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City to pay $796,000 for mobile home park

Pinellas Park agrees to buy the 3 acres at 4165 Park Blvd. to ease flooding and blight.

By ANNE LINDBERG, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published March 3, 2002

PINELLAS PARK -- A divided council decided Thursday to buy a mobile home park to help solve drainage problems on Park Boulevard.

Council members agreed to pay $796,000 for Summers Mobile Home Park, 4165 Park Blvd. The 3 acres are destined to become a retention pond to hold runoff floodwaters. The property currently has 43 trailers and eight apartments.

The three council members who supported the purchase -- Rick Butler, Ed Taylor and Chuck Williams -- said the deal was about more than flood prevention. The acquisition was an opportunity to clean up Park, one of the main routes into the city and one axis of Pinellas Park's redevelopment area.

Pinellas Park will pay $600,000 to the property owners, the Camilla Summers Trust and the Harold O. Summers Trust, when the deal is closed. The owners will immediately raze the eight concrete block apartments fronting Park.

For the next five years, the owners will continue to operate the facility, collecting and keeping the rents, while giving mobile home residents substantial time to move. After five years, the city will take over the property and pay the balance owed.

"Being in the heart of the redevelopment area, we have got to get rid of these mobile home parks," Butler said. Razing the dilapidated housing "kind of ties into the whole development of Park Boulevard."

Said Taylor: "This is one of the gateways into our city. It is also an eyesore."

Less sure were Patricia Bailey-Snook and Mayor Bill Mischler, who had been absent when the issue was first raised at Tuesday's workshop.

Bailey-Snook had reluctantly agreed to support the purchase, but she changed her mind Thursday when Mischler asked that the item be tabled.

The mayor should be deferred to, she said, and told Mischler, "I stand with you on this in protecting our taxpayers."

Mischler is worried about the overall cost of the Park Boulevard drainage project and the city's financial responsibility.

"I want to see the whole picture, how much this whole project is going to cost," he said.

Mischler also objected to the purchase on the grounds that it was premature. If the Park project goes through, the eastern end will be the last to be fixed. It's too early to buy property there for drainage, he said.

Park Boulevard flooding is a chronic problem, and political candidates have campaigned for years on promises to fix the drainage, especially at Park and 49th Street.

In the past couple of years, the city has crafted a remedy.

Three phases of repairs would cost about $17.8-million. If grants come through, construction could begin in June or July.

At one time, the county and state appeared willing to join with Pinellas Park to solve the flooding problem because the boulevard is a main evacuation route. Each entity was to have paid one-third of the multimillion-dollar price tag.

But last year, county officials denied they had an agreement with the city. And just this past week, state officials told Mischler that part of the $1.5-million promised the city might not come through.

The lack of funding caused Mischler the most agony. He wondered if the other council members were willing to shoulder the entire cost of repairs.

"I don't feel that we should subject the taxpayers of this city to that, to commit them," he said.

"I've been testing the waters," Mischler said, and no residents seemed to see flooding along Park as a problem.

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