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Largo moves to buy two properties

(ran SEMINOLE edition)

City officials are moving ahead with plans to buy two properties totaling nearly 14 acres just south of the city's Public Works facility for $1.2-million.

The sale, however, is contingent upon the state Department of Environmental Protection giving the land a clean bill of health. The land had been contaminated by petroleum, and although it has been cleaned, the DEP must okay the cleanup.

The city will wait for a letter from the DEP before closing on the purchase.

While the city has no immediate plans for the property, City Manager Steve Stanton says the list of ideas is growing fast.

Among the uses being kicked around: a police shooting range, which must find a new home when the old police station is torn down; a facility for the Eight O'Clock Theater to build sets; a driver training facility to teach city employees how to drive trucks or buses; and a fire training facility.

The extra land also will allow for future expansion of the Public Works facility.

There's another benefit as well, Stanton said. The purchase will allow the Public Works Department to relocate some pipes, sand, rock and other materials stored on an old landfill that abuts Largo Central Park. In turn, that will free up the old landfill property for additional park parking and for use as a "hobbyist" area, Stanton said. That means a possible BMX bicycle track and perhaps a home for a remote-control model airplane club.

City officials came upon the "For Sale" sign for the property south of the Public Works facility by accident, said City Engineer Mike Staffopoulos. Two other abutting properties next to the railroad tracks on the north side of 16th Avenue SE also turned out to be for sale, he said.

While there was no immediate plan for the land, Stanton said, the city decided to seize an opportunity to acquire strategically located property at a good price.

"At some point, we know we will need it," Stanton said. "Land in Pinellas County is at a premium, and now is a good time to buy property."

The smaller of the two properties is a densely wooded 3.5 acres owned by Margaret Robertson. The second property, nearly 10.5 acres owned by Harte Creek development, is an industrial property once used by a concrete manufacturing firm. Some of the remnants of that business _ concrete wash piles, sections of concrete pipe and metal silos _ remain.

An environmental study showed some of the soil on the Harte Creek property was contaminated with petroleum, but Stanton said it is "nothing significant."

County Attorney Alan Zimmet added a clause to the purchasing contract that requires the soil to be cleaned up. The city has been told that work is now complete, Zimmet said.

The city's bargaining position was strengthened by its lack of immediate need for the properties, Stanton said.

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