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A city divided delays its City Hall

St. Pete Beach deals with the architect resigning, state inquiries and frustrated builders.

By AMY WIMMER

© St. Petersburg Times, published December 20, 2000


ST. PETE BEACH -- The City Commission took tentative steps Tuesday night toward repairing relationships with a citizens' committee and the disgruntled architect of a new City Hall.

Commissioners voted unanimously to delay final approval of the new City Hall for another month and try to patch its arrangement with the project's architect, who resigned Tuesday morning, citing troubles with the developer and the building's continually rising price tag. (See related story, Neighborhood Times.)

If architect Mike Russell will not return to finish the project, the city must find someone to take his place.

Commissioners also decided to offer legal representation to a committee of commission-appointed residents who have criticized the City Hall project commissioners are eager to complete.

The State Attorney's Office is investigating the committee at the request of the police chief, who was asked by the city manager to investigate whether the committee violated the Sunshine Law.

Even though the group is at odds with the developer of City Hall as well as top city administrators, commissioners voted unanimously to provide a lawyer for committee members.

"There was no collusion, there were no smoke-filled rooms," Commissioner Jim Myers said. Commissioners heard nearly two hours of public debate Tuesday night over the project.

The project has been controversial since its inception because of its unusual genesis. City Hall will be constructed on land donated to the city by prominent St. Pete Beach developer Paul Skipper, who gave the land in exchange for a contract to build the City Hall.

Skipper and his business partner, Joe Klingel, say they are getting frustrated with the delays. Klingel said he and Skipper will consider rescinding the land offer now that the commission has delayed the project for another month.

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