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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Eagle Lake Park to open, but don't get too attached to the citrus



CLEARWATER -- Eagle Lake Park, the poster child for Pinellas County's trouble managing budget cuts last year, is due to open March 29.

Pinellas virtually finished building the $23.6 million park in Largo last summer, but couldn't afford to open it. The county didn't set aside enough money to run it for a year, and wouldn't make cuts to come up with the cash.

"There is a legitimate need for open space, and particularly in that specific area of the county. We ought to now open it," County Administrator Bob LaSala said Thursday.

But LaSala said Thursday it and other parks could face cuts as Pinellas faces $80 million in reductions for 2011 and 2012. The cuts could include citrus groves that were part of the appeal of creating the 163-acre park in a place residents says cries out for recreation space, as well as reduced maintenance.

"While we have to manage the assets, we have to rethink how we go about doing that and to what ... level," LaSala said.

While nothing has been decided, the options include even closing parks, although LaSala said he wanted to wait for his staff to develop cost-cutting proposals before discussing specific parks.

On a broader note, LaSala insisted he has no firm count of the number of jobs that will could be eliminated as part of the budget reductions. Last year, 260 people were let go and close to 300 vacant jobs eliminated. There's not many vacancies this year.

"There are more positions at risk because there are fewer number of vacancies," LaSala said, though the details will be determined by how departments are combined, cut and pared this summer -- a drastic "reshaping" of the county's government.

David DeCamp, Times staff writer

[Last modified: Wednesday, May 26, 2010 12:24pm]


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