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    With doubts, city okays $100,000 more for expert

    Some commissioners are concerned about consultant Charles Siemon's tab and the lack of a list of work products.

    By CHRISTINA HEADRICK

    © St. Petersburg Times, published December 20, 2000


    CLEARWATER -- Charles Siemon, the city's master redevelopment consultant, will get another $100,000 from the city, bringing his tab to about $921,000 since he began crafting a new vision for the city's future several years ago.

    The City Commission voted Tuesday to pay the additional $100,000 to Siemon, a Boca Raton-based attorney with expertise in urban redevelopment. The money will pay Siemon to help the city through several weeks of fast-paced negotiations with three development teams vying to complete projects on Clearwater Beach, including hotels, condos and parking garages.

    Some commissioners expressed concern about all the money that has been spent for the consultant, although the commission supported the additional $100,000 payment.

    "I think frankly, Mr. Siemon's done a good job, but it needs to come to an end," said Commissioner J.B. Johnson, who added that the additional money ought to be the last expense for Siemon's services.

    Commissioner Ed Hart said he was concerned that the city has never received a list of all the contacts and other kinds of work products that Siemon produced while trying to negotiate a host of redevelopment projects for the city over the past three years.

    "It seems it's time to do a reckoning of those things," Hart said.

    Bob Keller, assistant city manager for economic development, said he is in the process of closing out all of Siemon's current contracts with the city. Future expenses for Siemon's time will be closely monitored, Keller said.

    Keller also went through a list of all the projects that Siemon has worked on for the city. They include:

    Rewriting the city's redevelopment code to be more flexible for new development.

    Negotiating with a host of potential developers and writing plans to redevelop the beach and downtown.

    Advertising for developers to do a major project downtown.

    Negotiating the terms of the failed redevelopment deal this summer, which didn't pass a city referendum.

    Drafting the deal that allowed the Mandalay Beach Club to be built on north Clearwater Beach.

    Siemon's ideas for the beach also gave birth to the initial concept for the Clearwater Beach roundabout.

    Mayor Brian Aungst suggested that the city was getting a bargain, with Siemon discounting his rates for the city to $200 an hour.

    "This is a national expert who is helping us in areas where we don't have the expertise, or, in cases, where we just don't have the time and it would just burden staff to do the work," Aungst said.

    Both Keller and interim City Manager Bill Horne told the commission that they didn't want to take the time to find a new consultant to look at beach redevelopment proposals pending before the city. Those projects are on accelerated schedules because the developers involved have obtained options to buy millions of dollars in beach property that depend on the city's decisions.

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