Obstacles Sprout on New South Beach Sidewalks
By Carl Wagenfohr
CLEARWATER - The first time that Councilmember George Cretekos addressed the walkability of sidewalks on Clearwater Beach was in 2007, when he raised an issue regarding the placement of both palm trees and light poles in the middle of the then recently completed Coronado Drive sidewalks. ""In my mind, what we've done is created an obstacle course for Survivor contestants," Cretekos said during the May 15, 2007, Council work session, "this is not what a sidewalk is for. A sidewalk is to walk next to each other, to enjoy the ambience of the community and the neighborhood, and I don't think our sidewalks on Coronado have accomplished that."
Fast-forward to 2010. Cretekos recently drove by the completed portion of the South Gulfview reconstruction project. "My wife, Carolyn, and I just looked at each other in disbelief," he said. Cretekos was referring to the placement of the new street light poles "smack-dab in the middle of the sidewalk."
"I'm just really frustrated that this has happened again," Cretekos said during Monday's work session. Mayor Frank Hibbard echoed Cretekos' concern; "I have to admit I was a little bit shocked," he said of the light pole placement, "I think we had these discussions at length and I didn't think we would see it again."
City Construction Manager Perry Lopez explained that the light pole placement was determined by Progress Energy to avoid conflicts with underground utilities in the area. He said that re-running those utilities would have been more costly
"How much more would it have been," Hibbard asked Lopez. Lopez did not have an answer.
"I guess going forward I'd like us to look into how much it would cost, because to me these are more offensive than the ones on Coronado," Hibbard said.
The Council agreed with a request by Hibbard for a staff analysis of relocating the offending light poles, and report back to the Council with the best solution.
Mike Quillen, Clearwater's Director of Engineering, later said that he was not optimistic that the fixtures on the south sidewalk could be relocated; "We're probably not going to come up with a cost-effective solution for that side of the street," he said. Because poles have not yet been installed on the north side, Quillen was hopeful that they could be positioned closer to the curb.
Regardless of the outcome on South Gulfview, the City Council has clearly expressed their distaste for sidewalk obstacles via the following heated exchange with City Manager Bill Horne:
Councilmember Paul Gibson: "I guess the message we're trying to give you guys is, 'We don't want stuff in the middle of sidewalks where people are trying to walk'… We've been real clear about keeping the sidewalks open for pedestrians. We couldn't be any more clear, I don't think."
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