 in costs and make a public apology to the Gazette. No such apology or discussion of the settlement took place at Monday night's meeting.
The suit was brought when it was discovered that the Gazette, routinely delivered to the City Hall each week, was being thrown away, depriving the public of access at that location.
The Gazette had been reporting information on the city's budget expenditures and other news that was being generated in the city government.
Mike Kelly was mayor at the time and it was in his role as mayor that the suit got its title.
Walker, as lawyer for the Gazette, claimed First Amendment violations. The suit dragged on for months with many depositions the gist of which made the city's position hopeless in the suit.
There were many chambers meetings with Judge Jim Case. The suit never went to trial.
The council heard from Bob Peacock of Pinellas County's Utilities Department who brought the good news that the construction of the reclaimed water system in Gulf Boulevard, which was the bane of residents for months on end, was now complete.
He apologized for delays which were brought about chiefly, he said, because there were unanticipated problems in buried utilities along Gulf Boulevard.
The county engineers and contractor thought the buried infrastructure was all neatly lined up, but that was not the case. The contractor had to contend with a jumble of buried lines, Peacock said.
A problem the city was having with a residential construction on 801 Harbor Drive that went through many delays appeared on the way to solution as the city and the property owners signed an agreement that calls for completion by next May 18.
The signing ceremony took as much time and had as much perfunctory ceremony as the surrender of the Japanese on the USS Missouri on September 2, 1945.
An idea being pushed by Mayor Bill Ockunzzi of Indian Rocks Beach backing the proposal of a study and analysis by the county of the Pinellas Suncoast Fire and Rescue District got no support from the council.
With the city sitting on an already okayed $3 million loan to finance the building of a new city hall (the cost of which has gone up, by some estimates, by 20 percent) Melanie Neuman, city treasurer, proposed that funds be drawn on and invested at a rate higher than the city is paying on the loan to take positive advantage of the difference.
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