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Largo commissioners balk at clock tower proposal

Plans for the proposed makeover of Largo's iconic clock tower drew criticism from Largo city commissioners Tuesday night.

Commissioners ultimately decided to put the project on hold and directed the city staff to provide a better rendering of the tower and a more accurate accounting of the cost.

"I've got to tell you, I don't like this rendering," said Vice Mayor Harriet Crozier. "I'm not getting it, guys."

The city earmarked $300,000 from Penny for Pinellas for the upgrade, but that price does not include an additional $65,000 for 13 palm trees that will adorn the clock tower plaza in Largo Central Park.

Recreation, Parks and Arts Director Joan Byrne said city staffers didn't ask for a more thorough rendering because they wanted to save money. But that didn't ease commissioners' concerns.

"I understand the value of the clock tower, but do we have to do this?" asked Commissioner Rodney Woods. "We are giving people early retirement packets. The economy is bad. … Is this clock tower where Largo should be spending $300,000?"

The structure, built in 1995, faces a number of problems. The surrounding pavement is cracked, mosaic tiles are falling off the columns and the fountain and lighting system no longer work.

The 40-foot tower at the corner of Seminole Boulevard and East Bay Drive serves as the entrance to Largo Central Park. It's also the symbol of Largo and used in the city's logo.

In October, the City Commission awarded the renovation project to Tampa Contracting Services, which is working with designers Heartwood and Bark PLC to refurbish the clock and surrounding plaza.

The renovations, which were scheduled to be completed Dec. 1, will include an illuminated fountain. More landscaping will be added and the mosaics will be extended to the tops of the clock's columns.

Mayor Pat Gerard and Commissioner Mary Gray Black said they had some concerns about the liability posed by the 14-inch-deep fountain.

"If some little kid gets in there …" Gerard said. "I have a problem with that. I'm not going to approve this."

Commissioners plan to discuss the plans at a future work session.

Also Tuesday, commissioners approved a resolution designating a large swath of the city as a brownfields redevelopment area. The move is an effort to spur economic development.

Brownfield sites are typically abandoned, idle or underused industrial and commercial properties where expansion or redevelopment is complicated by environmental contamination. The designation is primarily used as a tool by local governments to qualify for state and federal grants.

Largo is asking for the designation in the Clearwater/Largo Road and West Bay community redevelopment districts, the Missouri Avenue commercial corridor and a cluster of other city-owned properties.

The Pinellas County Commission is set to vote on the resolution at its Aug. 5 meeting.

Largo commissioners balk at clock tower proposal 07/01/08 [Last modified: Friday, July 4, 2008 1:51pm]
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