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City agrees to buy former nursing home

The St. Petersburg City Council also will look at whether the baseball Looper trolley is operating efficiently.

City Council members on Thursday voted to spend $100,800 to buy a former nursing home, clearing the way for that building to become a drug treatment center.

The 30,000-square-foot building is at the northwest corner of 18th Avenue S and Dr. M.L. King (Ninth) Street. City officials now will renovate the vacant building and start a national search for a non-profit group to run the treatment center.

"We need it," said council member Bill Foster.

In other council news:

+ The city's baseball Looper trolley will continue at least through August as the council studies whether the shuttle to Tropicana Field is operated as efficiently as possible.

City marketing director Anita Treiser on Thursday asked for an additional $19,000 to operate the shuttle through the rest of the season. The hot-pink shuttles stop at three downtown locations and Tropicana Field.

During the first half of the season, Treiser said, about 12,000 people used the shuttle. The fare, $1 round-trip, only pays for about 30 percent of the operating costs.

In March, the council appropriated $20,000 to subsidize the operation. Treiser said $15,000 of that was spent through the end of June.

"I think we really need to take a look at it," said council member Kathleen Ford. "There are some operational costs that need to be addressed."

On the bright side: The costs this year are far less than the $700,000 spent during the Tampa Bay Devil Rays' inaugural season to provide free shuttle service.

+ After a local Girl Scout researched and made the application, the council agreed to make two grave sites historic landmarks.

The grave sites were the subject of a research project by Teresa Van Alstine. The grave sites of Walter John Hoxie and his daughter, Mary Russell Day, two Girl Scout pioneers, are in Sunnyside Cemetery near 54th Avenue and 19th Street N.

+ Council members voted to remove a historic designation from the Straub House because the three-story building was badly burned in 1997.

The Straub House, a Dutch Colonial Revival structure, was built in 1901 by W.L. Straub, a one-time owner of the Times and the namesake of the city's waterfront park.

This is the first time the city has removed a historic designation. The change means the owner, Marjorie Bingham Nichol, can sell the property without restrictions.

+ The city's Working to Improve our Neighborhoods program was presented a "best practices" award from the U.S. Department of Justice.

St. Petersburg was one of 100 communities out of 3,477 nationwide to receive the award. The city won the award for "innovative use of HUD assistance" in increasing affordable housing and home ownership.

Since the program was developed in 1992, the WIN program has helped an average of 110 families a year buy homes. Another 2,500 homeowners got help renovating.

+ The council adopted tighter restrictions on the commercial use of the Crisp Park boat ramp. The boat ramp will be closed to commercial use from 6 each night until 30 minutes before sunrise the following day.

The boat ramp is closed to public use from 11 each night until 30 minutes before sunrise the following day.