Tuesday, November 21, 2017
News Roundup

Now it's Pinellas County's turn to wrestle with $14 million extra for St. Petersburg's Pier District

RECOMMENDED READING


ST. PETERSBURG — The City Council's prolonged discussion Thursday night to formally request that Pinellas County allot an additional $14 million to the Pier District, downtown transportation and parking eventually ended with a compromise that passed by a vote of 5-3.

The next vote might not be any easier: Will the council's carefully crafted resolution persuade the Pinellas County Commission to dedicate even more money to the already $66 million Pier?

There is some support on the commission for doing so. But there are also questions about pouring more money into St. Petersburg's prosperous downtown, while other parts of the city and county languish.

"If I had to make a decision today," said County Commission Chair Janet Long, "I would say no."

It was Mayor Rick Kriseman who proposed using money formerly slated for a downtown St. Petersburg transit hub to add amenities to the 26-acre Pier District, which the city hopes will open by the end of 2018.

But Long said she has concerns about that plan: "I haven't heard the formal request from the mayor and I feel very strongly that before we expand the use of the $14 million, we should be able to know what it's going to be used for."

The commissioner wondered if downtown needs more investment: "I also am a little wary of all the dollars going into downtown St. Pete when it is a bustling, hustling place and will continue to be a bustling, hustling place, whether we give it more money, or not one more dime."

And she seemed to wonder about the need for a pier at all: "I just love the natural waterfront. It's gorgeous. Why in the world we won't want to leave it in its natural state, I don't know."

• • •

The city wants the county to reallocate $14 million in tax increment financing, or TIF funds, to the Pier District. Kriseman's original plan was to use the entire amount to add extra features, or "enhancements," to the Pier District, such as a $1.3 million signature art element, $2 million for a floating platform and $1 million for playground equipment.

Some council members chafed at his plan, and a majority said that they did not want to spend all of the money on the Pier District. Thursday's meeting hit a snag when council member Karl Nurse proposed deciding how the $14 million should be spent before sending the request to Pinellas County, believing that would improve the chances of approval.

So they compromised, agreeing that up to $10 million should go to the Pier District and $4 million to transportation and parking throughout downtown.

"I was trying to provide greater clarity that we only wanted part of the money spent on the Pier," Nurse said. He said three county commissioners had told him they were "not keen on all $14 million going to the Pier."

The council's decision won over Commissioner Pat Gerard.

"I like it more than when all $14 million was going to the Pier," she said.

Since the TIF funds were supposed to fund transit, she said it should still be used for transportation. It could help pay for an idea officials are working on: a bus rapid transit line to connect St. Petersburg to St. Pete Beach. She said perhaps that service could be extended to the Pier District.

"I like that better than adding more frills to the Pier," Gerard said.

Commissioner Ken Welch supports the idea of reallocating the funds but hasn't yet committed to doing so.

"It is fiscally neutral to the county," he said. "It won't cost us any more than what was allocated, but I do think that (the) idea of having a more defined use for the money is a good one. I think we can get there, but it has to be a well-defined use of those dollars."

But Welch also wants the commission to discuss "winding down the downtown investment" and focusing TIF and community redevelopment area funds on other areas of the city and county with greater needs.

While Commissioner Karen Seel looks forward to seeing the council's proposal, she wants more details about how the city will spend the $10 million and $4 million allotments.

She said St. Petersburg residents have also voiced their concerns to her about the city's sewers and infrastructure. St. Petersburg's overwhelmed sewage system released more than 200 million gallons of waste into local waterways and neighborhoods last year.

"They are just making sure that the improvements are financed before we dedicate $14 million to a pier," she said, adding that only city money could be spent on sewers.

• • •

After Thursday's vote, there was still opposition on the council to spending more on the district. Council member Steve Kornell, who cast one of the three "no" votes, said there are other projects that need attention along the downtown waterfront.

"I had always said I had concerns about spending an extra $14 million without an understanding of what it is going to be used for," he said, "and I still do."

