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A spot of color

The monotube's blue is making officials, drivers and owners of nearby Pinellas Park businesses less so.

By ANNE LINDBERG

© St. Petersburg Times, published December 9, 2001


The monotube's blue is making officials, drivers and owners of nearby Pinellas Park businesses less so.

PINELLAS PARK -- What a difference a color makes.

Compliments and praise greeted the unveiling last week of the new light blue paint job on Pinellas Park's infamous monotube. Until Wednesday night, it had been sewer pipe brown.

"I like it 100 percent better," said Rita Bott, executive director of the Pinellas Park/Mid-County Chamber of Commerce.

"The other was oppressive. This is, well, it's kind of cute," Bott said. "It's quite passive now. It is. You'd be surprised what a difference the color makes. It's not as "in your face.' "

Maria Praias, owner of Dog Gone Positive, agreed, saying, "It's a lot better. . . . It's a lot more appealing."

So far, the human customers at Praias' doggy day care and training center in the shopping center at the southwest end of the tube have applauded the color.

Visitors to the tube on Friday morning were uniformly supportive when polled by Mason Dixon's morning show on WYUU-FM 92.5. Dixon and his co-host, two of the pipe's biggest detractors, broadcast live from the intersection Friday morning and handed out coffee and doughnuts as a sort of debut party for the new color.

The decision to hold a "coming out party" was a matter of fairness, Dixon said.

"We gave that thing so much grief on the radio and had so much fun with the city," Dixon said. But Pinellas Park spokesman Tim Caddell "played along with us. You can't be mean when everybody there agrees with you and it's out of their hands."

Not everyone was completely happy, however. Karol Lehman, a homeowner on 67th Way, two blocks from the tube, woke Friday to find her cars covered with "little tiny pinpricks" of light blue color. Thursday was breezy, she said, and apparently the paint went everywhere.

"Every vehicle on the block has got blue specks all over it," Lehman said. "Unreal. Thank goodness we had our pool covered up."

Lehman said she called the Florida Department of Transportation and was told the contractor would contact her by Wednesday to settle the matter.

"What's ironic is we voted on the Internet to have it that color. We got our color," she said.

And, except for the paint on her cars, Lehman likes the result: "It doesn't look like a sewer pipe anymore."

Certainly the atmosphere greeting the blue color Friday was a complete turnaround from the uniform scorn and abuse heaped on the monotube when the Department of Transportation planted it diagonally across the intersection last spring. Some of that scorn was directed at Pinellas Park, which had nothing to do with the tube.

Dixon and his cohorts doctored a photograph of the tube and placed a toilet atop it. They also ran a contest for naming it. Some suggestions: Pinellas Park Brown Arch and Pipey LePew. Others had witty suggestions for its use: As a pneumatic tube to transfer pedestrians safely across the intersection or a handle so a giant could pick up Pinellas Park and easily move the city.

Just because the tube is a more appealing color, however, don't think that the jokes will stop. The station took the old Herman's Hermits song I'm Into Something Good and rewrote it as "We're Painting Something Good." The lyrics talk about the monotube.

And, though blue, the structure still needs a name.

"Now instead of Pipey LePew, they're calling it Pipey le Blue," Dixon said.

DOT explained that the $200,000 tube, weighing 30 tons and with a 36-inch girth, was built to withstand hurricane-force winds of 130 mph. But those explanations did not satisfy people who were appalled by the appearance of the 21-foot high, 130-foot span.

DOT caved in to the criticism and held its own poll, asking people to choose a color. Light blue won. So Wednesday and Thursday nights, DOT employees closed the intersection and spent about $20,600 to repaint the tube with 30 gallons of paint.

Now that it's painted, said DOT spokeswoman Marian Pscion, upkeep will be the duty of Pinellas County. It might be hard when they want to repaint, she said, because it's not the type of paint you can run over to Home Depot or Lowe's and buy. The county would have to place a special order because it does not have an official name other than "light blue."

However, if monotube blue does become the local rage and people want to paint their homes or living rooms "monotube blue," it would be easy to get the paint store to duplicate the color, Pscion said.

In fact one Pinellas Park business is already being kidded about capitalizing on the color and its location near the monotube. Amscot check cashing and tax preparers is opening a new office on the southeast corner of the intersection at the base of the monotube. The new building is "sky blue," an almost perfect match to the light blue tube.

That was not planned, said Ian A. MacKechnie, Amscot vice president. That's just the company's color, he said, although officials were "surprised and somewhat delighted" when they found the tube would be painted to match.

Being able to direct people to the blue building at the base of the blue tube should help when giving directions, MacKechnie said.

MacKechnie said he hopes to have the new office open in two or three weeks, whenever DOT removes its equipment from Amscot's parking lot.

Although most people and businesses are having a laugh with the monotube and the construction at the intersection, a few do not think the situation is so funny.

The nearby Burger King at 6590 Park Blvd. has told city officials it's feeling a pinch because road construction makes it harder for customers to get in.

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