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    County, city may join for skate park

    A skateboard facility could become reality if the two governments can figure out how to split the cost of operating and maintaining it.

    By MICHAEL SANDLER, Times Staff Writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published May 15, 2002


    LARGO -- Largo has the money. Pinellas County has the land. If they can work out a deal, these two governments may join forces and construct a mecca for skateboard-toting youngsters.

    Largo's City Commission took the first leap Tuesday night by directing its staff to begin negotiating an agreement. The county has offered to give Largo space in Taylor Park, if the city provides $340,000 to build the highly anticipated skating park.

    The two sides need to figure out how to split the operating and maintenance expenses, along with determining liability issues and other fine points. But the big expenditures are out of the way.

    "It's kind of a fair swap," said Cathy Santa, the city's recreation, parks and arts director.

    Many saw this as a major breakthrough in a project the city has been pursuing for years. Finding the money has not been the problem. The city set aside $340,000 in local sales tax revenue to build the park, which would include a bowl-shaped, concrete concourse, restrooms, parking and drainage facilities.

    The real challenge has been finding a place where skateboarders can have freedom on the concrete without disturbing the peace of a residential neighborhood.

    Santa said the city would need about 2 acres, which would cost between $400,000 and $500,000 to purchase.

    Commissioners said a potential deal with the county would be worth pursuing, but only if they could arrange a fair split in the operating expenses. Many on the commission said that had been a sticking point in past deals. Otherwise, Santa said an alternate site, such as the Highland Complex, could be considered.

    City Manager Steven Stanton said the city has yet to negotiate with Steve Spratt, the new county administrator. Stanton is optimistic a fair deal can be achieved with Spratt. That was enough for commissioners to give it a try.

    "This will be a good test," said Commissioner Pat Burke.

    The short and concise item was the highlight of a work session attended by six of the seven commissioners.

    Commissioner Marty Shelby informed commissioners by memo that he would be absent Tuesday, but did not give a reason.

    Shelby, 45 and a three-term commissioner, has hinted at his frustration with the commission and recently turned in his city-issued cell phone and requested the public works department retrieve his city-issued file cabinet.

    -- Michael Sandler can be reached at 445-4174 or sandler@sptimes.com

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