INDIAN ROCKS BEACH — How best to spend $100,000 this year, and potentially millions in the future, on special projects will be debated by the City Commission tonight.
City Manager Chuck Coward, who scheduled the 6 p.m. meeting, said he is not asking for any major decisions, but he does hope the commission can help prioritize a list of more than a dozen projects, some of which are already under way.
Some of the projects on Coward's list include major construction, others are policy changes that will require spending some money, and one is a $4 million project that would bury power, telephone and cable lines along the city's southern portion of Gulf Boulevard.
"Considerable progress has been made on several fronts," Coward said in a preliminary report to the commission. "Our Vision Plan projects are progressing well alongside several other administrative projects."
Many of the projects are included in a 25-year redevelopment plan for the city's business core the commission approved last fall. The plan is based a special study performed by the University of South Florida's Florida Center for Community Design & Research.
The 51-page plan focuses on three areas of the city: the Narrows, a 40-acre triangular area on the east side of Gulf Boulevard extending from Walsingham Road to the city's southern boundary; the Mid-Town Commercial Area along Gulf Boulevard from Ninth to 16th avenues; and the Northern Commercial Area on Gulf Boulevard from 23rd to 28th avenues.
The city recently approved a design to build 17 public boat slips in Keegan Claire Park, just south of the Holiday Inn Harbourside complex on the Intracoastal Waterway, south of the Walsingham Avenue Bridge.
More than $60,000 is budgeted for preliminary planning, permitting and site preparation, but the city will need a $100,000 grant to complete the project.
When completed, the docks would give boaters access to restaurants and shops in the city's business district, Coward said.
The USF study also called for improving landscaping and streetscaping in the Narrows business District, as well as in the center and northern sections of the city. Coward says the city will need a $300,000 grant to complete that project, including possible purchase of an abandoned, boarded-up house on the west side of Gulf Boulevard and facing the Walsingham bridge causeway.
"It would make a great opportunity to create a landscaped entrance to the city," Coward said.
He is also negotiating with Verizon, Progress Energy and Brighthouse Networks for a binding cost estimate to bury utility lines along Gulf Boulevard from Whitehurst Avenue at the border with Indian Shores to the traffic light at Walsingham Road.
The project cost would be covered by Penny for Pinellas funds set aside for beautification of Gulf Boulevard by Pinellas County. Just how much and when the money will be available to Indian Rocks Beach is uncertain.
If completed, the project would expand a stretch of Gulf Boulevard free of utility wires. Indian Shores recently completed its $6.25 million project to put utility lines underground along 5.3 miles of Gulf Boulevard.
Other projects on Coward's list include interior remodeling of the City Hall auditorium and the city's library, expansion of the historical museum at Chic-A-Si Park, and relocation off-island of the city's solid waste facility.
Coward is also considering regulation changes that could save property owners insurance costs, television broadcasting of commission meetings, and creating a public community vegetable gardening area, possibly on county-owned land in the city's northern area.
"We have a lot of good ideas, but we need to be realistic about what we can and cannot do," Coward said.