CLEARWATER — The Clearwater Main Library is the unquestioned crown jewel of this city's public buildings. It's the newest and best, an attractive four-story structure with majestic water views.
But after eight years, the downtown library's front entrance and the outdoor terrace on the building's west side are starting to show wear and tear. Officials say that's partly because there's a problem with homeless people sleeping around the building at night.
So the City Council voted Thursday night to put a teal-colored, 8-foot metal fence around the front entrance, with a curving arch on top that mirrors the library's wavelike roof. A similar fence will surround the west terrace. The whole thing will cost $119,400.
"It is the main entrance to the signature building for the city of Clearwater, and we want to make it nice and we want to make it appealing," library director Barbara Pickell told the council. "All in all, we feel this would really enhance the library."
The main goal is to spruce up the library's entrance with an attractive courtyard that has decorative fencing, a bit of new landscaping and some kind of public art element, city officials said.
However, there's another purpose as well: A sliding gate will be locked at night, preventing people from sleeping in that courtyard, sheltered from rain beneath the entryway's overhang.
City Manager Bill Horne compares this strategy to the city's practice of locking the gate at closing time at Station Square Park, another gathering spot for the homeless downtown. He said the locking reduces wear and tear on public property.
"It closes at a certain time of night," Horne said. "It's locked up. It stays in a condition that's usable to all the members of the public who might have a reason to go there."
The City Council decided to add the fence to the library's entrance at the suggestion of the Clearwater Library Foundation.
This was actually library supporters' second attempt to get the fence.
In April, council members rejected a proposal for a $72,000 black metal fence around the entrance. They said it looked too spartan and cold, and it didn't match the library's architecture.
Library officials went back to the drawing board and came up with a design that looks more welcoming.
"This is an order of magnitude better than what was presented previously," said City Council member Bill Jonson.
At first, the proposed new design cost $188,300. About $50,000 of that would have paid to replace the concrete slabs outside the library's front door with paver stones similar to the ones used for Cleveland Street's sidewalks downtown.
But on Thursday night, council members said no to the pavers and also removed the words "Clearwater Public Library" from the fence's archway, cutting the project's overall cost to $119,400. The money will come from city reserves.
Mike Brassfield can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 445-4151. To write a letter to the editor, go to tampabay.com/letters.