TREASURE ISLAND — The city needs more than $9 million to complete four major capital projects within the next two years.
Construction of a Central Beach Trail ($1.6 million), and replacement of two bridges ($4 million) connecting the main island to the Isle of Capri and Isle of Palms is expected to begin next year.
The fourth project, burying utilities underground along Gulf Boulevard ($3.77 million) is not expected to begin until 2013 or 2014 and is also contingent on receipt of additional funding from Pinellas County.
How and from which bank the city will get that money is likely to be decided within the next two months. On Tuesday the commission is expected to continue its debate over whether to hire specialty bond attorneys to help the city obtain the needed financing.
This month Commissioner Alan Bildz objected to a proposal to spend $42,000 for lawyers who, as he put it, write mostly boilerplate loan documents and "tell the banks what they already know," that profits from a loan to the city would be tax-exempt. "It doesn't make sense," Bildz said.
City Attorney Maura Kiefer echoed Bildz' objection.
"I am not entirely convinced a bond counsel is necessary," Kiefer told the commission, saying she could do most of the work.
That prompted a sharp response from City Manager Reid Silverboard who recommended the commission follow "standard practice" among Florida municipalities by hiring a specialty law firm to assist in the loan process.
"If you do this (have the city attorney take charge of the loan documents), Maura will be responsible. I will tell you that, don't come to me, don't come to the finance director. Go to your city attorney," Silverboard said. "If something screws up or goes wrong, you have her right here to question."
The city's financial consultant, Jeff Larson, supported Silverboard and also urged the city to hire an outside law firm.
"No disrespect to your city attorney, but this is a new area for her," Larson said, stressing that he "professionally disagrees" with Kiefer handling the borrowing process.
Tuesday's meeting agenda calls for the commission to pick between two law firms recommended by Larson to become the city's bond counsel to negotiate the loan with the eventually selected bank.
Meanwhile, the city is considering creating a new planned development ordinance that would allow hotels and other businesses along Gulf Boulevard and fronting on the planned beach trail to redevelop with greater height or density than now allowed.
The idea is to give participating property owners an incentive to beautify the portion of the public beach between their rear property lines and the beach trail.
"The opportunity is there for private investment and beautifying property as seen from the trail," said City Planner Paula Cohen.
The concept appeared to intrigue the commission.
"It is a win-win," said Commissioner Carol Coward. "You will walk down the beautiful beach trail and look east and it looks nasty." Commissioner Phil Collins said he plans to discuss the "great idea" with the chamber of commerce.
Silverboard said his staff will refine the proposal and bring it back for consideration before the end of the year. If approved by the commission, the planned development regulations would have to be approved by voters in a citywide referendum before they could go into effect.