Monday, December 11, 2017
News Roundup

Clearwater neighborhood longs for park toilets, closed to discourage homeless

CLEARWATER — This summer, the city closed the public restrooms at Crest Lake Park after hearing reports that homeless people were using them at night for drug use, sleeping and prostitution. The six restrooms, located next to a playground, remain welded shut.

Now the neighborhood surrounding the park is asking that the restrooms be reopened. Neighbors say closing the restrooms didn't help. Instead, they say, families are staying away from the park and vagrants are relieving themselves in the bushes.

The City Council will take up the issue at a future meeting.

The restrooms were closed in June at the park, which is east of downtown between Cleveland Street and Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard. The restrooms used to automatically lock every night at 8:30 p.m. However, the city's homelessness consultant, Robert Marbut, recommended removing or redesigning the restrooms because he found that homeless people were jamming the doors' automatic locks with toilet paper, allowing the facilities to be used at night.

But residents of Skycrest, the neighborhood that includes the park, want the decision to be reversed. In a unanimous vote, members of the Skycrest Neighbors recently decided to send a letter to City Hall.

"Our neighborhood, again unanimously, agreed that we are not seeing the numbers of families, especially families with children, who have enjoyed our park in the past," the letter states. "Many of the walkers, joggers and even dog walkers have remarked about the growing number of unsavory people monopolizing the park, especially the picnic tables, more than ever before."

"The park is dying. We don't see the families there that used to be there," said the Skycrest group's president, JoAnna Siskin, who added that the group's active Neighborhood Watch is willing to help clean and monitor the bathrooms.

"Families can't use the restrooms," said another Skycrest board member, Elizabeth Cruickshank. "These other guys show up, and they don't know the restrooms are locked. When you gotta go, you gotta go. So there's a lot of that going on."

City Manager Bill Horne, who received the letter, said he'll speak individually to each City Council member about the issue, and they'll discuss it at an upcoming public meeting.

"I really don't think we should have bathrooms there," Horne said. He said the city had planned to keep the restrooms closed for at least a year to "break the attractiveness of this location to the chronic homeless who were using the bathrooms and creating issues."

Mayor George Cretekos said in an interview Wednesday that budget cuts have forced Clearwater to close public restrooms in parks all over the city. "Personally, I would like the city to have a bathroom in every park, but it's not economically feasible," he said.

Cretekos would like to see a major redesign of Crest Lake Park. He'd like it to be more like Largo's popular Central Park.

"Largo Central Park — when I drive by it, you know you're in a park. It's inviting," Cretekos said. "There's no reason we can't do the same with Crest Lake Park."

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
Lions-Buccaneers Turning Point, Week 14: A coach's future hangs in the balance

Lions-Buccaneers Turning Point, Week 14: A coach's future hangs in the balance

TAMPA — The season started in August with “Hard Knocks,” packed bleachers at training camp and cheers for coach Dirk Koetter.It ended Sunday with a 24-21 loss to the Lions, a lot of empty seats and chants of “We want Gruden ba...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Residents wonder what’s next after fire destroys Tampa apartments (with video)

Residents wonder what’s next after fire destroys Tampa apartments (with video)

TAMPA — When her apartment complex caught fire Monday afternoon, Peaches Mcintyre grabbed her four children and baby stroller and ran outside.Hours later, she looked at the smoldering building with her 5-year-old autistic son, Choice Underwood, huggi...
Updated: 10 minutes ago
Yankees’ acquisition of Giancarlo Stanton may hasten Rays’ dismantling

Yankees’ acquisition of Giancarlo Stanton may hasten Rays’ dismantling

LAKE BUENA VISTA — The latest obstacle keeping the Rays from contending in the American League East loomed even larger Monday afternoon in pinstripes.The Yankees’ formal introduction of Giancarlo Stanton also could be an accelerant to the departure o...
Updated: 14 minutes ago
Judge denies former Clearwater fire chief’s motion for a new trial

Judge denies former Clearwater fire chief’s motion for a new trial

A Pinellas circuit judge denied a bid for a new trial in the case of Jamie Geer, the former Clearwater fire chief serving a life sentence for sexually abusing a girl throughout her childhood.Geer, now 63, was in court in October seeking the new trial...
Updated: 23 minutes ago

Updated: 25 minutes ago
Police make arrest in home invasion of 77-year-old South Tampa man

Police make arrest in home invasion of 77-year-old South Tampa man

TAMPA — A 19-year-old man was arrested Friday in connection with an armed home invasion in the city’s Hyde Park area, according to Tampa police.Leo Butler faces a charge of robbery of less than $300. He was still in the county jail on Monday, held in...
Updated: 1 hour ago

New YorkBatali steps away from restaurants, show after reportsMario Batali, one of the country’s most high-profile chefs and restaurant owners, is stepping away from the daily operations of his businesses and the program he co-hosts on ABC amid repor...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Saturday’s sonic booms likely from F-15 fighters, NORAD says

Saturday’s sonic booms likely from F-15 fighters, NORAD says

Those sonic booms heard across the state Saturday afternoon were likely from two F-15 fighter jets protecting President Donald Trump during his visit to Florida, according to the North American Aerospace Defense Command.The jets, which belong to the ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Bucs journal: Brent Grimes matches Richard Sherman for INTs since 2013

Bucs journal: Brent Grimes matches Richard Sherman for INTs since 2013

TAMPA — CB Brent Grimes picked up his third interception of the season in Sunday’s loss to the Lions, tying him for the Bucs’ team lead and with another, more impressive group.Since the start of the 2013 season, Grimes has 20 interceptions, tying him...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Mother, sons lose everything in fire -- except her daughter’s urn

Mother, sons lose everything in fire -- except her daughter’s urn

ST. PETERSBURG — The day after a fire claimed most of Jahmeshia Jackson’s possessions, the 27-year-old mother returned to the house she and her sons had escaped, trying to salvage what she could. She hoped her washer and dryer still worked. But most ...
Updated: 1 hour ago