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Pier committee recommends another committee

The St. Petersburg Pier can be seen from the 28th floor of the Bayfront Tower in downtown St. Petersburg on May 30.

SCOTT KEELER | Times

The St. Petersburg Pier can be seen from the 28th floor of the Bayfront Tower in downtown St. Petersburg on May 30.

ST. PETERSBURG — First there were pier visioning sessions, followed by a Pier Advisory Task Force, an 828 Alliance and the most recent, a new pier task force appointed by Mayor-elect Rick Kriseman as part of his transition team.

Now Kriseman's pier group, which held its final meeting Thursday, is suggesting the creation of yet another group to help the new mayor navigate the intransigence that has mired the pier issue.

The group also is offering a timetable that could lead to a new — or possibly refurbished — pier by 2017. That would be two years later than what had been envisioned for the $50 million Lens project residents overwhelmingly rejected in August.

Besides suggesting the creation of what is being referred to as the "Pier Working Group," the Kriseman committee laid out objectives for the new group and established a draft process for moving forward that includes recommendations for ongoing public feedback and an education campaign, as well as a time line for a pier project to be "completed in a timely manner."

Bill Ballard, president of Concerned Citizens of St. Petersburg, which organized the petition drive that led to the defeat of Lens, is pleased.

"I have a feeling that this is going to go forward rationally and the city is going to end up with a product everyone can be happy with," he said.

In the report that will be submitted today, the mayor-elect's committee also proposed that the new pier group update the work of the Pier Advisory Task Force, which had submitted a seminal report in 2010, following a number of studies and dozens of public meetings. Concerned Citizens had argued that the Lens had not heeded the recommendations of the Task Force.

"Our report is intended to be a starting point to unite our city, update the large volume of work that has been done so far on this project, and to continue to move ahead with the pier," the Kriseman transition group said.

The undertaking of the new group will be to "answer key questions concerning the project," among them getting updated engineering studies on the closed inverted pyramid and the massive caissons on which it sits.

Thursday, Ed Montanari, leader of the transition committee, said he had shortened the suggested period for the new group to accomplish its objectives, in keeping with Kriseman's instructions to expedite the process.

"Mayor-elect Kriseman is clear he wants to get the pier issues solved," said Montanari, an American Airlines pilot who served as vice chairman of the original Pier Advisory Task Force.

Kriseman, who takes office Jan. 2, told the Times during his campaign that his goal was to have a new design "within the first nine months of my administration, and work with the architect to have the new pier built by the end of 2015."

The committee, which met six times, included the Rev. John G. Tapp, pastor of Holy Family Catholic Church and a member of Faith and Action for Strength Together, or FAST, an interfaith organization; the Rev. Louis Murphy, pastor of Mount Zion Progressive Missionary Baptist Church; Bob Jeffrey, a historic preservationist and former city employee; and Nikki Gaskin-Capehart, newly hired as the city's director of Urban Affairs.

Waveney Ann Moore can be reached at wmoore@tampabay.com or (727) 892-2283.

Pier committee recommends another committee 12/19/13 [Last modified: Friday, December 20, 2013 12:08am]
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