Vice Mayor Dan Liedtke's Priorities for Gulfport

At last week's city council workshop, Gulfport's vice mayor, Dan Liedtke, listed several priorities for the city. The vice mayor also provided us with an explanation of his priorities, printed below as he provided it to us. 

• Employee healthcare costs 

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that new mandates from President Barack Obama's health care reform law could increase health insurance premiums from 25 percent to 116 percent in 2014. Obamacare is now a three year old law with some costly provisions taking effect in 2014. Exactly how these provisions will impact the city of Gulfport’s premiums has not yet been made clear or is unknown. The City of Gulfport expended more than half a million dollars on health insurance premiums in 2012.


Pending union contract negotiations

Union contracts are something to keep on the radar screen. These contracts always expire and negotiations are usually required for every new contract. The city manager has stayed in front of this. My point in bringing this up is simply to re-enforce the need to be aware of these contracts and the increases in expenditures that come with each new contract. I never want the city to end up in a situation where we are trying to complete last minute negotiations or where employees are working without a contract. In 2013 two union contracts are up for renewal in Gulfport.


Five-year financial plan
NOTE: This is not a priority for the vice mayor but he included it as a reponse to a discussion about it that took place during the workshop.

This is a proposal brought forward by Michael Fridovich. Before I can comment on this I need to understand the intended goals and objectives of his idea. In future workshops I expect to hear more from Councilmember Fridovich on this subject.


Marina upgrade

The proposed marina upgrades have potential for significant ROI and should be considered as one of our top priorities. At one time there was a waiting list for slips at the Gulfport Marina. Currently the slip occupancy is around 70%. However, other marinas in the area still have waiting lists. What do they have that we don’t and what can we offer that they cannot?  We know the answers to these questions, we’re getting people involved and we’re in the middle of building a plan. Some of the ideas on the table include facilities to support those who enjoy extended stays, boat-lifts, 1st class ship store, overall cosmetic improvements and other amenities.

The Gulfport Marina will also benefit this year from recent construction on the new 60 foot tall Pinellas Bayway Bridge. For the first time in over 50 years the sail from the Gulfport Marina to the Gulf of Mexico will be draw-bridge free. I look forward to seeing quality project improvements beginning this year at the Gulfport Municipal Marina. The community support for Marina upgrades is solid and we are fortunate to have a professional harbormaster that can ensure the quality.

 I’d also like to note that the proposed mooring field is a separate issue. The current proposal is for 25 mooring balls and we are well into the permitting process. Unfortunately, I have not heard one boater tell me “I want to anchor my boat to a mooring ball and pay for it.” Maybe this will spark a couple boaters to send me a message. Maybe if we build it they will come?  But until the marina gets what it needs to be competitive and we are once again on a waiting list, I consider it frivolous to support any expenditure towards any aspect of a mooring field in Boca Ciega Bay.


Look at financing options for capital improvements like the police station and the marina
NOTE: This is not a priority for the vice mayor but he included it as a reponse to a discussion about it that took place during the workshop

The city is currently debt free and I’d like to keep it that way. Once the priorities are established and only after the priorities are established we will be in a better position to determine the financial needs.


• Casino kitchen upgrade

The city subsidizes the operation of the Gulfport Casino to the tune of over $100,000 per year. I believe this world-class asset should be operating as one of the cities profit centers. In order for that to occur we need to make some changes. We know the changes we need to make, so let’s look at our options in detail, understand the ROI and make the move if the numbers look good.  


Explore possibility for renting city hall space to private industry if the city moves the police station

Funding the cost of relocating the police department to 49th street needs to be figured out before we spend too much time worrying about extra office space.  However it is possible that some funding for the move could come from returning that land to residential or by leasing a portion of the building. If the police department relocates to 49th street that will leave a lot of vacant office space at city hall. Do we return that area to residential, lease the facilities or just let it sit vacant? Since we are not looking to grow city government only two of these options make sense.


In Conclusion:

We have a lot of new ideas being looked at right now. As we move forward on some of these concepts remember that we cannot just throw people at projects and expect quality results. Priorities will be established by consensus of council. If any endeavors are undertaken they will need to be managed with care through completion before undertaking the next endeavor.

Whatever projects the city commences this year we need to ensure quality, manage costs and not overload the cities limited staff. Remember there is still a city to run and we want people to enjoy coming to work.