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Shelter, museum lose out

Locally, Crist's vetoes affect a proposed storm shelter for the disabled and other projects.

Published May 25, 2007


State money won't flow to St. Petersburg this coming fiscal year to build a hurricane shelter for the disabled or start a Chihuly museum.

The twin vetoes accounted for more than half of the $4.3-million in Pinellas County projects that Gov. Charlie Crist axed Thursday when he signed the state's $71.5-billion 2007-08 budget.

But compared with the total $459-million Crist struck from the statewide spending plan, Pinellas County was barely nicked.

That's little consolation for St. Petersburg's Pinellas Association for Retarded Children, a nonprofit organization that aides the developmentally disabled. The group had wanted $2-million to help create a 1,000-bed shelter to house those with developmental disabilities during hurricanes.

It would have been the first such shelter in Florida.

"We're disappointed," said PARC's public relations director, Kelly Caputo. "It was crucial for the severely developmentally disabled community throughout the state to have this evacuation site."

Some will view Crist's action as a paragon of fiscal restraint, and others as deaf to the pleas of the needy. Much of Crist's vetoes were aimed at local projects requested by county or city governments or nonprofit service agencies, such as PARC.

"Somebody's turkey is somebody else's filet mignon," explained Assistant County Administrator Elithia Stanfield.

Among the projects surviving Crist's vetoes were two Pinellas County government requests: $500,000 to restore Fort De Soto and $200, 000 to help create Eagle Lake Park in Largo.

The Chihuly museum is part of a $35-million expansion planned by the Arts Center downtown. Dale Chihuly's colorful glass sculptures grace buildings around the world, and civic boosters believe a museum of his work would help establish the city as an arts epicenter.

The $500,000 Crist vetoed would have paid for about one-third of the architectural and engineering drawings, allowing for a groundbreaking this fall, said Arts Center director Evelyn Craft.

Though the Arts Center has raised about $13-million for the building and $6-million to buy existing and new Chihuly pieces, the architecture and design money must come from a different pot, she said.

"This is going to affect our time line," Craft said, "but I can't tell you how."

Other Pinellas vetoes included a combined $160,000 for two Dunedin projects: a Purple Heart monument and restoration of a rail station. Mayor Bob Hackworth said although he thought both projects were worthy, he saw the cuts coming.

Oldsmar lost $500,000 it had sought for a water treatment plant, St. Petersburg lost $100,000 to aid single-parent families around Childs Park, and Clearwater's Willa Carson Health Resource Center lost $50,000.

Crist also spiked some regional initiatives that could have benefited Pinellas, including $1-million to create a multicounty transportation authority.

Times staff writers Stephen Nohlgren and Tamara El-Khoury contributed to this report.

Fast Facts: What got the ax

Gov. Charlie Crist vetoed $4.3-million sought by Pinellas County, its cities and area nonprofits in the state's 2007-08 budget. That's less than 1 percent of the $459-million in cuts Crist made statewide. Pinellas is Crist's home county. Among the Pinellas projects Crist vetoed:

St. Petersburg
$2-million: Hurricane shelter for the developmentally disabled.
$500,000: Planning for the Chihuly museum.
$100,000: Single-parent assistance in the Childs Park area.

$500,000: New water treatment plant.

$160,000: A Purple Heart monument and rail station restoration.

$150,000: Saltwater paddling trail.


[Last modified May 25, 2007, 01:10:42]

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