City Council Receives Patent and Report on Reclaimed Water
By Josh Valone
The Clearwater City Council reconvened for their weekly meeting Thursday evening, receiving word on several issues the city currently faces.
Leading off with good news, it was revealed that Clearwater is a finalist for Best Tennis Town in America. Votes will be tallied at www.besttennistown.com, and the winning city will be awarded a $100,000 grant to be used for tennis facilities.
Following that positive news was a report that the City of Clearwater is now officially a patent holder. City employee Paul Bertels invented the technology being patented, a remote operating system for traffic lights that will allow police officers to operate lights manually from a short distance away during emergencies. The city will own the exclusive right to use, sell, or license the technology for the next 20 years.
Next up was a sobering report by Mayor Hibbard on his trip to New Orleans. The purpose of that trip was to allow mayors from several cities to see first-hand the measures being taken to combat the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. While BP's latest attempt to cap the gusher seems to be a success, which makes it unlikely that any oil will ever reach local shores, Hibbard pointed out that it is important to at least be familiar with this technology should the city ever need to respond to such a disaster.
An issue of vital importance to many residents is the progress being made on fixing the damaged reclaimed water line to the barrier islands. The council was informed that repairs were underway, with a conservative estimate of a permanent fix within one month. Contractors hope that if repairs go smoothly a "significant" amount of time could be shaved off of that estimate.
The final major topic on the agenda was whether to go through with a proposal to plant sea oats on Clearwater Beach. Sea oat root systems cause the formation of sand dunes, which can serve as a defensive measure against erosion or other natural disasters. Brian Murphy, landscape manager for the Department of Parks and Recreation, detailed the current seeding plan. A spirited debate followed his presentation, with most of the opposition rallying around the fact that the sea oats, after being planted, can never be removed due to conservation laws.
After much discussion the sea oat proposal was defeated. It was eventually decided that the council would instead hear a presentation from the Department of Environmental Protection in two weeks to gather more information on the matter. Given the short shelf life of sea oats it was deemed unlikely that any planting will take place in the near future.
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