CLEARWATER — Mayor George Cretekos lives on Sand Key and works at City Hall, so he drives through the Clearwater Beach Roundabout on a daily basis.
Lately, he has been contemplating the empty space in the center of the roundabout. There's a small circular green field there, and little else.
Cretekos has some interest in posting the flags of the five U.S. service academies there, at the end of the Memorial Causeway Bridge and the entrance to Clearwater Beach.
"It's the Clearwater Memorial Causeway," the mayor says, stressing the word "Memorial."
"On one end, we have the doughboys," he said, referring to the two bronze statues of a World War I soldier and sailor that are mounted on pillars at the mainland end of the causeway.
"What do we have at the other end? We had a water fountain, which everybody remembers," Cretekos said, referring to the infamous fountain that was originally in the center of the roundabout. The towering, wedding-cake-shaped fountain, which obstructed drivers' view of the other side of the roundabout, was widely blamed for causing car wrecks when the roundabout opened in 1999. It was demolished in 2002.
Displaying the flags of the U.S. service academies is simply an idea, Cretekos says. He's well aware that there could be complications and pitfalls. "There could be wear and tear on the flags out on the beach," he said.
It would also require a majority vote from the City Council, which has yet to discuss the issue.
At least, the current five members of the council haven't discussed the center of the roundabout. The previous City Council discussed it several years ago but couldn't agree on whether to put anything in that space.
"The council kind of elected to punt," recalled City Manager Bill Horne. "There has always been a concern about putting anything in the roundabout, ever since the fountain was torn down. Whatever you put there, there has always been a feeling that it will draw pedestrians to cross the roundabout roadway to that location."
That could be unsafe, he said.
Over the years, various people have suggested that such a prominent location should be used to display some kind of public art. But there hasn't been any agreement about what, exactly, that should be.
Also, whatever was displayed there — flags, dolphin sculptures, artwork — would have to be properly maintained.
"There's a lot that goes with it," Horne said. "That doesn't mean it can't happen. But you have to work through all the different aspects of it."
Cretekos has mentioned his idea to a number of residents but has yet to call for a full City Council discussion.
"It would just be a fitting end to the Memorial Causeway," the mayor said.
The five service academies are the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y.; the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md.; the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn.; the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, N.Y.; and the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Mike Brassfield can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4151. To write a letter to the editor, go to tampabay.com/letters.