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Pinellas school board considers buying property



Pinellas County Schools is considering buying property near two of its elementary schools, although school board members are split on whether one of the add-ons will be worth it.

School system staff and board members agreed to seek an appraisal for the vacant lot next to 74th Street Elementary, citing the parking problems at the school. 74th Street only has 94 parking spots for a staff of 112, and the parent pick-up line has no choice but to weave through the staff parking lot.

"It's not a good situation," said Michael Bessette, director of operations for the school system.

But should the school board also consider buying a building that sits in the middle of Melrose Elementary? The district approached the Women's Club in 2004 about buying the building, which Bessette said "looks like a little colisseum inside," with a stage, hardwood floors and balconies.

Years later, the Women's Club is now interested in selling. However, the old building may be expensive to maintain, and there's no immediate need for another building at Melrose, Bessette said. However, the school board might want to consider who would otherwise buy the building.

"If they do choose to sell, I'm concerned about who they sell it to, who will be in the middle of the [Melrose] parking lot," Bessette said. He thought it'd be a good idea to at least get an appraisal. "If it's not too much, it may be something that we take on, only to restrict who gets it."

School board member Robin Wikle said she had to "respectfully disagree." 

"We're in the business of kids, not landowners, and we don't need it so you don't want to purchase with the fear," Wikle said. She said it was unlikely that "an adult club or whatever" would try to take over premises in an elementary school parking lot.

Fellow board member Linda Lerner said she was sure the school system could find a use for the building. "There's always a need for social workers to have a meeting space...It sounds like a nice facility that we can use for many things," Lerner said.

Superintendent Michael Grego also supported a serious look at acquiring the building. "One of my concerns about Melrose is its overcrowded condition, which it shouldn't be - we have portables at a school with about 400 students."

Pinellas is also considering selling a portion of a vacant lot across the street from Palm Harbor University High School.

[Last modified: Wednesday, November 20, 2013 11:09am]


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