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Meeting series offers a chance to sound off

(ran East, South editions)

The city is counting on Pinellas Point residents to turn out this month for a series of meetings on such topics as codes, economic development, the environment, infrastructure, neighborhood identity, parks and recreation, public safety and transportation.

Neighborhood Partnership Director Susan Ajoc and planner Terese Hilliard will conduct the meetings, 11 a.m. or 5:30 p.m. at the Bay Point Recreation Center or the South Branch Library (see box). The idea was to reach as many residents as possible who live between Fourth and 34th streets S, between 54th Avenue and Tampa Bay, Hilliard said.

The city and neighborhood might not have reached this confluence had not a resident complained that the Greater Pinellas Point Civic Association had conceived a neighborhood plan without sufficient input from residents. When Thomas Reese threatened legal action, the neighborhood association withdrew its plan and the city stepped in, in part to ensure that meetings are conducted openly.

"For whatever reason, we got bogged down with the last plan," Hilliard said. "So now we are taking the lead."

The Partnership had been conducting monthly meetings but decided to pick up the pace. Hilliard said they will try to cover two topics at each two-hour meeting.

The meetings are for all residents, whether they belong to a neighborhood association or not. Renters also are encouraged to attend.

"We definitely want rental people to come out and talk about their experiences, too," Hilliard said.

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Neighborhood Partnership planners have moved into new quarters. The agency left the City Hall Annex last week for City Hall, 175 Fifth St. N, floors 3 and 3{. The historic annex at 440 Second Ave. N will get a facelift, of sorts.

A plaque on the outside of the onetime Domestic Science and Manual Training building lists 1902 as a founding date, but city historic planner Rick Smith said 1901 might be more accurate.

Renovations, expected to last six to nine months, will re-mortar the original brick and remove from it the coat of white paint.

The inside will be "reoriented" but look almost the same, Smith said. A wooden double door with three panels on each side will showcase the revamped annex, where Partnership staff will return once the work is complete.

Founded by Edwin Tomlinson, the building originally housed shop and other skills-oriented classes. It has served as a meeting spot for the Chamber of Commerce, the Veterans of Foreign Wars and as the City Hall Annex.