Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

St. Petersburg won't close pools; $14M budget gap remains

ST. PETERSBURG — Mayor Bill Foster announced Tuesday that he is dropping his plan to close two city pools next year, crediting an outcry from residents and City Council members with changing his mind.

"I heard you loud and clear," Foster told council members during an all-day budget workshop. "It still makes sense to close. However, it's not my money and they're not my pools."

His reversal salvages the Shore Acres and Jennie Hall pools. The closings had been one of the more notable pending cuts in next year's budget. Now that they are safe — at least through 2011 — a long list of tough choices, including cutting a total of 39 jobs, remain before a projected $14 million gap in next year's budget can be closed.

"There candidly aren't any good choices," said council member Karl Nurse.

Among the various reductions still proposed:

• Imposing a $1 increase in admission fees for eight city pools to help raise more money to keep them all open. Fees would climb from $2.50 to $3.50 for children ages 3 to 12, $3 to $4 for 13 and older. Foster also proposes a $2 increase for the North Shore Aquatic Center, all of which is expected to raise about $181,000.

• Cutting 10 full-time jobs at the Police Department, none of them sworn officers: a crime analyst, a clerk, maintenance mechanics, secretaries and storekeepers, and two part-time jobs. Those cuts, along with a reduction in repairs and renovations of facilities, would save an estimated $714,000 next year but not degrade service, police Chief Chuck Harmon said.

• Eliminating four vacant positions and overtime at city libraries that would require branches to open two hours later, 11 a.m. rather than 9 a.m., twice a week. These cuts, along with increasing fees and buying fewer supplies and books, would save $357,470.

• Imposing a 3 percent pay cut for City Council members, who make $40,117 now.

• Eliminating four positions paid by building permits and reorganizing the building department, including the removal of seven building inspection positions that, taken together, is projected to save $455,102.

• Eliminating an administrative assistant, three mechanics and some overtime in the city's fleet management that is expected to cut about $500,000.

Council members rejected a proposal to eliminate a fire engine and 11 firefighter positions that would have cut $948,313 from next year's budget. Chief James Large said the cuts would have tacked on an average of 30 seconds to response times to fires and emergencies.

"I'm concerned about the additional response time," council member Jim Kennedy said.

By shelving the plan to cut the engine and firefighters, however, Foster now has to find $1 million more to eliminate. One possible solution: imposing a fire district fee of about $5 a month on property. It would raise more than $5 million and some council members support it. But Foster doesn't, calling it a tax increase.

He's still hashing out the budget, which must be approved by the City Council during two September public hearings. It took seven hours on Tuesday just to discuss the preliminary cuts.

Foster's decision to back off on his plan to close the pools was applauded by Nurse, who said the new mayor went about it differently from how his predecessor, Rick Baker, would have.

"The pool idea wouldn't have gotten this far under Baker," Nurse said. "He typically knew how much resistance a proposal would have gotten before making it public. But this did show (Foster) isn't deaf."

Council member Wengay Newton said while he approved of Foster's decision to keep the pools open, he opposed implementing a fee increase to do it.

"There's an economic disparity in the city, and I don't think by charging a higher fee you're encouraging higher attendance," he said.

Michael Van Sickler can be reached at (727) 893-8037 or mvansickler@sptimes.com.

St. Petersburg won't close pools; $14M budget gap remains 05/25/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 26, 2010 10:00am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Strategic Property Partners launches website for Water Street Tampa

    Business

    Strategic Property Partners has launched its official website for Water Street Tampa, its 53-acre redevelopment project in downtown Tampa Tuesday.

    Strategic Property Partners on Tuesday announced the name of its new development: Water Street Tampa. [Photos courtesy of SPP]
  2. Is Mikhail Sergachev, who debuts with Lightning at Wednesday camp, ready for the NHL?

    Lightning Strikes

    BRANDON — When defenseman Mikhail Sergachev was taken ninth overall by the Canadiens in the 2016 NHL draft, a horde of Montreal media surrounded him for his first news conference.

    Mikhail Sergachev takes a shot during warmups prior to a game between the Canadiens and Arizona Coyotes in October in Montreal. [Getty Images]
  3. ReliaQuest CEO Brian Murphy named sole Tampa Bay winner in EY state entrepreneur contest

    Business

    ReliaQuest founder and CEO Brian Murphy was named one of nine winners statewide and the only one from the Tampa Bay area in the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur Of The Year 2017 Florida Awards program. Murphy won in the IT security division after starting ReliaQuest in 2007. Five of the nine winners were from the Miami …

    Tampa's ReliaQuest founder and CEO Brian Murphy was named one of nine winners statewide and the only one from the Tampa Bay area in the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur Of The Year 2017 Florida Awards program. Murphy won in the IT security division after starting ReliaQuest in 2007.
  4. Top pick Brendan McKay signing with Rays for $7M bonus

    Blogs

    The Rays are set to sign top pick 1B/LHP Brendan McKay for a bonus just over $7-million, the Tampa Bay Times has learned.

    McKay was the No. 4 overall pick in the June 12 draft as he starred as a two-way player leading Louisville to the College World Series.

    The deal is expected to be finalized …

    Brendan McKay was the No. 4 overall pick in the June 12 draft as he starred as a two-way player leading Louisville to the College World Series.
  5. Man found dead in Dunedin canal identified as missing 63-year-old

    Public Safety

    DUNEDIN — Pinellas County sheriff's deputies on Tuesday identified the man found floating in a Dunedin canal as the man who was reported missing last week.

    Charles P. Morris, 63, was found dead in a canal in Dunedin behind Cedar Creek Mobile Home Park, at 605 Michigan Blvd. around 3:48 p.m. Monday. He was reported missing June 21 after he was last seen leaving his home the night before to walk his dog. [ Courtesy of the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office]