Several beach communities plan to share beach-cleaning equipment declared surplus by the Pinellas County Commission.
The donated tractor and beach cleaner, valued at $70,000, will be used on a weekly rotating schedule by Indian Rocks Beach, Belleair Beach, Indian Shores, Redington Shores and North Redington Beach. The towns are sharing the estimated $4,000 annual maintenance costs.
"This equipment will greatly assist the city of Indian Rocks Beach in cleaning the beach to enhance the enjoyment of the beach by residents and visitors alike," said Dean Sharmen, the town's public service director.
Gulfport Public Library will be closed from Aug. 6 to Aug. 20 while new floor tile is installed, said library administrator Kitty Smith.
Patrons still can drop off books at the book drop outside the library or at any other library in the Pinellas Cooperative. Library users also can check out books from other cooperative libraries while Gulfport is closed.
Anyone who requested a book can pick it up at the Gulfport Senior Center.
With funding from a $50,000 grant, Gulfport's beach playground will be rejuvenated with a monster slide, loop climber, buckled bridge and other new equipment.
The city of Gulfport secured a Florida Recreation Development Assistance Program grant, and this month, the City Council approved purchasing equipment through Contract Connections.
The new playground will be appropriate for children ages 5 through 12 and meets the Americans with Disabilities Act requirements for accessibility. It will be one continuous structure with platforms, crawling tunnels, chute slides and climbing walls and nets. There will also be play stations such as a bubble window, fun phone and jet panel.
Sand still will cover the ground under and around the playground, but a sidewalk from the parking lot to a rubber-tile transfer station will provide wheelchair users access to the equipment. The playground exceeds ADA guidelines in the number of elevated and ground-level play components usable by handicapped people.
Bob Williams, the park supervisor, said a green vinyl fence would surround the playground, and coverings will be added to provide shade. The current swing set will remain but will be refurbished. The renovation is expected to be completed by the end of September.
Commissioners on Tuesday approved another year of library services through the Gulf Beaches Public Library.
The cost of the services, $62,643, is $2,000 more than the cost last fiscal year.
The library is funded by the county and by Redington Shores, North Redington Beach, Redington Beach, Madeira Beach and Treasure Island. The cities pay according to their populations, which makes Madeira Beach the second-largest contributor among the five cities.
Treasure Island, which has the largest population, will pay $92,790 if it renews its agreement.
City officials in Treasure Island have increasingly expressed reservations about the library's value to residents and have hinted about pulling out of the contract. They also have promised to oppose a $300,000 state grant sought by Madeira Beach commissioners to expand the library.
"We're not really interested in leaving," said Chuck Coward, Treasure Island's city manager. "But there are other options."
Coward said that a smaller percentage of Treasure Island residents use the library compared with the other four cities.
He also estimated that the drive time from the southernmost point in Treasure Island, over John's Pass Bridge to the library at 200 Municipal Drive, was 30 minutes or more.
Both the St. Pete Beach and St. Petersburg College libraries are closer for those residents, Coward said.
Officials have also asked for more services that would be located in Treasure Island, such as a reading room with computers that have Internet access.
Tentative designs include a storefront operation with books, magazines and a part-time librarian, said library board member Ken Jacobsen. Treasure Island would rent the space, and the library would supply the personnel and materials.
Treasure Island will meet with the library board in August. A decision on renewing the contract is expected in September. Coward said he hoped both sides would have agreed by then on terms for a reading room.
City commissioners learned Tuesday that they have been violating the Government in the Sunshine Law by failing to publicly adopt the minutes from previous meetings.
The state law governing open meetings and records requires that the minutes be read or signed at a subsequent meeting if no changes are made, according to a recent opinion from the Florida Attorney General's Office.
The opinion states that the Sunshine Law requires that commissioners vote on the validity of minutes from previous meetings. Changes also must be approved at public meetings. City Attorney James Denhardt asked for the opinion this year after a Treasure Island resident complained about how minutes were approved.
Currently, minutes of commission meetings are circulated to commissioners, filed in a book and considered to be adopted unless commissioners object to something.
Denhardt said he would prepare a new policy for the city charter that would comply with the attorney general's opinion that the minutes should be adopted or changed by a vote during a public meeting.
Indian Rocks Beach
New rules for commercial signs were approved unanimously Tuesday by the City Commission.
The new ordinance is designed to promote "more appealing multifamily, residential, lodging and business areas" by reducing the number of freestanding signs.
The changes include limiting the total sign area according to a building's road frontage, expanding the list of permitted types of signs including drive-though and gas station signs, and allowing businesses seven years to bring nonconforming signs into compliance with the new ordinance. Fees for sign permits also were increased.