tampabay.com

Clearwater rec centers to score improvements

The library will move to the beach recreation center and a basketball court gets a new floor.

By MIKE DONILA, Times Staff Writer
Published September 5, 2007


CLEARWATER - The City Council is set to spend $560,000 improving two recreation centers, but officials say the move should ultimately save money.

Most of the funds would go toward the much-discussed proposal to consolidate the beach's library and recreation center. Under the plan, the library would move from its Pelican Walk Plaza location on Mandalay Avenue to the nearby recreation center. To do that, though, the city will spend $390,000 in reserve money to expand the center by roughly 2,000 square feet.

The city will also use a $100,000 grant from the Pinellas Public Library Cooperative to improve the parking lot, update the landscaping, furnish the new library space and rent a trailer to temporarily house the beach library.

Faced with state mandates to cut property tax revenues, Clearwater earlier this year proposed closing the recreation center and the library. But when officials learned this summer that the cuts wouldn't be as drastic as members initially thought, they opted to consolidate the two operations. The move is expected to save about $100,000 a year.

"We're saving money and keeping the library open and that's what the citizens wanted," said Councilwoman Carlen Petersen during Tuesday's City Council work session.

The move, however, means fewer services, said Barbara Pickell, the city's library director. With the exception of best-selling fiction books, DVDs, magazines, some newspapers and a few computers, most materials will be moved to the city's other branches.

Visitors can still request materials from those branches, and in most cases they will get them the next day, Pickell said.

The renovation project should finish by early May.

In the mean time, the beach's library branch will operate out of a portable trailer, most likely placed in the recreation center's parking lot, beginning in early October.

Also on Tuesday, city officials tentatively agreed to use $70,000 to resurface the basketball court at the Countryside Recreation Center. The money comes from untapped funds set aside for the parks and recreation center department's overall operations.

Recreation Director Kevin Dunbar said the court's linoleum floor has endured 15 years of wear and tear and upkeep is labor intensive.

The plan calls for replacing it with a cushioned surface that looks and plays like wood. The floor should last at least 15 years.