Make us your home page

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

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

  1. No. 21 USF Bulls roll over Temple to stay undefeated


    TAMPA — They emerged from Raymond James Stadium's southwest tunnel on the 11-month anniversary of their public humilation at Temple.

    Bulls tailback Darius Tice, who rushes for 117 yards, is elated by his 47-yard run for a touchdown in the second quarter for a 10-0 lead.
  2. Fennelly: USF thrashes Temple to stay unbeaten; too bad not many saw it in person


    No. 21 USF ran its record to 4-0 Thursday night with some payback against Temple, a 43-7 trouncing, no contest, as if anyone cares, at least judging by the paltry announced crowd of 24,325 at Raymond James Stadium.

    Where was everybody?

    Bulls cornerback Deatrick Nichols (3) celebrates with teammates after making a defensive play during the first half.
  3. Former Ray Tim Beckham's over being traded, or is he?

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — As the Rays reunited Thursday with Tim Beckham for the first time since he was dealt July 31 to Baltimore, it became very clear that not everything in assessing the trade is as it appears.

    Tim Beckham, here in action Monday against the Red Sox, has hit .310, with 10 homers and 26 RBIs since going to the Orioles.
  4. Bucs probe how to fix deep-ball chances missed vs. Bears


    TAMPA — It was only minutes after the Bucs had demolished the Bears 29-7 Sunday when quarterback Jameis Winston tried one final time to connect with receiver DeSean Jackson.

    QB Jameis Winston says he’s focused on the deep-ball chances to DeSean Jackson he missed in the opener: “We left a lot out there.”
  5. Rays journal: Ugly first inning dooms Andriese, Rays against Orioles (w/video)

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — Rays manager Kevin Cash said before Thursday's game that RHP Matt Andriese was among the pitchers who would most benefit from a strong finish to the season.

    Matt Andriese has a tough first: hits to four of first five batters, leading to three runs, the only ones he gives up in six innings