Wednesday, June 20, 2018
News Roundup

St. Petersburg police station is latest example of city as progress-free zone

Welcome to the City of Indecision.

Unofficial motto:

Where a procrastinator's job is never done.

This is the city that has spent millions of dollars and devoted years of effort to replace the Pier, and still has no idea what the future holds. The city that can't seem to agree on curbside recycling, let alone a major-league baseball team's address.

And now this week comes the news that St. Petersburg is still playing Eenie Meenie Miney Moe with police station proposals, a mere six years after the city supported the renewal of a county sales tax to pay for construction.

Time doesn't just stand still here, it actually takes root.

All of which makes what I'm about to suggest sound even more ridiculous:

The city needs to scrap the three proposals so incoming Mayor Rick Kriseman can assign a fresh set of eyes to the issue when he takes office in the first week of January.

I suggest this for a couple of reasons:

1.) This is only a six-week delay, which is peanuts compared to the 17 months that have somehow passed since Mayor Bill Foster unveiled a scaled-back police station proposal of his own.

2.) The three new proposals stink.

I realize that last sentence is subjective. And, to be honest, I think only two of the proposals stink. The third just seems unrealistic.

Here's the deal:

After years of being stuck in a cramped, dirty and completely embarrassing facility, police officials were hopeful of building a $64 million, state-of-the-art complex across the street from their current home on First Avenue N.

Revenue from the penny sales tax, however, was far lower than expected. So Foster scrapped plans for the big facility and offered a $40 million alternative.

That was June 2012.

I can only assume someone spilled coffee on those plans because there hasn't been a whole lot of activity or progress since then.

Which brings us to the three new proposals:

1.) Spend $40 million for a smaller building across the street, keep half of the current building open and board up the decrepit part. I can only assume this is a joke to show City Council how little they will get for $40 million.

2.) Spend $50 million for a slightly larger building across the street, keep half of the current building open and raze the other half. This also sounds like a short-sighted plan that will end up costing more money down the road.

3.) Spend $68 million for a grand facility across the street and sell off the current building to a developer. This seems rather ambitious since Foster said the city could not afford a $64 million expenditure last year.

Now there does seem to be scuttlebutt that the city has moved some of the penny-tax money around to create a bigger budget for a police station, and Foster has talked about making a run at the county for additional funds.

If true, that's fabulous. But there still needs to be another option. The $40 million plan is absurd, the $50 million plan is barely better and the $68 million plan may be overboard in this economy.

Somewhere between $50 million and $68 million a reasonable idea should exist. Some compromise between the halfway home and the palace.

Of course, figuring that out will require someone to actually make a decision.

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