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St. Pete Beach has a role model nearby

The city manager likes what he sees in Treasure Island and is shuffling city staffers in order to get the process started.

By AMY WIMMER

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 11, 2000


ST. PETE BEACH -- Call it a case of vision envy.

St. Pete Beach City Manager Carl Schwing doesn't have to look far -- just one city to the north -- to find what he would like to see soon in St. Pete Beach.

In Treasure Island, business owners and residents have bought into long-term plans to rejuvenate downtown and beautify the city. What Schwing is having trouble finding, he admits, is patience.

"I want to be doing it now," Schwing said.

Schwing announced last week that St. Pete Beach will embark on a visioning process of its own -- without consultants who cost money and, he said, sometimes emerge with "the answers we already know."

Schwing has identified several sections of the city that could be part of the broad-based review of St. Pete Beach's future. Among the areas needing special attention, he said, are Blind Pass Road (scheduled to be widened), Gulf Boulevard, Corey Avenue and Pass-a-Grille.

To help the visioning plan, which will ultimately leave St. Pete Beach with a framework for the next 10 years or so, Schwing is shuffling city staff and devoting three staff members to retooling the city's design.

The three will be led by Planning and Development Director Chris Brimo, who will fill the new role of assistant city manager in the reorganization. Brimo's salary will not increase because he will be supervising fewer people, Schwing said.

"We have a huge agenda, a huge potential agenda, ahead of us," Schwing said. "We don't have the people who have the time to do this right now."

The project will be launched with a survey distributed to recent elected officials and appointees to city boards, local civic associations and other community groups. The City Commission is slated to consider survey questions at its next meeting.

Schwing estimates that the reorganization will save the city $41,000, despite the fact that current city building official Mike Knotek will receive a $9,000 raise in the reorganization. Knotek will be promoted from building official to community services director when current director Jesse Barnard retires this summer.

Knotek will also continue to serve as building official, even though he will supervise 24 employees as a department head. Schwing said he is not concerned about Knotek's time being strained because the city also has a qualified building inspector, and he believes Knotek will seek to streamline the city's permitting process once he takes the position.

Schwing told commissioners Tuesday that the city has dealt with so many issues lately -- from the renourishment of Upham Beach to negotiations with the Department of Transportation on the Blind Pass Road widening -- that St. Pete Beach is primed for some proactive work.

"I think we're now at the stage where we want to be looking at the future," Schwing said.

Commissioners accepted Schwing's ideas enthusiastically, including the plan to form the large community services department, second in size only to the Police Department. "Sometimes you get so caught up with day-to-day issues and problems," Mayor Ward Friszolowski said. "We want to be able to have direction for the next 10 to 20 years."

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