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Time's running out for Largo's landmark clock tower

Some have maligned the city's landmark because of its proportions.

The clock tower has been called "squat" or "strange," said Public Works director Brian Usher.

And the plaza where it stands has seen better days.

So Tuesday at a city work session, Largo leaders got a glimpse of options to renovate the clock tower and the plaza.

And after hearing about problems with the condition of the tower and the mosaics that adorn it, most city commissioners decided to tear down the clock tower and build one across the street and revamp the plaza at East Bay Drive and Seminole Boulevard.

"I don't want to put money into it if it's only going to give me another four or five years," Vice Mayor Harriet Crozier said.

A year ago, city commissioners decided to renovate the landmark and the plaza and earmarked about $300,000 from Penny for Pinellas funds.

The fountain system near the tower is broken and the some of the pavers on the plaza have also started to crack. And the mosaic tiles are loosening from the structure because they were applied over paint that is peeling away from the columns, Usher said.

While most commissioners preferred replacing the clock tower, Mayor Pat Gerard and Commissioner Mary Gray Black said they would like to see the mosaics and tower preserved as best as it could be.

"It may be ugly, but it's delightfully ugly," Black said, referring to the clock tower's proportions. "I'd like to see it stay there."

The design was spearheaded five years ago by Joseph Koslowski as part of an Eagle Scout project. And his mom, Jeannette, wrote City Hall asking to see the design maintained.

"When it was approved, it wasn't approved for four years," said Jeannette Koslowski, who also submitted a petition signed by more than 40 parents and members of Boy Scout Troop 468. "It was our goal to put up an aesthetically pleasing project the city would enjoy for years."

Her son and his fellow Scouts contributed 2,000 volunteer hours producing variety shows and other functions to raise $16,000 for the project, she said.

But Usher told commissioners that replacing the tiles would be a bigger project than the original one and maintaining the tiles would be an ongoing endeavor.

With preservation of the tower unlikely, commissioners asked staff members to preserve as many of the columns as possible and place them in Largo parks to commemorate the project.

Commissioners also decided to scrap the fountain and the stairs and the pergola near the park entrance.

Budget, tax rate

City leaders approved the 2008-09 budget and voted 6-1 to increase next year's property tax rate.

Total budget: $149.9-million

General fund: $61.9-million

New tax rate: 3.84 for every $1,000 of taxable assessed value.

The owner of a home valued this year at $133,000 would pay about $60 less in city taxes next year, mostly because of a doubled homestead exemption.

Time's running out for Largo's landmark clock tower 09/23/08 [Last modified: Friday, September 26, 2008 2:00pm]
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