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Safety Harbor residents resist Fourth Avenue plan

Safety Harbor’s granite curbs and gutters will be replaced by concrete at intersections along Fourth Avenue.

JIM DAMASKE | Times

Safety Harbor’s granite curbs and gutters will be replaced by concrete at intersections along Fourth Avenue.

SAFETY HARBOR — Keep your mitts off our heritage.

That's what some residents told city officials this week when they learned of a threat to the very character of the city.

The problem?

Along Fourth Avenue, city officials proposed to take out the old bricks on the street and put in new ones.

But worse yet was the plan to replace the street's granite curbs with concrete.

"The granite might be out of alignment, but I don't want to live in Perfectville,'' said Patty Kent, a resident and community activist. "And I don't think everybody in this town does.''

The bricks and granite date to the city's earliest days, supporters said. Safety Harbor was incorporated in 1917 with just 200 residents. According to legend, city employees and community leaders got some of their bricks from ballast in ships anchored offshore to construct the town's infrastructure.

And to make the curbs, men made the long trip to Stone Mountain, Ga., chiseled granite out of the massif by hand and hauled it home.

So some residents complained when city commissioners okayed a $607,000 project to redo Fourth Avenue.

"We've been screaming about keeping our city quaint and preserving our historic attributes for future generations,'' said lifelong resident Karen Skiff.

"I'm only one of many who are tired of our heritage being decided by out-of-towners or by people who have lived here only a few years," she said. "This is precisely why we need more locals to run for city office.''

After an uproar at Monday's City Commission meeting, City Manager Matt Spoor said he decided to adjust the scope of the project.

The new plan includes new bricks, concrete curbs and gutters at the intersections and putting granite curbs back in all other sections, Spoor said in an e-mail to the Times.

That's similar to what has been done on brick street restoration projects on 11th Avenue S and Second Street N.

The change will cost an additional $14,796, but, Spoor wrote, that will not increase the contract price as approved by the City Commission. Instead, it will decrease the project's contingency funds from $50,000 to $35,204.

Still, the engineering department has concluded that the old brick cannot stay because it is worn out, chipped, scarred, makes for a bumpy ride and does not adequately drain stormwater, creating potholes.

So the old bricks will be released to the contractor.

That upset quite a few people at Monday's meeting. They said the city should store it for future projects.

The city had nothing but good intentions when planning the project, said Mayor Andy Steingold.

"The purpose of the brick street restoration was to invest in the city's future by investing in its past,'' he said. "The restoration has a dual purpose: to maintain the historical integrity of the streets by keeping them brick instead of paving them and to replace underlying worn-out water and sewer lines and stormwater drainage lines. I hope everybody is (now) happy with what we're doing.''

>>Fast facts

Road replacement

• Since 2002, more than $4.7-million has been budgeted for brick street replacement throughout downtown Safety Harbor.

• Several roads have already been replaced.

• The granite curb being removed from the Fourth Avenue project that is not reused on the job will be kept at Public Works for repairs to granite curbs throughout town.

Safety Harbor residents resist Fourth Avenue plan 06/06/08 [Last modified: Sunday, June 8, 2008 9:02am]
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