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After citations, statue firm says it may leave Largo

For the owners of Robinson Concrete Specialties, a statue manufacturer near Missouri Avenue and West Bay Drive, their worst nightmare has become a reality.

A city inspector has declared three buildings on the property "potential health and safety hazards" and has recommended they be demolished.

Sara Westbrook, spokeswoman for the William Jones family, which owns the manufacturing company, said owners have tried to work with city officials who admit they want the site upgraded because they say it detracts from the beauty of nearby Largo Central Park.

At a meeting Tuesday afternoon, Westbrook said she asked Community Development Director Ric Goss "why we can't cure this." He was not encouraging, she said.

"We can't afford to demolish and rebuild," Westbrook said. "So we're going to put the property up for sale."

Owners first suspected the city might be targeting their property for upgrades when a Fire Department inspector dropped by in December. The inspector cited the company for several fire safety violations and passed on her report to the building deparment.

A building inspector visited the site in February.

According to his report, three buildings on the site have missing roof parts and deteriorating roof trusses and are not sufficiently anchored in case of a hurricane. One building has a missing door and another is leaning to the north because of structural deterioration, according to the report.

In a letter to the property owners, Harry Andruszko, the city's code compliance supervisor, said the buildings must be brought up to code within 45 days. If they're not, the matter will be referred to the Code Enforcement Board, which would decide on penalties such as fines. That board could require that the buildings be demolished.

"The staff's recommendation is that they be demolished," Andruszko said.

Westbrook said the business will not close. But the rows of lions, flamingos and pelicans eventually will be moved elsewhere. She said she asked Goss to help her find a location for the company, which has been an integral part of the downtown Largo landscape since 1948.

Westbrook said that through the years, Robinson Concrete has been a good Largo citizen.

"We support community projects and local charitable agencies and have made donations of materials and products to local schools," Westbrook said in a letter to the editor. She said concrete sculpturing is a "dying art" that will be missed when the company moves to a new site, which will probably be out of the city.

"It's obvious they no longer want us here," Westbrook said.