Friday, February 23, 2018
News Roundup

Hillsborough to spend $1.3M resurfacing Bayshore Blvd. before Republican convention

TAMPA — Despite drastic cuts to other roadwork, Hillsborough County commissioners on Wednesday approved repaving the county's signature roadway in advance of the Republican National Convention.

Commissioners agreed to empty a reserve account to come up with most of the $1.3 million needed to re-coat Bayshore Boulevard, with its mansions and condominiums overlooking Hills­borough Bay.

The idea was met with angry opposition from one of the commission's two Democrats, who said the project will leapfrog more urgent needs in poorer areas.

"I totally object," Commissioner Les Miller said. "I don't care if the (Democratic National Convention) was coming here, that's absolutely wrong."

But Commissioner Sandra Murman, a Republican who pushed the idea, argued that the convention offers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the community to show its best side during the Aug 27-30 convention at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

She noted that some 15,000 media members, as well as representatives of many of the nation's most successful companies, will be in town for the convention. Most of them will ride along or see images of the South Tampa roadway, stretches of which are pockmarked or bumpy.

"Bayshore is our most historic, scenic road we have in all of Hills­borough County," said Murman, whose district includes Bayshore Boulevard. "This will be an economic development opportunity that we will probably never have again."

Republican Mark Sharpe said he was sensitive to Miller's concerns. But he noted that the county also is courting corporations, hoping they'll consider moving to or opening offices in the region, which could translate into jobs for poor and working-class people.

"This may in some way help," Sharpe said.

The vote was 4-2, with Republican Victor Crist joining Miller in opposition. Commissioner Al Higginbotham was absent.

Hillsborough County owns and is responsible for repairs to Bayshore Boulevard, even though it is within the city of Tampa. It also owns the Platt Street Bridge, onto which Bayshore empties as motorists drive from parts of South Tampa into downtown. The county has also overseen the bridge's recent renovation.

The county has maintenance agreements with the city, which handles some of the upkeep along Bayshore, including recent work on its bike lanes and median.

Under the plan approved Wednesday, the county would scrape a surface layer off Bayshore from Rome Avenue to Gandy Boulevard and give it a new coat of asphalt. The project does not cover concrete surface areas from Rome to Platt Street, a stretch on which car tires go pa-dump, pa-dump between sections.

Bayshore resurfacing was not planned until 2014. With the work moved up, Miller noted, the project will jump ahead of planned work along E Chelsea Street and E 17th and E 18th avenues, which cut across poorer neighborhoods in his district and are textured in places like an "alligator's back."

"So we're going to jump Bayshore over those three," Miller said. "Send that message to the public."

County public works director John Lyons acknowledged that the county doesn't have enough money now to keep up with a repaving schedule needed to prevent more costly repairs later. Ideally, he said, his department would spend up to $14 million annually on resurfacing, but it has a budget of $6.6 million this year.

The county has already delayed tens of millions of dollars' worth of other public works projects because of declining tax receipts.

But he said the work on Bayshore is not cosmetic. It should make the drive smoother for years to come, he said.

Under an option presented by County Administrator Mike Merrill, commissioners agreed to take the remaining $700,000 from a gas tax reserve account that pays for road paving projects. The money will be coupled with $600,000 earmarked for work along Boyette Road in eastern Hillsborough that didn't cost as much as expected.

"That option does not affect the roads that Commissioner Miller just listed," Merrill said, saying it won't delay any other planned road work.

Just the same, after the vote, Democrat Kevin Beckner asked the county administration to come up with a plan during budget preparations this summer to spend an equal or greater sum of money on roadway repairs in other areas, particularly poorer neighborhoods. His request passed 6-0.

Bill Varian can be reached at (813) 226-3387 or [email protected]

Comments

High school scoreboard for Feb. 22

Thursday’s scoreboardSoftballBoca Ciega 4, Pinellas Park 2Admiral Farragut 7, Northside Christian 1Boys tennisOsceola 7, Dixie Hollins 0Clearwater Central Cath. 4, Jesuit 3Girls tennisOsceola 7, Dixie Hollins 0Boys basketballClass 3A, region semifina...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Deputy ‘never went in’ during Parkland school shooting. There were other failures, too

Deputy ‘never went in’ during Parkland school shooting. There were other failures, too

Eight days after mass shooter Nikolas Cruz murdered 17 people inside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Broward’s top cop on Thursday revealed a stunning series of failures by the sheriff’s department.A school campus cop heard the gunfire, rushed ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
A case for wild flamingos calling Florida their home

A case for wild flamingos calling Florida their home

In 2015, Conchy the flamingo showed up at Florida’s Naval Air Station Key West, and he wouldn’t leave. Normally, managers on the grounds lethally remove feathered troublemakers — it can be very dangerous with birds flying around million-dollar fighte...
Updated: 2 hours ago

Updated: 3 hours ago
Florida man yells ‘murderers!’ as he’s executed for slaying

Florida man yells ‘murderers!’ as he’s executed for slaying

Associated PressSTARKE — An inmate convicted of raping and killing a college student decades ago screamed and yelled "murderers!" three times, thrashing on a gurney as he was being put to death Thursday. The governor’s office said Eric Scott Branch, ...
Updated: 3 hours ago
After Parkland, another plea for rumor control: ‘This is not a joke’ (w/video)

After Parkland, another plea for rumor control: ‘This is not a joke’ (w/video)

ST. PETERSBURG — The mayor and the police chief came to Northeast High on Thursday to warn students about the dangers of circulating rumors of school safety threats on social media.While they were there, one of those unfounded rumors popped up on Fac...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Administrator Haley Loeun fired from CareerSource jobs centers

Administrator Haley Loeun fired from CareerSource jobs centers

Haley Loeun, a top aide to the embattled leader of the Pinellas and Hillsborough jobs boards, was fired Thursday from her $130,000-a-year position as business services director.Loeun came under criticism after the Tampa Bay Times reported that employ...
Updated: 4 hours ago
V.M. Ybor: That’s not cigar smoke you’re smelling

V.M. Ybor: That’s not cigar smoke you’re smelling

TAMPA — Across Interstate 4 from Ybor City’s nightlife, another part of the historic neighborhood has an odor less nostalgic — and much less pleasant — than cigar smoke and roasting coffee beans.V.M. Ybor, named after the Spaniard who founded the cit...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Mattis expected to back allowing transgender troops to stay in the military

Mattis expected to back allowing transgender troops to stay in the military

WASHINGTON - Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is expected to propose to President Donald Trump that transgender members of the U.S. military be allowed to continue serving despite the president’s call last summer for a ban on all transgender service, acc...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Sen. Marco Rubio faces tough audience at riveting CNN forum on gun violence

Sen. Marco Rubio faces tough audience at riveting CNN forum on gun violence

After an emotionally draining day that captured national attention — the massive rally in Tallahassee and a small, tearful gathering of survivors at the White House — CNN’s Wednesday night town hall on the Parkland shooting could have easily been ove...
Updated: 6 hours ago