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Clearwater council has a full plate tonight

CLEARWATER — The City Council will have a full plate tonight.

At its regular meeting, which starts at 6 p.m. at City Hall, the council will vote on whether to pay for spruced-up road medians on Island Estates, whether to evict a gift shop from the Clearwater Beach Marina (see related story), and whether to hire a particular Washington, D.C., lobbyist over the objections of the mayor.

In other news, the city may have found a home for a free dental clinic.

Dental clinic

The city is looking at a potential location for a nonprofit group that wants to open a free dental clinic to serve the working poor in the Clearwater area.

The group, called the Community Dental Clinic, mainly needs a place to do its work. City officials had been brainstorming about a few city-owned buildings, but all of those sites had problems.

At a city work session Monday, a new site surfaced: the city's North Greenwood police substation has long had a tenant in the other half of its 4,000-square-foot building at 1310 Martin Luther King Ave., but that tenant recently left.

The City Council told staffers to explore the idea of a three-year lease for the clinic at that location.

The proposed dental clinic would operate like the Clearwater Free Clinic, which provides medical care for people who can't afford care but who don't qualify for government assistance. It doesn't charge fees, but it asks patients for donations.

Island Estates

The Island Estates Civic Association is asking the city to spend about $14,000 to landscape and beautify four medians on Island Way near its intersection with the Memorial Causeway.

Island Estates taxpayers have long felt that they don't get their fair share of things like Penny for Pinellas-funded construction projects.

The City Council is hesitant about this, fearing that other neighborhoods would then have a right to ask for the same thing. "There are medians throughout the city," said council member Bill Jonson, noting that Countryside would like to have its medians spruced up too.

Other council members said they'd think about it. They noted that the four medians in question are in a commercial area and are at the entrance to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, a growing tourist destination.

D.C. lobbyist

Council members will likely vote tonight to retain Alcalde and Fay, a Washington-area firm that has been Clearwater's federal lobbyist since 1998. The lobbying firm keeps Clearwater informed about available federal grants, and it was credited with securing $22 million to build the Memorial Causeway Bridge.

The city would pay the firm $4,000 per month for a six-year contract.

Mayor George Cretekos argued Monday in favor of Van Scoyoc Associates, which he said had more ties to this area. "They know Pinellas County and Clearwater very well," said Cretekos, who acknowledged that he's friends with a vice president at that firm. The mayor plans to recuse himself from tonight's vote.

Other council members didn't sound convinced that a change is needed.

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

Clearwater council has a full plate tonight 01/16/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 16, 2013 7:43pm]
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