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North Pinellas news briefs for Dec. 8

Above, an Ellicott Swinging Dragon cutterhead dredge, staged on a west section of Stevenson Creek by Gator Dredging of Pinellas Park, removes sediment from the Stevenson Creek Estuary on Thursday in Clearwater. The company is on contract with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Left, workers use a crane to lower a dredge into the Creek.
Published Dec. 6, 2013

Clearwater

Dredging company tackles creek

The dredging of Stevenson Creek in north Clearwater has been a snake-bitten project, repeatedly stalled by one problem after another.

In 2010 and 2012, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers hired two different dredging contractors to remove millions of gallons of muck from the creek's sludge-filled estuary. Both attempts failed. The first contractor was fired after getting into a dispute with the corps over how polluted the creek was and how much it would cost to do the job. The second was fired for not complying with environmental regulations. Both contractors blame the corps.

Now a third contractor has taken on the troublesome job. Gator Dredging of Pinellas Park sounds confident that it will succeed by using more advanced technology.

On Thursday, the company lowered a second hydraulic dredge into the estuary, where it will work alongside another dredge that has been operating for a couple of weeks. "With two machines working, we'll be able to shorten the time frame of any disturbance to local residents," said Gator Dredging co-owner William Coughlin.

The late U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young, R-Indian Shores, got federal funding for the dredging job twice and repeatedly pushed the Corps of Engineers to get it done.

The second fired contractor's bonding company hired Gator Dredging to finish the job, said corps spokeswoman Amanda Ellison. The $4.2 million project should by done by summer.

City gives raises to administrators

The Clearwater City Council approved 3.5 percent pay raises for longtime city administrators Thursday, slightly more than other city workers recently received.

The 4-1 vote came after about 30 minutes of discussion. Mayor George Cretekos said he didn't think it was fair to give City Manager Bill Horne and City Attorney Pam Akin more of an increase than other staff, who received 2.5 percent raises this year.

But the other council members disagreed, pointing to studies done by the city's human resources department that showed Horne and Akin's salaries lagged behind their peers in nearby communities and similarly sized cities across the state.

Cretekos cast the lone vote in opposition. The raises will take effect later this month.

Horne is now set to make $180,061 and Akin $166,211.

Police collecting gifts for kids

The Clearwater Police Department is accepting donations of gifts for children between the ages of 3 and 11 through Dec. 20.

Unwrapped gifts can be dropped off at a box in the department lobby at 645 Pierce St.

The gift drive was organized by the police, Clearwater Neighborhood Housing Inc., and Nedra and O'Neal Larkin. The presents will be given to children in the North Greenwood and South Greenwood communities Dec. 22.

For more information, call Sgt. Wilton Lee at (727)562-4310 or Nedra Larkin at (727) 447-6287.

Tarpon Springs

City wants tougher contract on nursing home sale

Tarpon Springs commissioners asked for tougher benchmarks Tuesday in a development agreement between the city and a potential buyer for the city-owned nursing home property at 501 S Walton Ave.

The Burnard Group wants to buy the property for $813,000 and turn it into an assisted living facility, but city officials want a guarantee the New Port Richey developer will quickly spruce up the outside of the property, finish the inside renovation and bring health care jobs.

The sale is pending voter approval in March.

Among other caveats, commissioners asked staff to tighten up the existing draft of a development agreement that would charge developer Harry Burnard $1,000 per week for one year if he doesn't finish the facility within three years. Commissioners mostly seemed to agree that penalties should be higher and kick in sooner.

In other action Tuesday, commissioners also clarified a September ordinance that restricts outdoor displays at the historic Sponge Docks.

Some merchants asked the city to relax the ordinance, which bans outdoor displays taller than 36 inches or more than 30 inches from a building, among other restrictions. Commissioners decided against relaxing the ordinance after a contentious debate.

Dunedin

Fenway Hotel plan falls through

A meeting in Dunedin to discuss Fenway Hotel redevelopment plans with neighbors has been canceled.

The city had planned to unveil a Pennsylvania development team's proposal to tear down and rebuild the historic landmark during a gathering Tuesday at the Hale Activity Center.

However, the company, JCC Management Services Corp., announced last week that it was abandoning the deal after PNC Bank, which is foreclosing on the 6.4-acre waterfront property at 453 Edgewater Drive, failed to respond to its purchase offer.

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