INDIAN ROCKS BEACH — The Fourth of July was not kind to Indian Rocks Beach. In fact, city commissioners found the holiday revelry disgusting and didn’t hesitate saying so.
At the regular commission meeting on July 9 they voiced their displeasure at the mess left behind by the hundreds of beach visitors who gathered to watch fireworks and to set off their own.
It took an army of volunteers and all available city staff all day on July 5 just to make the beach habitable again.
“There were truckloads of garbage,” said Commissioner Diane Flagg. “It seems like it was over the top this year. It speaks volumes about the work the volunteers had to do.”
Commissioner Phil Hanna chimed in.
“It was shocking, to say the least,” he said. “It was shocking what people left behind; it is just surprising what people do.”
Commissioner Nick Palomba was concerned for the protected black skimmers nesting on the beach. Officials were concerned that loud noises would cause the adult birds to fly away, abandoning their chicks.
“I don’t understand why people just can’t walk away from the birds and go 20 or 50 feet away and leave them alone,” he said. “It was unnecessary to set off fireworks by the birds.”
Mayor Cookie Kennedy, who has organized citizen cleanups on July 5, said this year was not good.
“It was incredible what staff had to clean up,” she said. “We’re going to have a meeting in October to talk about fireworks on the beach.”
She was referring to a work session set for Oct. 8. Representatives from the county Sheriff’s Office and others will participate in the discussion. Fireworks in the City of Indian Rocks Beach are illegal and the commission will determine a path forward.
Each year, Kennedy organizes volunteers to come out on the morning of July 4, hand out biodegradable trash bags and encourage beach visitors to take their trash home with them or at the very least put it in a container.
The volunteers return the next day to help pick up those bags and other trash. More than 100 people helped out this year.
Yet trash was left all over, and in one case, fireworks were set off inside a big plastic trash containers, melting it.
If there was a highlight to the story it involved city staff, who worked all day cleaning up the beach. City staff picked up and hauled off approximately 22 loads of debris on July 5, the majority of which were fireworks-related.
Kennedy said at the end of the day it was pristine.
In other commission matters
• Kennedy asked for a moment’s silence to remember Sophia Delott, 17, who was killed while riding her bicycle on the Indian Rocks Beach Causeway Bridge late last month.
“She did nothing wrong,” said Kennedy. “She worked here at two places, Thai-Pan Alley and Cafe Paris. It is so sad.”
Neil Singhal, 69, a resident of Indian Rocks Beach, has been charged with DUI manslaughter in the case.
Kennedy said she will be talking to county officials about ways to make the bridge safer for cyclists.
Kennedy said that 90 percent of such fatalities are caused by drivers who drink and drive.
• The subject of term limits was brought up by resident John Pfanstiehl. He noted that polls have shown that more than 70 percent of voters favor term limits. He wondered why no action has been taken in IRB.
“The subject of term limits was brought up at our January meeting,” he said. “We realize that term limits can term out current commissioners, and this personal interest is why some commissioners won’t want term limits. However, it has been five months now. I urge commissioners to follow through on scheduling a term-limit workshop and a referendum.”
• City Manager Gregg Mims revisited the issue of vacation rentals. He said the city’s recently passed local ordinance has enabled the city to keep track of vacation renters.
He said of the 104 operators in the city, 57 were in compliance with the city’s regulations and the others were all in varying stages of getting there.
July 26 is the deadline for all renters to be in compliance, but Mims indicated that as time goes by, more and more people are becoming renters, so the city will have to remain vigilant.
Mims also told the commissioners that the issue of cybersecurity attacks is becoming more common among municipalities in the country.
“Many cities have been hacked and the cities are paying to get their information back,” he said. “We have an aggressive operation and have scheduled more meetings to fight against cyberattacks.”
Mims said IRB is less likely to be a victim because it does not have its own police department with such sensitive information.
“The hackers seem to be concentrating on those cities,” he said.