There is too much traffic on Indian Rocks Road, commercial development has gotten out of hand and the bickering among opposing civic groups is keeping the town from moving forward.
The four candidates for Town Commission agreed on those items, but split on other issues at a candidates forum Tuesday night at City Hall. Nearly 100 people attended the event.
The candidates fielded dozens of queries, ranging from lingering questions about the disposition of the art center property to doing away with the municipal police department to lousy cable television service.
Santo "Sam" Casella, 51, said his experience as an urban planner made him the best one to solve the traffic concerns on Indian Rocks Road. "I disagree with those that say we can't do anything to slow down traffic in our town," he said, then whipped out a book titled Traffic Calming published by the American Planning Association that he said would help the town solve the problem.
John Daniel "Dan" Coleman, 44, came out strongly opposed to purchasing the art center property once the facility vacates.
"I don't see a need for the town to buy that property," he said. "We don't need to be in the real estate business."
Don Sprague, 50, was the only one to disagree with Coleman, saying that the land would make a great park.
Sprague was, however, in agreement with the other commission hopefuls on a hotly debated issue: keeping municipal fire and police departments.
Thomas M. Kruempelstaedter, 52, said the "back-stabbing activity" among the citizen's associations needs to end so the town can grow closer.
At the opening of the forum, moderator and local lawyer Steve Woodrough asked the candidates to identify the single most important issue facing Belleair.
Sprague mentioned two. Casella mentioned three. Kruempelstaedter reeled off a list of 13, ending with the funding of all of them as being most-most important. Only Coleman stuck to one issue, the traffic concerns along Indian Rocks Road.
Finally, Woodrough asked what single thing best qualified the candidates for office.
Casella said it was his education and experience as a city planner. Coleman said being an average citizen made him worthy. Kruempelstaedter said his experience as an architect made him good at listening to people and making plans. Sprague pointed to his practice of solving problems as a consultant to large companies.
The at-large election is March 12, with the top-two vote-getters filling vacancies left by Commissioners Gloria Burton and John Donlan.