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A Penny for residents' thoughts

The public offers ideas on how to spend the next decade of Penny for Pinellas funding - if the tax is renewed.

By NICOLE JOHNSON
Published September 30, 2006


PALM HARBOR - Raymond Breton wants better recreation centers.

Jim Gleason says a youth football field is needed in Palm Harbor.

Patrick Wheeler called a mid-county expressway a good idea.

Those were just some of the opinions voiced at Wednesday's public hearing about how the next 10 years of the Penny for Pinellas funding should be spent.

Voters will decide in March whether to renew the one-cent sales tax addition. Over the past few months, county officials have gone from south to north county, asking for public comment on which projects should be funded with the extension of the tax, if approved.

Wednesday's meeting, held at the Palm Harbor Community Activity Center, featured a dozen booths displaying proposed projects, from parks to drainage projects to environmental restoration. Some of the booths featured a chart that allowed people to indicate their favorite project with a sticker.

"A lot of the (recreation buildings) need work," said Breton, an avid kayaker who lives in Palm Harbor. "Like when you go into the one at Anderson Park. It looks old."

Breton, 70, placed a small green dot sticker beside a $30-million proposal to construct two multiuse sports complexes in north and mid county.

Over at the transportation booth, Wheeler, a retired CIA employee, put his sticker next to a mid-county expressway project, but he complained about a $70-million project that would improve the appearance of Gulf Boulevard.

"I love the Penny for Pinellas, but if that (Gulf Boulevard) project makes it, I will drum up support to defeat it," said Wheeler, who lives in Lansbrook.

Throughout Wednesday's meeting, public comment pretty much worked that way. Residents had their favorite projects. Others considered some unnecessary.

Finding out such things was the county's goal in holding the meetings. There have been four meetings in all.

Wednesday's meeting was the last public hearing. Administrators have launched an online survey at www.pinellascounty.org/penny/survey.htm in which people can indicate which projects they think are most important.

"There are a lot of expectations and hefty price tags, and there's only so much we can do," said County Administrator Steve Spratt. "But this gives us a chance to see how important stormwater is to people versus court facilities."

Spratt said county officials will finalize the list in November.

The Penny extension would begin in 2010 and go to 2020. It would generate an estimated $1.9-billion over that decade. More than $200-million of that amount would come off the top for a jail expansion and court improvements, Spratt said. The county would take about half of what remains, and the rest would be divided among the surrounding cities.

In Palm Harbor and East Lake, a coalition of civic groups has begun lobbying for a $19-million cut of the penny to expand recreation and library services.

The request hits home for Jim Gleason, president of Palm Harbor's Pop Warner football group.

"We're in our season and don't have a home football field," said Gleason, 36, who has four children in the program. "The biggest thing we need is a complex and that field."

This spring, Palm Harbor Parks and Recreation Services and the Palm Harbor Library attempted to get money for construction and expanded services through a referendum. But voters rejected the two proposed property tax increases that would have paid for those projects.

That defeat makes getting Palm Harbor projects added to the Penny for Pinellas list paramount, said Rick Burton, director of the area's parks and recreation services.

"We've tried to make the county aware of the projects we need," Burton said. "There are people in Palm Harbor who want to see that list, and I think if they don't it will affect the vote."

PENNIES FOR PALM HARBOR?

People in Palm Harbor and East Lake hope to persuade county commissioners to earmark up to $19-million of the Penny for Pinellas funding from 2010 to 2020 for North Pinellas projects. The requests include:

- $5-million to expand and renovate the Palm Harbor Library.

- $4.175-million to expand the East Lake Library.

- $2-million to expand the Palm Harbor Community Activity Center to include a new building, more parking and a playground.

- $6-million for a proposed gymnasium.

- $1-million for athletic field lights at Putnam Park, Palm Field and the Sunderman Complex.

- $3-million for a new 10-acre athletic complex.

- $250,000 for a shelter on the Pinellas Trail at Florida Avenue and Alt. U.S. 19.

- $1.5-million for a parking garage to serve the Pinellas Trail and Palm Harbor parks.

- $750,000 to improve Alt. U.S. 19 between Tampa and Klosterman roads.

- $500,000 for the Palm Harbor Historical Museum.

PENNIES FOR PALM HARBOR?

People in Palm Harbor and East Lake hope to persuade county commissioners to earmark up to $19-million of the Penny for Pinellas funding from 2010 to 2020 for North Pinellas projects. The requests include:

- $5-million to expand and renovate the Palm Harbor Library.

- $4.175-million to expand the East Lake Library.

- $2-million to expand the Palm Harbor Community Activity Center to include a new building, more parking and a playground.

- $6-million for a proposed gymnasium.

- $1-million for athletic field lights at Putnam Park, Palm Field and the Sunderman Complex.

- $3-million for a new 10-acre athletic complex.

- $250,000 for a shelter on the Pinellas Trail at Florida Avenue and Alt. U.S. 19.

- $1.5-million for a parking garage to serve the Pinellas Trail and Palm Harbor parks.

- $750,000 to improve Alt. U.S. 19 between Tampa and Klosterman roads.

- $500,000 for the Palm Harbor Historical Museum.

[Last modified September 29, 2006, 22:29:40]


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