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Hundreds of water-clogged Grand Prix tires prompt mosquito concerns

ST. PETERSBURG — Hundreds of tires for the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg have been exposed to the elements at a city storage yard, prompting Pinellas County to press for a solution to avoid mosquito-borne illnesses.

The problem arose again Friday, when tires were found uncovered, with water and mosquitoes in them at the yard near Interstates 275 and 375, county public works officials said.

A city worker who had repeatedly complained about the tires said the county was handling the Grand Prix with "kid gloves" and putting workers at risk for disease, according to a county e-mail.

As a result, the county's code enforcement office will issue a notice for mosquitoes, which could lead to a fine the hazard not corrected within five days, said Sue Bartlett, assistant director of the county's public works operations. She was unsure whether the race or the city would be cited.

Part of the county's increased pressure involves recent health scares. Two people have died this month in Hillsborough County from mosquito-borne disease, prompting a health alert.

No disease has been linked to the yard, Bartlett said, but the county has had trouble reaching Grand Prix officials to resolve the problem.

Friday's complaints came roughly three months after Pinellas Mosquito Control found the tires uncovered and sprayed them with pesticide, then demanded the tires stay covered.

Roughly 1,500 tires — used as banking for racing safety — are stored at the yard, though race and city officials said a few hundred were found exposed Friday.

A contractor had delays installing the tarp after this year's March race, before the first demands by the county, said Tim Ramsberger, vice president of the Grand Prix. He said he was unaware of any problems until officials contacted him Friday. A contractor was due to repair the tarp by today.

"We'll fully comply with the county," Ramsberger said, noting that "storing this stuff out at the yard has always been satisfactory to the city, the county."

But city officials also said they had trouble reaching Grand Prix managers, whom they say are responsible as part of a storage agreement.

If a cover isn't secured, the county could force the tires to be stored elsewhere. But city officials say they lack the warehouse space to store the tire stacks, described as 30 feet across by 50 feet wide and 40 feet tall.

If the Grand Prix fails to get the tires covered, the city will pay to have it done and charge the race, Kevin Dunn, the city's development manager, and Public Works Administrator Mike Connors said.

City Administrator Tish Elston said she had ordered monthly checks of the tire pile, but may order more frequent reports.

David DeCamp can be reached at ddecamp@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8779.

Hundreds of water-clogged Grand Prix tires prompt mosquito concerns 07/30/10 [Last modified: Friday, July 30, 2010 10:02pm]
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