It's about time: The City of Largo is preparing to tear down the dilapidated, unattractive clock tower that sticks out like a sore thumb at the intersection of East Bay Drive and Seminole Boulevard in Largo. And despite some misgivings by a couple of Largo commissioners, the city apparently will go ahead with a $230,000 plan to give that corner a facelift and make it look more a part of Largo Central Park.
Mayor Pat Gerard and Commissioner Mary Gray Black don't always agree, but both suggested the city should postpone the project until the economy improves.
"I've lost my taste for this project, for this year and maybe next year, just based on not wanting to put this kind of money into probably the most visible place in the city and trying to be sensitive to people losing their jobs, losing their homes," Gerard said.
It is important for local officials to carefully weigh such aesthetic improvements, especially now, when local governments are cutting jobs and programs because of falling revenues. If the money to spruce up the corner were coming from general operating dollars, it would be especially difficult to proceed.
However, the project will be funded mostly with collections from the Penny for Pinellas sales tax, and those dollars may only be spent for capital improvement projects, not general operations.
Gerard and Black were in the minority among other city leaders who felt it was time to stop delaying the project. Commissioner Woody Brown made a good point when he argued that the project probably would cost more two or three years from now, and in the meantime, the city would spend a considerable amount trying to maintain the clock tower and other aging structures on the corner. The clock tower was built in 1995, but has not aged well.
The city also is working on a new downtown redevelopment plan, and the shabby-looking clock tower, perched on a wide expanse of bare concrete, isn't a very progressive symbol for one of the city's most important crossroads.
The new plan calls for the city to tear down the clock tower and dig up the concrete, and then add grass, plants and trees to the corner. That will help extend the look of treasured Largo Central Park all the way out to the intersection of the two roads, and provide some visual relief for motorists often stuck at the congested intersection.
The plan also calls for the city to erect a new clock tower on the opposite corner across Seminole Boulevard, which is the gateway to downtown.
But that project will be delayed because this time, ideas for the clock tower design and the surrounding landscaping will be thoroughly vetted with residents. City officials need to make sure the design that is chosen will result in a sturdier structure that will last long enough to become a true city landmark.