At recent Council meetings, a number of people have spoken about their concerns that Tourist Development Council (TDC) dollars may be used for bay and beach access improvements. While a former Council did ask the Community Resources Advisory Board (CRAB) to work on upgrading all Town-owned beach accesses, that program is now dead and the contract for funding from the TDC for the two ‘pilot’ accesses – Canal Street and Gulf Road – will be cancelled, according to Public Works Director Scott Baker.
At Monday’s afternoon workshop, Baker gave a presentation to Town Council that outlined exactly what has been requested from the TDC this year.
“We had to submit all our requests by February 25th as that is their deadline for Beach & Shoreline Project funding,” Baker said. “They are then reviewed by the County Attorney from March 7-11th, the Coastal Advisory Committee on March 21st, at a TDC workshop on April 11th and on May 12th the TDC formalizes their requests which they then send to the Board of County Commissioners – who will make their final approval in September as part of their annual budget process.”
Baker explained that certain things are not eligible for funding by the TDC under their Beach & Shoreline Program: beach access security cameras, bike paths, concessionaires, facilities not open to the public, fencing/gates, general law enforcement, parking lots/pavement, picnic tables, playground equipment, privately owned facilities, volleyball courts, travel related items, communication devices such as cell phones and radios, uniforms and insurance premiums.
“All funding requests are subject to review by the County Attorney, however,” he said.
Baker explained that – per Council’s discussion at a work session held on February 1st, Council did not want to move forward with any new requests until all the TDC money was being allocated or had a plan to be spent. He handed Council a list of the updated contracts with the TDC and the requests made for the coming 2016/2017 fiscal year.
The new requests include: $850,000 for funding of four full time staff and three part time staff for Beach Patrol and one full time staff member for the Mound House/parking area at 216 Connecticut/Newton Park, maintenance only at Bayside Park, all 39 beach accesses, Newton Park, Mound House, 216 Connecticut and the restroom at the Palm Avenue beach access and 100% cost replacement of two rusted and corroded beach vehicles. There was also a request for $20,000 for an electric cart to be used as transport for the Mound House. A request for the replacement of the dock at Hercules has already been denied and a request for the restoration of Time Square has been deemed ineligible.
Current contracts include $416,113.77 for beach access improvements – which is being cancelled, $112,070.88 for the Coastal Management Plan and $6,500 for Mound House landscaping.
“Keep in mind that TDC funding is reimbursed to us – we do not have a pot of unused money from them,” Administrative Specialist Chelsea O’Riley said. “Since the waterline project is going to come through the Square soon, we asked them to fund the restoration of that area – including new pavers, lighting, landscaping and a permanent stage – so it doesn’t have to be torn up twice.”
Chelsea told us that, since that request – for $1,500,000 – has been deemed ineligible, staff met with Program Manager Nancy McPhee who suggested that town staff go over all past contracts with the TDC – including comfort stations and beach access improvements – to determine what has been cancelled, and to formerly cancel all approved projects that are no longer viable.
“We are hoping that once we have determined what we have cancelled, we can go back to the TDC and ask for that money to be reallocated to Time Square restoration under one of the TDC’s other funding programs – Attractions Marketing,” she said. “We also plan to attend a TDC meeting on April 14th to find out why the Hercules dock was denied.”
At Monday’s workshop, Baker assured Council that the beach access improvement project is dead based on ‘community outcry’.
“We are asking for funding for maintenance only for beach accesses,” he said. “As far as those staff members, that is something the TDC approves every year – including their insurance.”
Chelsea said that staff will be returning to Council once a final number of all cancelled contracts is determined.
Keri Hendry Weeg