TARPON SPRINGS – The city of Tarpon Springs has more than 100 projects in various stages of planning and completion, ranging in scale from the massive Anclote River Dredging Project to smaller beautification enhancements like hydrant repairs and the installation of new signage and decorative lighting.
During a public workshop in front of the City Commission on Monday, Oct. 22, the city’s department heads spoke about their most significant projects that are slated to begin, or be completed in, fiscal 2019, which begins Oct. 1.
Project Administration Department Director Bob Robertson began the three-hour session with an update on the dredging effort, which received a major boost this summer with $3 million in funding from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, accelerating the project’s development.
“We’re currently in the design and permitting stage, working with the Army Corps, and we’re scheduled to start dredging this summer,” Robertson said of the multi-agency project. “There’s a strict timeframe because we received emergency funding and we have to use it, so this part of the project is going to move along very quickly.”
Robertson also noted the Highland Nature Park trail upgrades, the Meres Boulevard extension, the Mango-Meres Boulevard upgrade and the leasing of a massive generator for City Hall as important upcoming projects for his department.
Public Services Director Paul Smith’s list focused on improving the city’s water issues. The projects he outlined include lift station and pump replacements, sewer system and hydrant improvements as well as $500,000 earmarked for water pipe valve replacements on his agenda.
“Last year we had a 20-inch water line break, and it was a real nightmare for a lot of people in that area” Smith said, adding, “This project is designed to replace them before they break.”
Public Works Director Tom Funcheon’s priority projects included: Palm Avenue stormwater drainage improvements; GIS mapping of the city’s stormwater infrastructure; creating a watershed management plan to help identify problems; and $400,000 worth of street surfacing and sidewalk repairs.
Funcheon also noted improvements are planned for the city’s public restrooms, the Craig Park seawall, the restaurant and driving range at the city-owned Tarpon Springs Golf Course restaurant; the City Hall dais; and the Sisler Field youth baseball complex.
Planning and Zoning Director Heather Urwiller said three of her department’s “biggest, most time-consuming projects” include updating the city’s antiquated sign code and historical district guidelines as well as rewriting the Land Development Code.
“This is a project that’s near and dear to my heart and one I’ve been nagging Mark about for several years,” Urwiller said with a smile, referring to City Manager Mark LeCouris. The section on stormwater would be the first component of the rewrite, she noted.
Economic Development Director Karen Lemmons kept her presentation short due to the number of major projects her department is involved in. They include the Meres Town Center redevelopment, the development of the Alt. 19 corridor and economic development at the Sponge Docks and downtown.
“One big incentive coming to the city is the Qualified Opportunity Zone, a federal program where when people invest in a certain area it gives them long-term tax credits,” Lemmons said. “This will be a great opportunity for a lot of projects and for people looking to invest in the community.”
Lemmons also said she is working with Tarpon Springs Chamber of Commerce and Tarpon Arts officials to come up with an overall marketing plan for the city. “We’re excited about this collaboration that’s designed to promote tourism and to better market the city of Tarpon Springs,” she said.
The last part of the meeting featured updates on the ongoing citywide beautification projects, with officials providing examples of new wayfaring and street signs, decorative strand and up-lighting and streetscaping features such as planters and flower pots that will be formally presented to the BOC for an official vote soon.
At the end of the three hours, the commissioners thanked the department heads for their hard work.
“This city has improved by leaps and bounds since I took office in 2013,” Commissioner David Banther said, adding, “You all make us look good.”
“I agree,” Commissioner Susan Kikta added. “This city has really come a long way since I started in 2009. So many new employees and projects. You’ve turned this town in a whole new direction.”
Mayor Chris Alahouzos noted: “We’ve accomplished 100 projects in the last three years. It’s amazing to see everything that’s been done. Fantastic job by everyone.”