Commission shelves community center expansion, interactive fountain plans
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.”
“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.
“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.
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.
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.
- Mayor Steingold addresses interactive fountain questions, concerns
- With permit secured, Waterfront Park boardwalk project could begin soon
- Safety Harbor to invest nearly $40K in public art projects
The fountain would be great. It is expensive but worth the cost. Kids would love it and would make our city even better. We need to construct the fountain.
Recent decisions by our elected officials…smart…Marinia parking will continue to be a concern
City projects seem to rarely address the issue of growth. Most are self serving! By nature! But what is missing in all of these ideas, is the aspect that “does this or that project being considered, make for a more attractive city that people want to move into or invest in?”
I find it hard to envision that Aspect in another softball complex. I find it hard to find that Aspect in new sidewalks along bay shore. I have yet to ever have a realtor include such amenities in their ability to sell me on a place to move to. We have numerous examples of other cities throughout Florida, that have blueprints (of which we might want to mimic) with ideas that created some magnificent venues to work & live. Growth v. Self serving projects is the issue. It has been the major stumbling block in my 29 years as a resident here. When a city loses hope or insight for growth, the city dies. Ask yourself, everyone! Which of the cities around us, just on the west coast , have you seen growth, prosperity and upward movement? Where do you see Safety Harbor? Putting our many amenities under the hat of some self serving project, helps only one person. Those projects should be taken care of individually by that person/s own resources if it so important for themselves. We should give the commission the freedom to view what is in the best interest (the big picture for our city) and refuse to get bogged down in some of these self serving projects if the project does not project upward mobility for our city.
Commissioner Hooper who wants this project does not even own property in Safety Harbor, she rents. So she will not be paying the taxes. Easy to want this project when you are not the one paying for it.
For the record, property tax burden is paid by renters through rent, which is not subject to homestead exemption. In other words, through trickle down, a renter actually pays more ad valorem taxes than the owner of a comparably valued property. Besides, shouldn’t every citizen have an equal voice–especially in city government–regardless of their choice to own or rent? #democracy
You are correct that renters pay expenses in their rent but if their rent gets too high they can leave, it is not that easy for a homeowner. Homeowners have too much invested. And yes every citizen should have an equal voice but I believe a commissioner who has the authority to increase property taxes should at least be a homeowner. Citizens voted and passed the next City Manager will have to live in SH, then we should vote that all commissioners and/or mayor need to be SH homeowners so they feel the burden when they are voting or deciding to spend money on ball fields, sidewalks, home easements, street lighting etc…
I’m a bit baffled by the softball field thing as well. I’m all for girls having softball fields, as they are an important part of our community as well obviously. But isn’t there already a great softball complex not even a stone’s throw away at McMullen & Drew?? Albeit, it’s not directly “in” Safety Harbor, you can’t get much closer.
It is a shame the fountain is so costly and that it was put on hold. I think it would get more use by a larger variety of people than the softball fields. Also, there is currently one softball field and several other fields, not to mention, isn’t there partnerships with Dunedin and Clearwater fields or leagues?
It is a shame the fountain is so costly and agree with Kevin that it would be used by more people than a softball field. Parents. kids, grandparents, runners, and bikers would all enjoy the fountain. Better use of the funds. Maybe a stupid question but can’t softball be played on one of the 6 or so fields across from the community center?
Also, the City’s Comprehensive plan calls for 1 ballpark per 4000 people. 17000/4000 = 4.25.
There are 5 ball fields in the City Park. We should work to make the girls league more welcome if that is an issue, but a new separate field seems to be an imbalanced use of funds.
I agree with Lana. This is a misuse of funds if ever I’ve seen it. I just do not understand the priorities of this city.
I am disappointed that the Community Center project is being put on hold. This would benefit EVERYONE who lives in Safety Harbor and not just a few. We need a state-of-the-art fitness center for both young and old.
I’m sure this has been discussed many times (so i apologiize in advance 🙁 but why can’t the girl use one of the many softball fields already in Safety Harbor?
Because it’s not what the City Commission or their puppet masters want.
There is currently one softball field in Safety Harbor, at City Field. It is used by men, women, girls, etc…