Belleair Beach Settles Fire Question; Seeking Renters for New Center
By Leo Coughlin
BELLEAIR BEACH - The City Council, at its meeting Monday night, resolved the problem of the standpipes at condominiums that were an adjunct to water availability for fire fighting in the city.
On a 6-1 vote, with Mayor Lynn Rives in opposition, the council approved the ordinance that leaves the city complying with state fire codes and with the fire department (Suncoast Fire & Rescue) basically responsible. Rives held up his approval because Paul Marino, the city attorney, had sent out a letter making clear the city's avoidance of liability, but through the administrative process this was said to be approved, although the response had not been received.
The council wants speedier action with the problem of disheveled and unkempt properties, or those being rehabbed where work has halted, all due to the dire economic situation.
John Ouimette, the Community Improvement Officer, must conform to certain legal procedures, but in the course of the properties falling into disuse, it becomes confusing at any given point who the exact owner is or who is responsible. The council plans to hold a work session on the subject to see what can be done to speed up action.
Still bugging the council is the inability to draw any users of the new community center. Thus far there have been no rentals. Councilmember Dick Crowl thinks stepped up marketing is the answer, and pointed out that the Sailing Center in Sand Key seems to do quite well renting its space. Because the onus of marketing apparently seemed to be falling into the bailiwick of the city manager and other staff members, Council member Stan Sofer pointed out that these people are government employees not promoters.
The council set these fees for rental of the space -
" Non-residents $200 an hour plus tax for the first two hours, $100 an hour plus tax beyond two hours; residents $100 an hour plus tax for two hours, $50 an hour plus tax beyond two hours; a half room rental would be half the full room prices.
The resignation of Ken Lucci from the Board of Adjustment left an opening that the council filled with the appointment of Marv Beam, with Brenda Lafon appointed as an alternate.
A problem with electioneering came up when Council member Dave Dumville, who is seeking re-election in March, pointed out that the city has a rule that there can be no soliciting for votes or campaigning until 30 days before the election. He said it is because so much absentee voting is now done, (there are 521 mail ballots out in this city of 1,700). Candidates are thus constrained from getting their message out. With absentee ballots much further along in the process in terms of time, candidates miss getting their message to voters. This may result in a modification of the present ordinance.
There will be a Candidates Forum February 23 sponsored by the League of Women Voters at 6:30 p.m. at the City Hall. Doors open at 6:00 p.m. Four candidates are vying for three City Council seats. Crowl has stepped down, and the candidates are Dumville, Mitch Krach, J. Clarke McNeace, and Leslie Ford Notaro.
Other things that came up Monday concern a desire, expressed by Sofer, to allow a 35-mile an hour speed on the bridge, instead of the present 30. Gulf Boulevard is posted at 35, but the approach from Belleair Bluffs leading to the bridge is 30. The plan is to talk to the County Commission. The official opening of the bridge, which will bring together hicockolorums from the county and local cities, is scheduled for April 26.
Council member Kathy Mortensen, who attends Big-C and Suncoast League of Cities meetings, reported that the county wants to delay plans to beautify Gulf Boulevard from 2011 to 2013, and she is leading an effort to keep the 2011 date.
Belleair Beach folks will be participating in the demonstration on February 13 to oppose off shore oil drilling.
On behalf of the city, Treasurer Maria Kemp accepted the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting, awarded by the Government Finance Officers Association of the U.S. and Canada.
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