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    Federal grant sparks STAR Center improvements

    By CHRISTINA K. COSDON

    © St. Petersburg Times, published March 27, 2001


    The STAR Center, home to 24 high-tech businesses and more than 1,700 workers, is getting a $2.1-million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to help update and improve the main building's safety.

    For more than 30 years, the 96-acre park now known as the STAR (Science, Technology and Research) Center was a government plant where nuclear weapons components were produced.

    In 1995, the plant was sold to the Pinellas County Industry Council to be converted into a high-tech industrial and research center. The transition was successful, but the main building, which has just less than 600,000 square feet, needs a lot of improvements to make it more efficient and cost-effective.

    "When we looked at the magnitude of what needed to be done here, we asked for $12-million," said Ken Hall, the center's director. "Funding has been real hard to come by. We needed this money a year and a half ago, but we're happy to get it now."

    Hall said the money would be used to meet some fire code requirements, improve access for disabled people and upgrade utilities.

    "Our boiler for the hot water that heats, ventilates and air conditions the building isn't very reliable, so we'll be getting a replacement," he said. "Also, we only have one utility metering point, which isn't very efficient.

    "Our utility costs are high because we've taken over a huge operation that required a lot of power and air conditioning and had a tremendous amount of exhaust. We've had to divvy up the bills, which never makes anyone happy."

    After the improvements, most of the tenants will have their own meters, Hall said.

    The money, which also will be used for fire safety enhancement, will be provided on a project-to-project basis, he said.

    Grass Mowers moves to site on Seminole Boulevard

    Grass Mowers, in business in Seminole for 30 years, has moved to new, larger quarters in town.

    The business, owned and operated by Larry and Beth Burmaster and situated for years on Starkey Road, has opened at 11131 Seminole Blvd., in the former Florida Decorator-True Value building.

    Grass Mowers specializes in sales and service of residential and commercial mowing, sawing and trimming equipment.

    Its new home has 4,900 square feet for a new showroom that is twice the size of the old one and several rooms for parts, repair work and an office. Burmaster said he has an inventory of more than $450,000. It cost $25,000 to make the move, he said.

    Burmaster carries the Snapper and Swedish Husqvarna brands of chain saws, mowers, backpack blowers, hedge trimmers, hand-held blowers and a fly mower with no wheels or blades that is good for cutting grass in ditches. Prices range from $179 for a chain saw to $9,000 for a commercial mower.

    Burmaster, who has owned Grass Mowers for seven years, has three employees and is looking for another mechanic. His main mechanic, Bob Regnier of Seminole, has been with Grass Mowers for 22 years. "We've been friends for over 20 years, and have worked together on everything from airplanes and small helicopters to the engines for carpet cleaning machines," Burmaster said.

    In addition to Grass Mowers, the Burmasters have owned and operated Busy Bee Lawn and Tree Service for 29 years. Mrs. Burmaster handles the bookkeeping, payroll, inventory and ordering for both businesses.

    Grass Mowers' new phone number is 399-0331.

    News of real estate

    Three new sales associates have joined Century 21 Grant Realty at 6450 Seminole Blvd. Steven Layne has rejoined the Grant Realty office after returning to the area from California. Michelle Lewis is a Dunedin native and a longtime Seminole resident. Julia Nicol, a native of Bulgaria, is a lawyer with a specialty in international, civil and commercial law.

    * * *

    Mary Butler, who has worked in real estate in Seminole for more than 16 years, has joined Adamo Realty at 7676 Seminole Blvd. She specializes in Largo, Seminole, the gulf beaches and the Bay Pines area.

    -- Know of a new or unique business in the greater Seminole area? If so, tell us about it. Send items to Seminole Business, Seminole Times, 710 Court St., Clearwater, FL 33756 or fax it to 445-4119. We also are interested in promotions, expansions and major new contracts. Photos can be sent, but not all will be used and they cannot be returned.

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