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Redington Beach addresses flooding

The town last Tuesday passed a half-dozen ordinances governing elections, unkempt lawns and visitor parking passes. Yet officials spent much of 3{ hours in a workshop and regular meeting attacking the city's problems with flooding.

The city has suffered from standing water after heavy rains. The existing drainage system does not work, said Mike McBee, a senior engineer with Tampa Bay Engineering. In Redington Beach's current system, roadside swales tilt into concrete "inlets," which drain into Boca Ciega Bay.

McBee said two factors contribute to the poor drainage: hard, impermeable soil; or too high a water level throughout the system, causing any additional water to back up.

McBee is helping the town prepare a $240,000 grant application to the Southwest Florida Water Management District, commonly known as Swiftmud, for its revised watershed plan. Swiftmud would pick up half of that amount, or $120,000, for the plan's first phase, which includes measurements of pipes and culverts, water heights and floor elevations throughout the city. The grant also includes an initial design for a new system.

Swiftmud previously rejected a Redington Beach plan for French drains, perforated pipes that allow some water to escape back into the ground. Mayor Bob Fountaine said he respected the agency's priority of trying to improve water quality before returning it to the ground or out to sea, something French drains can't do.

The two main drainage options, McBee said, are the swales and curbs and gutters. Besides construction costs, curbs and gutters would entail pollution control devices at inlets below the street or prior to the entrance to the bay.

Swales do not require pollution control devices in Redington Beach, which is 90 percent residential, because grass near the swales absorbs nutrients and filters sediments, McBee said.

Engineers won't know what system to ask for, or its overall cost, until after the survey work, McBee said.

If the grant should go through, the survey phase would begin in October. A grant application would follow in December to cover construction costs of whatever system is designed. Design would commence until October 2004, when construction would begin.

As for the new ordinances: Starting Friday, it will be illegal to have grass or weeds higher than 12 inches. The old codes forbade overgrowth but never specified what that meant.

Commissioners also made formal a practice of issuing visitor parking permits at residents' request. The city will issue one visitor pass per household, good for residents-only parking areas such as 160th Avenue Town Park.

The city also voted to create an election canvassing board to certify elections results and to adopt state laws on voter eligibility, manner of voting and other matters concerning the conduct of elections. One ordinance allows the town clerk to act as supervisor of elections for all municipal elections.

An ordinance not exclusive to elections charges the town clerk with responsibility for maintaining, updating and periodically purging city records as allowed by law.

Commissioners tabled until July 17 scheduled performance evaluations for public works director Mark Davis and Town Clerk Larry Bittner.