CLEARWATER — Commissioner Ken Welch is pushing for the county to help invest in security cameras for the Pinellas Trail, but it's unclear if he has the political support.
Earlier this month, St. Petersburg moved forward with a plan to install about 25 cameras along a crime-prone stretch of trail between 43rd and 49th streets S. The city asked the county to pitch in $75,000 of the estimated $100,000 cost, but interim County Administrator Mark Woodard declined. Money is tight, Woodard said, and the county doesn't want to set a precedent of coughing up money for law enforcement when that has historically been the role of the cities.
Welch, whose commission district includes that stretch of the 42-mile trail, pitched an idea to his fellow commissioners at a budget workshop this week: Contribute $50,000 to St. Petersburg's project and up to that amount to any of the other six cities that might want to install cameras on their sections of the trail. Those cities are Belleair, Clearwater, Dunedin, Largo, Seminole and Tarpon Springs.
"We're getting some feedback, 'Well, it's your trail, and you're not partnering," Welch said.
Welch said any money provided would require a recommendation from the Pinellas Trail Security Task Force. The cameras would also have to be part of a unified system.
Commissioners Charlie Justice and Janet Long were open to the idea. Commissioner Susan Latvala was as well, but she wondered how much the cameras are needed beyond the problem area in St. Petersburg, and whether cameras would move crime to places without them. Chairwoman Karen Seel, who had agreed with Woodard, said she still thinks federal grants are a more appropriate funding source.
Seel suggested the board put the idea on an upcoming agenda for more discussion. Members said they want to hear from Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, whose agency is responsible for about 15 miles of the trail.
Contact Tony Marrero at [email protected] or (727) 893-8779. Follow @tmarrerotimes.