SAFETY HARBOR — The Safety Harbor City Commission decided Monday night to approve $150,000 worth of fixes to the residential property along Bishop Creek hit hardest by Tropical Storm Debby.
But few left City Hall satisfied.
"I didn't sleep a wink last night," Mark Grossman said Tuesday after not getting the answer from commissioners he wanted. Grossman, 58, lives at 3082 Hillside Lane, next to the property slated to receive the lion's share of the repairs. He said the City Commission ignored the fact that his backyard pool is sinking and the creek's gabion wall — made of baskets of rocks — that protects it is 20 years old.
Grossman was one of many residents who urged city commissioners to undertake a more comprehensive solution to the creek's erosion, which has undermined property up and down the 14-mile waterway for more than a decade.
A fix proposed by City Engineer Bill Baker and met with applause from residents was to cover the creek bed with concrete and line the banks with concrete walls. But city officials dismissed such a measure as too expensive, impossible to get permitted by state agencies and ultimately ineffective.
"It wouldn't matter whether there was a concrete wall or not," said Mayor Andy Steingold during the meeting. "There's going to be a breach."
The City Commission instead opted to repair the collapsed gabion wall at 3080 Hillside Lane, and to round out the edge of property across the creek from it in an attempt to broaden the angle at which fast-flowing water hits the wall.
Despite protests, Steingold said the solution was far from a stop-gap measure. "Some may call it a Band-Aid or a fix, but I think it goes beyond that," he said, citing the rounding out of the creek as more than just a temporary fix.
The city's limited finances also pose a challenge, he said. "We have to balance what is good for all the citizens, not just the citizens who live along the creek."
Steingold added that it was necessary to fix the damaged property in question as soon as possible in case another serious storm comes along soon.
Joan Keller, 76, who lives there, said she appreciated the decision, but would like to see a permanent fix for her and her neighbors. "I have very mixed feelings and yet I was very pleased that they saw the damage we had and the fear we had that it could only get worse," she said.
Safety Harbor, which officials said is not under any legal obligation to take action on the creek, has applied for funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help pay for the repairs. But the city likely won't receive a decision for months.
Meanwhile, Grossman said he has no good options left. He said he and his wife will likely stop paying their mortgage and homeowner's insurance and walk away from the house. "I know it's going to kill our credit and everything, but we don't have any other options."