Wednesday, December 13, 2017
News Roundup

City debates what to do about crowded, outdated Countryside Library

CLEARWATER — The Countryside Library is often packed. It's a community gathering spot in Clearwater's far-flung northeastern suburbs. It's the city's second-busiest library, ranking only behind the much larger Main Library.

But the Countryside branch is too small and dated. It was built in 1988 — before computers and the Internet were part of daily life, and back when libraries were almost entirely about books.

The city believes it's about time to expand and update the Countryside library. Beginning this year, there will be millions of dollars in Penny for Pinellas sales tax revenue earmarked for just this purpose.

But first, the City Council must make a big decision: whether to renovate the existing library or build an entirely new library at another location nearby.

The council is locked in a stalemate. Each choice has its positives and negatives.

One problem is, council members aren't sure what their constituents will want. They're looking for feedback from the public. They know that relatively few people are even aware that this is being discussed.

"It hasn't been out in the community," Mayor George Cretekos said. "I'm anxious to see what the community thinks about a move."

The choices

The 25-year-old library is on State Road 580 near Countryside Boulevard, wedged between a fire station and a wastewater treatment plant.

If the city decides to build a new library, instead of renovating the existing one, it would go next to the Countryside Recreation Center in Countryside Community Park, 2640 Sabal Springs Drive, a less visible spot not far away. The city looked at other locations, but those haven't worked out.

At a City Council work session last week, Clearwater library director Barbara Pickell went over the pros and cons for each option. She was joined by local architects Phil Trezza and Ward Friszolowski, who have designed 40 Florida libraries.

If the city wants a larger, 22,500-square-foot Countryside Library, each option would cost about the same, they said. Renovating and expanding the current library would cost $6.5 million. A new building would cost $6.4 million.

The existing library's main advantage is that it's in a highly visible location. Its main disadvantage is the limited amount of space and parking at the site. Also, the current building would have to be virtually gutted to make the space usable.

And if the library were moved? There's plenty of land and parking available at Countryside Community Park. The city could build a state-of-the-art library there. It also could keep the current library open while building its replacement, instead of closing the library for renovations.

The park's main disadvantage: It's a lot less visible.

No consensus

That lack of visibility is why Cretekos is leaning against relocating to the park. "I am very uncomfortable with moving the library," he said.

Meanwhile, Vice Mayor Paul Gibson is in favor of a move.

"Do I want an older library that's been renovated, or would I rather pay less for a new, functional library?" he asked. "I wish they were all this easy."

Bill Jonson, the only council member from Countryside, has heard from neighbors on both sides of the issue. He's undecided. "We're going to make some folks unhappy with this, no matter which way we go," he said.

Clearwater has earmarked $12.5 million in Penny for Pinellas taxes to expand its Countryside and East branch libraries. The city is in talks with St. Petersburg College to team up and build a joint-use library that would replace the East branch on Drew Street.

As for the Countryside Library, the council will likely take up the issue again at its Feb. 21 meeting.

Judy Blanton, a member of the Clearwater Library Board, has been a Countryside resident for 20 years. A retired teacher and librarian who has worked through renovations, she recalls running into unexpected problems that ended up costing more money and time than building something new.

"I like the Countryside Recreation Center site, as it offers more room for expansion and parking," Blanton said. "I'm hoping for more input from Countryside residents."

Mike Brassfield can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4151. To write a letter to the editor, go to tampabay.com/letters.

 
Comments
Picturing something different: St. Petersburg man finds second career as photographer

Picturing something different: St. Petersburg man finds second career as photographer

A chance meeting during a really tough time in Rossie Newson’s life resulted in him finding a talent he never knew he had. After leaving his job as an illustrator at the Tampa Bay Times in 2009, Newson devoted most of his time and energy to his fathe...
Updated: 26 minutes ago
Daniel Ruth: Buckhorn stood with good ol’ boys as firefighter proved city harassed her

Daniel Ruth: Buckhorn stood with good ol’ boys as firefighter proved city harassed her

They tried to shut her up. They tried to make her go away. They made her life miserable. Yet Tanja Vidovic — persisted. Long before most people had ever heard of the knuckle-dragging sexually harassing escapades of oafs like Harvey Weinstein, ...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Woman, 54, killed while crossing U.S. 19 in Hudson

HUDSON — A Hudson woman died Tuesday evening after being struck by a car while crossing U.S. 19 near Babson Avenue, according to Florida Highway Patrol.Patricia Lynn Pla, 54, was crossing U.S. 19 westbound about 6:10 p.m. when troopers said she was s...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Nina Simone, Bon Jovi, The Cars top 2018 Rock Hall of Fame inductees

Nina Simone, Bon Jovi, The Cars top 2018 Rock Hall of Fame inductees

NEW YORK — Iconic singer Nina Simone and New Jersey rockers Bon Jovi lead the 2018 class of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees, which includes four first-time nominees. The Cars, as well as first-time contenders Dire Straits, The Moody Blues and Si...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Canseco’s tweets about sexual misconduct could jeopardize job on A’s telecasts

Canseco’s tweets about sexual misconduct could jeopardize job on A’s telecasts

LAKE BUENA VISTA — A series of tweets by former Tampa Bay Devil Rays and Oakland Athletics slugger Jose Canseco about sexual misconduct and politicians could put in jeopardy his job as a studio analyst on A’s telecasts. Canseco posted several times ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Flipping homes for big profits is getting harder in Tampa Bay

Flipping homes for big profits is getting harder in Tampa Bay

Michael Sadeghpour was just 18 when he did his first flip.Using money saved from a job and borrowed from his grandmother, he bought a foreclosed condo in north Pinellas County for $67,000. He did some inexpensive renovations and flipped it for $125,0...
Updated: 3 hours ago
The Daystarter: Roy Moore won’t concede Alabama Senate race; ex-Tampa police sergeant learns fate; older Americans take too many unneeded pills; Rays’ dilemma: Retool or rebuild?

The Daystarter: Roy Moore won’t concede Alabama Senate race; ex-Tampa police sergeant learns fate; older Americans take too many unneeded pills; Rays’ dilemma: Retool or rebuild?

Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what you need to know today.10News WTSPThe latest 7-day forecast• It was cold. Then it was warm. And now it will be cold again. Our yo-yo weather continues as another cold front rolls in and drops tempera...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Forecast: Warmer temperatures will follow another sunny, crisp day across Tampa Bay

Forecast: Warmer temperatures will follow another sunny, crisp day across Tampa Bay

Another dose of chilly temperatures is in store for the Tampa Bay region before a warming trend takes temperatures back into the 70s through next week.10News WTSPFeels-like temperatures around the Tampa Bay area Dry air and winds from the north are ...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Democrats jubilant, and newly confident about 2018, as Alabama delivers win on Trump’s turf

Democrats jubilant, and newly confident about 2018, as Alabama delivers win on Trump’s turf

The Democrats’ seismic victory Tuesday in the unlikely political battleground of Alabama brought jubilation — and a sudden a rush of confidence — to a party that has been struggling to gain its footing since Donald Trump won the presidency 13 months ...
Updated: 3 hours ago

For Weeki Wachee River, Hernando commission agrees to study how much use is too much?

BROOKSVILLE — For a year and a half, residents along the Weeki Wachee River have loudly voiced their concerns about the waterway’s future, begging local and state officials to do something to protect the important resource and to curb growing public ...
Published: 12/13/17