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Cities ask for seat on road panel

Three North Pinellas cities would like more clout in the county's road planning. Oldsmar, Tarpon Springs and Safety Harbor have asked for one seat that would be rotated among them on the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), the county's transportation planning board.

The cities say they represent 14 percent of the North Pinellas population but do not have a vote on the MPO.

"We would like to have a hand in the decisions about what is going to happen in our back yard," Oldsmar Vice Mayor Jerry Provenzano said. "We want a voice."

The MPO has nine members: three county commissioners, two representatives from St. Petersburg and one each from Clearwater, Dunedin, Largo and Pinellas Park.

"We're the little guys," Provenzano said. "We just feel we should have an equal voice for something that is going to happen in our area."

The MPO discussed the request at its meeting Friday but said the cities should ask Gov. Bob Martinez for the seat because he decides how the organization is apportioned. Group members also said two seats would have to be added because of a requirement that county commissioners comprise one-third of the MPO.

"The group feels bad about not including people, but they are also concerned about the size of the group," said MPO staff director Brian Smith. "They really felt that nine is about as big as they want to be."

Jon Peck, a Martinez spokesman, said he had not seen the request. "We'll take a look at it," he said.

MPO member Jim Miles, a Largo commissioner, said St. Petersburg should give up one of its seats because its two representatives, Mayor Robert Ulrich and City Council member Edward L. Cole Jr., have missed many meetings.

"It would be up to St. Pete's generosity," Miles said. "It would be nice of them to do it."

Neither Cole nor Ulrich attended Friday's meeting. Cole has missed half of this year's 10 meetings. Ulrich has missed six.

Ulrich did not return a telephone call Friday afternoon, and Cole was on vacation.

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