BELLEAIR BEACH - Referendums - one in the very near future, the other a considerable ways off - was the subject that occupied the City Council at a special meeting Tuesday.
On the March ballot voters will have a choice of abolishing the city's police department or opt for an outside agency for police service.
The council Tuesday devised an educational program to fully inform residents on the ramifications of their choice. Sheriff Jim Coats has already sent mailings to households extolling the virtues of his department.
The other referendum concerns plans in the city for undergrounding utilities. This will be a costly venture and council members looked at some ideas Tuesday on approaching the issue.
The underground subject lies in the future and ties into Pinellas County's plan for beautifying Gulf Boulevard which is still not a fully formed plan, even though the county has earmarked $35 million of future Penny for Pinellas funds for the project.
On the police referendum, the council decided to have a three-part written presentation presented to the residents. One will be for retaining the city's police, the other for abolishing it, and an objective view from Reid Silverboard, the city manager.
J.C. Imfeld, a citizen, will head up the group in favor of retaining the police department. Jim Corrign will chair the view of going to an outside agency. Both are responsible, sober citizens who don't go to extremes.
Silverboard will give details on the budget and cost comparisons.
City residents should be well schooled on all aspects of information on the subject.
It appears that the police issue will not be in contention in the race for the post of mayor, being vacated by Rudy Davis. Donna Durante, a former council member, is for keeping the city police. It is believed that her opponent, Lynn Rives, a sitting member of the council, is also in favor of keeping the police.
The plans on undergrounding are more complex.
Currently plans call for the county to bear the expense of undergrounding utilities along Gulf Boulevard. Then comes the question of doing the same on the streets off the main drag.
Bob Brotherton, former boss of public works in Dunedin, who has become something of an expert on the subject over the past many years, submitted a 15-page report on undergrounding that the council discussed Tuesday.
His calculations showed that the project would cost $8 million in current dollars and offered a financing scheme that would ultimately go to referendum in whatever final form it would take.
There are 1,250 housholds, counting condominium units, in the city. Of those, 650 lie on streets internally in the city and would have to pay for undergrounding if that were the choice.
The financing would amount to $11,940 per household that would be paid for with bonds that would in turn be amortized at 6 percent over 30 years, costing each household $72 a month.
This would become part of a special assessment that would go with the property and would be handled through the county's property tax office.
Moving ahead on the tennis courts at the city hall site was the other subject on Tuesday's agenda. Because a grant that will pay for the bulk of the project has to be exercised by September, it was imperative that the council take action.
A company called Keith Zayac and Associates will do a design and implementation plan costing $7,500.
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