The city may be without its landmark Clock Tower for a few months.
Largo is moving forward with $230,000 plans to spruce up the northwest corner of Largo Central Park, and those plans include razing the much-maligned tower.
The city also plans to replace the sea of concrete on the corner of Seminole Boulevard and East Bay Drive with grass, more plants and trees.
Largo expects to begin the park facelift by early summer. And, as part of a separate project, it plans to install a new tower across Seminole Boulevard. And that process may take a bit longer because the city wants to get feedback from residents, said Community Development director Carol Stricklin.
Built in 1995, the clock tower, which also graces the city's logo, has had its share of critics.
Some say it's out of proportion. Some say it looks unfinished. Some say it's just seen better days.
The clock mechanisms fail routinely, said Public Works director Brian Usher. The top part of the tower is rusting and mosaic tiles on the columns are fading and falling off.
City leaders initially wanted to try to preserve the columns, which were part of an Eagle Scout project. But they decided not to because of the cost — more than $30,000 — and the apparent futility of doing so.
The process would require digging up a concrete base attached to the four columns and then cutting the base into four sections, each weighing as much as 18,000 pounds, Usher said. And, if the columns, survived that, they would then have to be wrapped and padded and relocated via crane and flatbed truck.
Most commissioners think it's time the park corner had a facelift. But both Mayor Pat Gerard, who isn't a fan of the current tower, and Commissioner Mary Gray Black, who is, wanted the city to postpone the project, paid for mostly with Penny for Pinellas local option sales tax.
They said it's not the right economic time to spend money on something that's not a necessity.
"I've lost my taste for this project, for this year and maybe next year, just based on not wanting to put this kind of money into probably the most visible place in the city and trying to be sensitive to people losing their jobs, losing their homes," Gerard said at last week's work session.
There's no reason to redo the corner, Gerard said, "other than to make it pretty because everybody hates the clock tower."
"With one exception," Black replied.
But other city leaders said Largo needs to prepare for the future. With a new plan to redevelop downtown in the pipeline, they want to be able to entice developers.
"That corner is going to play a huge role in how people view our community," Commissioner Gigi Arntzen said.
"In the long run, if we put it off, it's going to cost us more money to do and it's going to cost us more money to maintain over the next couple of years," Commissioner Woody Brown said.
Lorri Helfand can be reached at [email protected] or 445-4155.