By WAYNE AYERS / Tampa Bay Newspapers
Article published on Wednesday, July 20, 2016

MADEIRA BEACH – The city of Madeira Beach’s tax rate will remain one of the lowest in Pinellas County. The city commission approved leaving the rate at 2.2 mills at their July 12 regular meeting.

The rate can be lowered further at upcoming budget hearings, but cannot be raised.

The millage rate currently is the third lowest of all full service cities in the county, and eighth lowest of the county’s 24 municipalities.

The decision to leave the millage rate unchanged came as somewhat of a surprise. City Manager Shane Crawford has warned over the past year that a rate increase was likely, due to the number of large and expensive projects being undertaken by the city.

Crawford said two major budget cuts were made to allow the millage rate to remain at 2.2. The planned undergrounding of utilities on Gulf Boulevard will be cut back to wires only going east-west across Gulf Boulevard, saving about $3 million.

Also, the Sheriff’s Office policing budget has been reduced by elimination of a deputy assigned to code enforcement, mostly for short-term rentals. Crawford said the rental violations had gotten under control to a point where the city’s assigned deputy, Pat Krager, could handle the work.

Crawford said residents might still see an increase in taxes due to rising property values. But the millage rate will remain the same, “one of the lowest of all full service cities in the county,” he said.

Ghovaee chosen for commission seat

The commission selected Housh Ghovaee, a contractor and civil engineer with a long record of civic contributions, to fill the District 4 commission seat left open by former Commissioner Pat Shontz’s resignation last month. Ghovaee was selected from three applicants for the job.

Commission members had previously voted by mail ballot, and confirmed their choice at the meeting. Mayor Travis Palladeno and Commissioners Nancy Hodges and Terry Lister voted yes for their choice of Ghovaee. Commissioner Elaine Poe voted no. The other candidates for the position were John Douthirt and Joseph Fala.

FullSizeRenderPalladeno said Ghovaee had served on a variety of civic boards “and has a lot to bring to the table for Madeira Beach.”

Lister told Ghovaee, “You love Madeira Beach. That’s the reason I chose you,” while Hodges said Ghovaee “was very helpful to me when I was on the Planning Board.”

In accepting his appointment, Ghovaee said, “I am so excited. This is a wonderful honor for me,” and “I thank God, Creator of the Universe, for placing me here, and giving me the opportunity to serve the wonderful city of Madeira Beach.”

Ghovaee praised the city’s leadership, saying “there is none better” than City Manager Crawford.

“I won’t let you down, I will give you my every effort,” Ghovaee said. He added, “I want you to say, ‘We voted for Housh and he was a good choice.’”

He will serve the remainder of Shontz’s term, which ends in March 2017.

Ghovaee was also selected as vice mayor, a position held by Shontz when she resigned.

Road resurfacing/storm water project back on

Following a delay, the city’s ongoing road reconstruction and storm water control effort is getting restarted. Next to be done are the Boca Ciega Avenue / Boca Ciega Drive neighborhood, and a small project on 140th Avenue. This phase will cost the city about $3.9 million. Once the project is complete, they will receive a $1.3 million matching grant from the Southwest Florida Water Management District toward the storm water control upgrades.

Al Carrier of Deuel and Associates, the contractor doing the job, gave a timetable for its completion. The work will start in four to six weeks, Carrier said. A year is allowed to do the job, but Carrier estimated it could be done in six to nine months.

This phase of the project is in Commissioner Lister’s district. Lister was glad to see the work beginning and said, “We are spending good money here to keep the city dry.”