Commission shelves community center expansion, interactive fountain plans

Safety Harbor Mayor Andy Steingold's plan to install an interactive fountain similar to this one in Jensen Beach, Fl. at the Safety Harbor Marina was discarded during a recent CIP workshop.

Safety Harbor Mayor Andy Steingold’s plan to install an interactive fountain, similar to this one in Jensen Beach, at the Safety Harbor Marina was discarded during a recent capitol improvement workshop.

For more than a year, Safety Harbor Mayor Andy Steingold has stated his desire to build an interactive fountain along the city’s scenic waterfront.

But it looks like the mayor’s dream is dead, at least for now.

Steingold backed off his long-held belief that the burgeoning Waterfront Park area needed a marquee attraction, such as an interactive fountain, during a recent workshop held to discuss public art and the city’s five-year capital improvement project plan after realizing the cost of the project outweighed the city’s current need for such a feature, especially in light of other projects that are on the table.

“Six hundred thousand is a lot of money for a fountain,” the mayor said when the commissioners addressed the issue on Tuesday, Sept. 6. “A lot of money.”

Safety Harbor Mayor Andy Steingold.

Safety Harbor Mayor Andy Steingold.

“I don’t think the annual maintenance expense of $5,000 a year is the issue,” he continued. “I think the problem is the construction alone is a half-million dollars, plus the design, you’re talking about $600,000, and I’m sitting here balking at the expansion of the community center. So I can’t really sit here and say let’s go for the fountain because I don’t think it’s the best use of our funds.”

Steingold’s about-face came as the commission decided to shelve projects that were deemed too costly and/or unnecessary at the present time while focusing their attention on more pressing community improvements.

In addition to putting the kibosh on the interactive fountain, the commission decided to wait on the proposed $1.3 million expansion of the city’s community center on Ninth Avenue North, instead opting to go move forward with $200,000 worth of scheduled improvements.

A $1.3 million expansion of the Safety Harbor Community Center, which would include a 1,800-sq.ft. fitness center with a glass wall, patio, retention pond and other upgrades, was put on hold by the city commission recently.

The planned $1.3 million expansion of the Safety Harbor Community Center was recently put on hold by the city commission.

“I was a big proponent of this,” Steingold said of the expansion, which would include a complete remodel of the fitness center.

“I think it would be really good for the city. But I just feel there are too many other projects or potential projects I’d like to address.”

The other commissioners concurred.

“I’m concerned that the cost to build it is a little bit higher than I anticipated,” Commissioner Janet Hooper said.

“I think we should do the (originally scheduled) $200,000 upgrade this year and look at upgrading the gym next year,” Commissioner Cliff Merz said, and the five commissioners consented to do just that.

With the community center expansion and interactive fountain placed on the back burner, the commission turned its focus on projects that they want to see the city move forward with in the next five years.

A look at a preliminary design concept for the Cedar Street softball complex. Credit: City of Safety Harbor.

A look at a preliminary design concept for the Cedar Street softball complex. Credit: City of Safety Harbor.

One such project is the long-discussed new softball complex on Cedar Street.

Hooper, an avid fastpitch softball player and longtime proponent of the park, argued that young girls looking to play youth softball in the city have been neglected for too long.

“You’ve had it out there for a couple of years now and it hasn’t changed,” she said. “You’ve got girls having to play somewhere else. I think we owe it to them.”

“We have no fields for little girls, and that’s not okay. I want to take care of the little girls in our community.”

The impassioned plea was enough for Hooper’s fellow commissioners to approve moving forward with the planned $500,000 project.

According to officials, roughly $300,000 for the project would come from the city’s parkland fund, which currently has over $600,000 in it, while the rest would be taken from the unused allocation for the community center expansion and the general fund.

Work on the boardwalk at the Waterfront Park is currently underway.

Work is underway on the boardwalk at Safety Harbor’s Waterfront Park.

After agreeing on which projects to move forward with and which ones to put off, the commission discussed accelerating the timeline for the next phase of the Waterfront Park project.

With construction on Phase 1B—primarily consisting of the installation of a boardwalk through the mangroves along the shoreline—currently underway, the commission is hoping to speed up the start of work on Concept C of the design plan, which calls for parking and sidewalk installations, plus the addition of other amenities, such as benches, trash cans, bike racks and picnic tables.

“I do think if we begin to work towards connecting the Waterfront Park and Veterans Park and moving some of the parking out of there…I think that begins to move the flow of the Waterfront Park,” Steingold said of the plan to fill in the end of the marina parking lot with a grassy area that would connect the two existing parks.

Currently, city staff has $500,000 allocated for the Concept C improvements in fiscal year 2019/20.

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