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St. Petersburg council: yes to golf course renovations, no to Rahall purchase

ST. PETERSBURG — A $1.5 million renovation project at the Twin Brooks golf course being pushed by Mayor Rick Kriseman received the unanimous support of the City Council on Thursday.

But the body said no — for now — to a colleague's request that came right after that, which would have had them spending nearly all of the remaining few millions available in the Weeki Wachee Fund to purchase and preserve the waterfront Rahall Estate in the Broadwater area.

Instead, the council will come back in two months to talk about future projects.

Council member Amy Foster said what has happened lately is a "mad dash."

"I think our job as council members is really to look at the big picture," she said during a special committee of the whole meeting, scheduled specifically to discuss Weeki Wachee fund projects. "I'm really concerned about making decisions in a holistic comprehensive way."

But council member Steve Kornell, who could not persuade his colleagues to spend about $3.4 million on the land purchase, said he felt he was being treated unfairly.

"We decided to start a new policy midmeeting," he said.

Many council members said they didn't feel comfortable with the project, even if it would preserve a rare slice of waterfront property.

Right now, there's a little more than $5 million available for use in the Weeki Wachee Fund, which is set aside in part for recreation projects.

Having just blessed the Twin Brooks project, there would only be a few hundred thousand dollars left if the Rahall project was approved.

"To me, the angst is the money," said council member Karl Nurse. "If we say yes to this we're effectively saying no to everything else."

Nurse recently suggested using Weeki Wachee funds for a downtown skate park. And council member Charlie Gerdes has been eyeing it for arts funding.

Other projects, such as improvements at the Childs Park Lake and park features on uplands near the Pier, also have been in the queue for some time.

"We can only spend our dollars once," said council member Jim Kennedy, who previously persuaded his colleagues to use Weeki Wachee funds to create the recently completed Riviera Bay Park.

Kornell said the Rahall family is not interested in lowering the price of the 4.68-acre, Boca Ciega Bay-fronting estate on 42nd Avenue S, which he wants to turn into a park. He warned a developer could swoop in and get it.

When it was clear Kornell didn't have the votes, council member Wengay Newton suggested the city look at using Penny for Pinellas funds earmarked for environmental land acquisition.

The council voted to ask the administration to look into that.

Kornell said he believes the Twin Brooks project, which Kriseman proposed this year, is a worthy project. He thinks his is, too, though.

Renovations at Twin Brooks, the oldest of three city-owned golf courses, would take place next summer.

The course, on 22nd Avenue S, serves as the base for the First Tee youth development program.

"We have a course that's not up to the same standards as the other courses in the city," Kriseman told the council. "In my mind, that's not acceptable."

St. Petersburg council: yes to golf course renovations, no to Rahall purchase 06/12/14 [Last modified: Thursday, June 12, 2014 11:20pm]
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