Mirror Lake donations could go for repairs

ST. PETERSBURG — City officials are considering using thousands of dollars donated by preservation activists to repair several code compliance violations at the historic Mirror Lake Complex.

The proposal has angered some community leaders, who want the city to find some other source of money to clean up the mess.

"When residents raise money and hold fund-raisers to try and fix up Mirror Lake," City Council member Leslie Curran said, "it is not appropriate to use their money to repair windows that should have been repaired or kept up to par by the city in the first place."

Instead, the donations were meant for enhancements, she said, such as new flower beds.

The city cited itself in March for five code violations regarding the neglect of the nearly 90-year-old shuffleboard and lawn bowling center.

The long list of violations, first cited by the city in January, include: chipping and peeling paint throughout the structure, rotted window frames and siding, excessive rust on the bleachers, large settlement cracks, exposed wires and electrical outlets and improperly boarded windows.

So far, the city has fixed only the electrical system. The other repairs could require permission from the city's preservation board and money the city does not have, said Clarence Scott, city services administrator.

Scott said he is considering using more than $8,000 in donations to replace the site's broken restroom windows and fix up the entrance sign at the complex. He is waiting for repair estimates.

The donated cash is part of the Mirror Lake Complex Fund. Since 2005, residents have donated $13,699 to the city toward beautifying the complex. The city has never tapped into the fund, Scott said.

Residents cannot specify how money donated to a city department is used.

But Shirley O'Sullivan, who coordinated the fundraising campaign, said she thought the city would use the money for new plants or other beautification projects, not routine repairs.

"Our intent was to preserve and restore the historic buildings located on the property," she said. "It's the first thing many people see when they come to St. Petersburg."

It isn't uncommon for the city to cite itself for code violations, according to public records.

Since 2006, the City Hall Annex, a downtown parking garage and the Mahaffey Theater have all been cited for code violations.

There is also an active case at the city's historic Sunshine Center at Fifth Street N. Staffers there are busy addressing five code violations, including tree branches hanging too close to the street, improperly sealed windows and chipping and peeling paint.

The city doesn't penalize itself, said Todd Yost, code compliance director.

"We don't fine ourselves because we would be paying ourselves back," he said. "We try to note what the violations are, and we try to communicate with whatever department might be responsible for that piece of real estate or property."

Cristina Silva can be reached at (727) 893-8846 or csilva@sptimes.com.

Mirror Lake donations could go for repairs 07/29/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 29, 2008 5:07pm]

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