Mayor Rick Kriseman may seek more Pinellas County dollars for St. Petersburg Pier

St. Petersburg might ask Pinellas County to again contribute cash to the project.

A rendering of the design for the new St. Petersburg pier presented at City Hall in March. Mayor Rick Kriseman is mulling whether to ask Pinellas County to once again contribute millions to rebuild the iconic Pier, which is already projected to cost $66 million. [JOHN PENDYGRAFT | Times] 
A rendering of the design for the new St. Petersburg pier presented at City Hall in March. Mayor Rick Kriseman is mulling whether to ask Pinellas County to once again contribute millions to rebuild the iconic Pier, which is already projected to cost $66 million. [JOHN PENDYGRAFT | Times] 
Published October 21 2016
Updated October 22 2016

ST. PETERSBURG — Mayor Rick Kriseman is mulling whether to ask Pinellas County to once again contribute millions to rebuild the iconic St. Petersburg Pier, which is already projected to cost $66 million.

Kriseman has yet to make an official request. But he has started discussions with Pinellas County Administrator Mark Woodard and at least one commissioner, officials said. Woodard has alerted other commissioners about those talks.

St. Petersburg's request for more funds for the new pier district project comes after Pinellas County has shifted $40 million to the city.

Commissioners awarded $20 million for the pier approach, which will help link the waterfront landmark to the thriving downtown district. Another $20 million from the city's share of Penny for Pinellas money went to help defray the $81 million for the St. Petersburg Police Department's new headquarters, parking garage and shooting range.

Getting even more money for the pier could be a hard sell.

County Commissioner Ken Welch said Kriseman "casually" mentioned the idea this week during a business trip to North Carolina. The mayor didn't offer details, but Welch said he wants to hear why the project has reached this point.

"We would have to have a conversation about that," Welch said. "I need more specifics in order to justify it."

Commissioners Charlie Justice and Karen Seel said they heard Kriseman approached Woodard about the idea, but neither has talked to the mayor. Seel voted against the city's $20 million request last year and said she needs more details before commenting on another request.

St. Petersburg spokesman Ben Kirby described the talks between the mayor and county officials as "the beginning of a conversation." But Kirby did not reveal any details, such as what the additional county funds would pay for.

"The mayor wants to look holistically at the (tax money) to see what is the best use," Kirby said. "It's a little early to say if it's going to the pier."

Meanwhile, work continues at the site of the old and new piers. Demolition of the old pier bridge was months behind schedule, but on Thursday the city tweeted a photo of the last piece being removed from the construction site. Work on the pier district is scheduled to begin early next year and a grand opening is expected late in 2018.

St. Petersburg City Council member Steve Kornell had concerns last year about diverting $20 million of penny tax money to the pier project. Those concerns haven't changed.

"I hope we figure out a way to stay on budget," Kornell said Friday. "We have a lot of needs. We shouldn't do designs that are so out of reality. That is not responsible."

The $20 million that the county has contributed to the new pier, which will replace the 1973 inverted pyramid, will help tie the pier district to the uplands by creating pedestrian walkways along Second Avenue NE, the gateway to the attraction.

Contact Mark Puente at mpuente@tampabay.com or (727) 892-2996. Follow @MarkPuente.

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