ST. PETERSBURG — Until Tampa agrees to reimburse the city for police expenses, some City Council members expressed concern about approving an Event Zone ordinance for the Republican National Convention.
"It's a difficult situation we're being put in," council member Steve Kornell said at a Wednesday workshop. "I hope Tampa decides to move forward. We need a clear answer."
Tampa is getting a $50 million grant from the federal government to pay for extra police personnel and convention-related security purchases such as police gear, vehicles and communications equipment.
With 20,000 delegates, dignitaries and journalists expected to attend a welcome party at Tropicana Field on Aug. 26 to start the convention, hundreds of police officers will be needed to secure an Event Zone encompassing about 7.4 square miles. An ordinance is required to, for instance, allow police to enforce bans on weapons within the zone.
City lawyers from Tampa and St. Petersburg are hashing out details for an agreement. Tampa police Chief Jane Castor plans to meet soon with St. Petersburg police officials about the expenses.
The St. Petersburg City Council will hold a public hearing on Aug. 2 to vote on the Event Zone ordinance. It can delay the vote until days before the party, but the council must publicize and hold a public hearing before the vote.
The temporary rules, if approved, would be in place between Aug. 26 and Sept. 1.
Council member Jim Kennedy questioned why the agreement hasn't already been reached, saying: "Do we just throw up our hands? Do we have no protection?"
City attorney John Wolfe told council members the ordinance is essential for police to enforce the weapons ban during expected parades and protests.
"We risk danger of losing control of the city," Wolfe said.
If Tampa doesn't contribute money from the federal grant, St. Petersburg could request reimbursement from the Tampa Bay Host Committee, which organized the welcome party.
City Administrator Tish Elston assured council members the city would get the money.
"From the onset, the mayor has always been told we'd get reimbursed," Elston said. "I firmly believe we're entitled to repayment for law enforcement costs.''