Council member Amy Foster also did not support last week's decision.

"We have more transportation needs than we put into that pot," she said. "I don't feel that we are fair to bring a request to the commission without having more specifics and having more details nailed down . . .

"I think we need to have more clarity of direction before we move it forward to the County Commission."

Kriseman told the council last week that he would meet with each county commissioner to win their approval. His spokesman, Benjamin Kirby, said the mayor is confident the city's request will be granted.

"He knows the commissioners recognize the importance of the St. Pete Pier," Kirby said, "and the positive economic impact those funds will have."

Contact Waveney Ann Moore at [email protected] or (727) 892-2283. Follow @wmooretimes.

Comments

St. Petersburg council passes living wage ordinance

ST. PETERSBURG — An ordinance requiring certain city contractors to pay workers a minimum of $12 an hour was approved by City Council members Thursday with some amendments. The living wage ordinance applies to businesses with major city contracts pro...
Updated: 3 hours ago
NTSB report details steep turns and dives preceding Roy Halladay’s fatal crash

NTSB report details steep turns and dives preceding Roy Halladay’s fatal crash

Before he crashed, Roy Halladay flew within 75 feet of houses and skimmed the surface of the Gulf of Mexico, according to a report published Monday by the National Transportation Safety Board.The report, which did not address the cause of the crash, ...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Ruth: Would high-speed rail have reduced traffic deaths on I-4?

Ruth: Would high-speed rail have reduced traffic deaths on I-4?

Ah, just in time for the Thanksgiving travel season, Florida has once again achieved national prominence. We’re No. 1 — with a body bag! Can’t you feel the pride swelling?A recent study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration finds that...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Editorial: Florida should restore online access to nursing home inspections

Editorial: Florida should restore online access to nursing home inspections

In a state with the nation’s highest portion of residents over 65 years old and more than 80,000 nursing home beds, public records about those facilities should be as accessible as possible. Yet once again, Florida is turning back the clock to the da...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Blasts at plant kill 1, injure dozens

Blasts at plant kill 1, injure dozens

NEW WINDSOR, N.Y. — Authorities recovered the body of a male worker reported missing after two explosions and a fire at a New York cosmetics factory left 30 to 35 people injured, including seven firefighters caught in the second blast, officials said...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Sex assault reports declining at MacDill despite increase militarywide

Sex assault reports declining at MacDill despite increase militarywide

TAMPA — The number of sexual assaults reported to officials at MacDill Air Force Base has decreased dramatically during the past three years even as reports across the military have increased slightly, new Pentagon statistics show.Officials at MacDil...
Updated: 4 hours ago

Florida A&M football coach Alex Wood resigns

TALLAHASSEE — Alex Wood resigned as Florida A&M football coach Monday, two days after the Rattlers completed their season. Athletic director Milton Overton Jr. said offensive line coach Edwin Pata, a former FSU tight end, will serve as interim coach....
Updated: 4 hours ago

PORT RICHEYWoman accused of beating boy, 4, with hangerA Port Richey woman was arrested on a charge of felony child abuse after a 4-year-old boy in her care told deputies she hit him with a clothes hanger, leaving bruises, the Pasco County Sheriff’s ...
Updated: 4 hours ago
‘I tried,’ mother of killer Adam Matos says at sentencing

‘I tried,’ mother of killer Adam Matos says at sentencing

NEW PORT RICHEY — His family described him as a loving, kindhearted father. His neighbors regarded him as quiet and respectful. His friends recalled him as "happy-go-lucky," a "laid-back, fun guy."Thirteen witnesses told of a softer side of Adam Mato...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Rays agonize over which prospects to protect on 40-man roster

Rays agonize over which prospects to protect on 40-man roster

ST. PETERSBURG — That the Rays went right up to Monday’s 8 p.m. deadline in deciding to add seven players to the 40-man roster, and that a couple they left off seem to be potential Rule 5 draft losses, was apparently a good thing."There’s always some...
Updated: 5 hours ago