MADEIRA BEACH — The city's four garbage trucks, public works equipment and workers have moved to St. Petersburg for at least a couple of years.
For some residents, the move is a sign the city is planning to close down its popular sanitation service and outsource its 15 public works department jobs, as were some parks-related jobs.
Not so, insist city officials.
"In no circumstance are we looking to contract out sanitation," City Manager Shane Crawford told the commission Tuesday as it approved leasing a 6,000-square-foot warehouse on 94th Street in St. Petersburg.
"We have a lot of public works needs, and are treading water," Crawford said. "This is not a long-term fix."
The garbage trucks were relocated to that site several months ago and now all of the city's public works vehicles, equipment, and emergency supplies will be stored there.
The facility, which is only about a five-minute drive from the city, also has an office and a repair shop with a lift, allowing onsite equipment repair.
"Public works is not disappearing, it's just moving off the island," Dave Marsicano, the city's director of central services, said Friday.
"We are upgrading significantly from what we have had in the past," he said.
For years, the city's public works department operated out of a 1950s-era building near the city marina.
Severe deterioration forced the closing and demolition of that building last year. Within the next month, the final structure, a pole barn used mainly for storage, will be demolished as well.
Marsicano says the department could return as early as 2016 if plans to build a high-and-dry boat storage facility out of existing capital outlay funds receive the go-ahead from the City Commission.
If built, the high-and-dry would include enough room to store all public works equipment, but garbage trucks might remain stored off-island.
The present move is merely a "circle the airport approach" until a permanent, long-term decision is made, according to Marsicano.
The space previously devoted to public works will be leased out for boat storage with the income used to offset the monthly off-island storage fees.
The three-year warehouse lease, which will initially cost $2,200 a month, can be renewed for another two years.
"It will be much more efficient and will actually generate income way past the cost of the warehouse," Marsicano said.
Meanwhile, efforts to finance a new City Hall, fire station and recreation center with new ball fields are proceeding.
In July, the commission picked an underwriter for a proposed $10 million, 30-year bond issue to pay for the project.
The bond issue is controversial and a group of residents have threatened seeking a referendum to allow people to vote on whether they want to restrict the project to just a new City Hall and fire station.