PINELLAS PARK — In this era of spending cutbacks, what's a city to do when its shabby monotube needs refurbishing?
Why, hold a bake sale, of course.
That probably won't happen unless all else fails. All else being negotiations with the Florida Department of Transportation, which installed the monolithic pipe in 2001 at Park Boulevard and 66th Street to hold signs and traffic signals. It's designed to withstand 130 mph winds.
Pinellas Park wants the DOT to paint it. The DOT, thus far, has said no. The agency may have installed the tube, but now it belongs to the city.
The news that the tube belongs to Pinellas Park was a momentary bit of good news for city officials, who have always hated what council member Ed Taylor labeled the "monstrosity." That's because the initial reaction was, "if it's ours, we can take it down," city spokesman Tim Caddell said.
The DOT was not amused. "Taking care of" the monotube does not include eliminating it. It means Pinellas Park must pay for the estimated $20,000 paint job. The city has refused to take no for an answer and is negotiating with the DOT.
There does seem to be some indication that the DOT might relent "if they pick the color," a kind of "we'll go out to the shed and see what's there," Caddell said.
That would be taking a chance. When the tube was first installed, the DOT painted it sewage brown, a color that added to the indignity of having the monotube installed with no warning to the city. It also made Pinellas Park the brunt of some pretty vicious jokes. City officials complained so vocally that the DOT held a public meeting to show people how the monotube might look painted other colors. Then the agency held a vote. Blue won and blue it became.
But now the paint job is a bit chalky and rust is showing through in spots. Someone said, "Hey, it's kind of ratty," and that's when the city decided to ask the DOT for a new paint job, Caddell said.
The possibility that the tube could revert to its original color might not be bad, Caddell said, noting that sewage brown could be the "in" color for decorators in the coming year.
"You know how that goes," he said. "People will go, why didn't we paint it that color to begin with?"
The city expects to reach some agreement with the DOT, but Caddell said his sister told him she was "deeply moved" by Pinellas Park's plight.
She said she was going to have a bake sale to raise money for the paint job, Caddell said.
Reach Anne Lindberg at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8450.