TREASURE ISLAND — “We have our marching orders,” City Manager Amy Davis noted as city commissioners unanimously gave staff the green light to design and build a new public safety complex at 104th Avenue and Gulf Boulevard, north of the soon-to-be-opened City Hall Center at 105th Avenue.
The city’s current police headquarters and fire station on 108th Avenue was constructed 65 years ago in 1958 and is now cramped and outdated for larger and modern police and fire service.
“Through the initial site evaluation process, staff sees several advantages to placing the facility adjacent to the new City Hall,” Assistant Public Works Director Stacy Boyles said in her report to the commission. “It would reduce emergency response times by approximately 15%, as most calls require trips to the commercial district,” where the new public safety complex will be located.
In addition, it “enhances Public Safety’s connection to the community by being more accessible towards the center of town,” and makes for “easier collaboration with other city management staff and departments.”
Now newcomers, and especially visitors, have trouble locating the police and fire station, tucked away on 108th Avenue.
As an added plus, demolishing the current City Hall, police and fire station will provide the city with the opportunity to construct a waterfront park on the Intracoastal waterway, Boyles said.
Demolishing the current City Hall, police and fire station will provide the city with the opportunity to construct a waterfront park on the Intracoastal waterway, city officials said.
A waterfront park could be a venue for markets, music or other events. In addition, a public marina will include transient slips that allows boaters tie up to the dock and visit the beach or downtown.
The waterfront park can also feature a kayak launch area and berth for a water taxi drop-off to promote access to downtown and the beach via the Intracoastal. A public restroom facility could also be constructed within the proposed public works building footprint to accommodate users of the waterfront park.
During a Jan. 17 work session, Boyles told commissioners that Fire Chief William “Tripp” Barrs and Police Chief John Barkley, along with Commissioner Saleene Partridge, “had the opportunity to speak with residents” of the 104th Avenue neighborhood. “By far the feedback was very positive for the recommended location at the City Center Complex,” she said.
Partridge said she went door-to-door with the two chiefs. “I was impressed with how positive the residents were once we went through our rationale, answered all their questions, and went through the major points of discussion,” she said. “It was heartwarming that we have such compassionate residents for our causes.”
Fire officials advised that relocating the fire station further to the west reduces the likelihood that Treasure Island Fire and EMS units will have to respond to jurisdictions off the island on mutual aid calls. A public safety building will also establish a viable Emergency Operations Center within the city, with elevation requirements that achieve survivability for a Category 3 hurricane, fire officials said.
“And we are not taking any existing greenspace away, so that’s big component to it,” said Mayor Tyler Payne. “I received nothing but good feedback as well, so I am comfortable with moving it.”
Funding is available in the current budget to design the facility. Once a design and site plan is approved, the city can apply for a Resiliency Florida construction grant this summer.
Commissioners unanimously approved building the Public Safety Building north of the City Hall Center on 104th Avenue.
Micromobility ordinance tweaked
Micromobility devices such as e-bikes and scooters will be prohibited from traveling along the beach or on sidewalks, except for West Gulf Boulevard in Sunset Beach or the Beach Trail, under a proposed ordinance passed on first reading Jan. 17.
During debate, Commissioner John Doctor favored banning the devices along the Beach Trail due to the danger they may pose to pedestrians talking a leisurely stroll. However, in the spirit of compromise commissioners agreed to permit them on the 1-mile trail, but limit them to a maximum of 10 mph.
Commissioners Beth Wetzel and Partridge wanted to permit scooters and e-bikes on all sidewalks such as along Gulf Boulevard. “It doesn’t make sense to encourage the devices then restrict them so much” Wetzel said.
She said especially in Sunset Beach, where the roadway narrows to two lanes, it would be safer for micromobility riders to divert onto the sidewalk rather than be in heavy traffic.
Wetzel also questioned whether it is safer to force micromobility users to ride in sometimes heavy traffic on Gulf Boulevard, rather than on the sidewalk if there are little to no pedestrians on the street.
Payne and Doctor said they were not comfortable with allowing micromobility devices on sidewalks throughout the city.
Doctor said the city is a tourist destination and pedestrians should not have to have to share the sidewalks with people on motorized devices, especially during season when there are so many people out on the street.
Payne said Gulf Boulevard sidewalks, with bumps and driveways, are not designed for e-bicycles and electric scooters that need a smoother course.
An initial motion by Wetzel to allow the devices on all sidewalks failed in a 3-2 vote with only Partridge joining her in support, with the mayor, Doctor and Deborah Toth against.
Finally, it was unanimously agreed to ban the devices on the beach and sidewalks, except along the Beach Trail at reduced speed and West Gulf Boulevard.
A final reading and second hearing on the topic will be held Feb. 21, with the issue revisited in six months.
Sewer funds coming
During her report to the City Commission, City Manager Amy Davis advised the city was “very fortunate to get federal funding” in the amount of $1.27 million that will go towards the replacing the master sewer lift station.
She noted out of the total expected cost of $6 million for the lift station construction project, the city has now amassed a total of $5.77 million in state and federal funding.
“That’s very exciting,” Davis said. “I want to have a special shout-out and thank you to both (Director) Mike Helfrich and (Assistant Director) Stacy Boyles of our Public Works Department. They are the ones who provided all the details to our federal lobbyist, and they’re the ones that did all the work behind the scenes in this effort, so I wanted to congratulate them.”