Sheriff's request for barrier approved listen02/07/08 Mitch E. Perry
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The politics of terrorism was part of a Tampa City Council discussion today. It arose on whether or not the city of Tampa should vacate a portion of 20th Street in Ybor City to the Hillsborough County Sheriffâ€™s Office.
The Sheriffâ€™s Office Operation Center resides between Palm and 9th Avenue in Ybor. Since Sept. 11, 2001, the Sheriffâ€™s Office has erected barriers on 20th street near the facility because of security concerns.
Sherriff David Gee now wants to build a wall on side of his facility, but told the City Council he couldnâ€™t tell them why.
Gee said in his last meeting with the Department of Homeland Security, federal officials told him that his plans for the facility are reasonable, and had answered their concerns.
He said if he were creating a new facility, he would want a 100-foot setback from the street to the departmentâ€™s front door, but since thatâ€™s not possible, the wall include security gates on 20th Street, which bisects the sheriffâ€™s compound.
City Councilwoman Mary Mulhern wasnâ€™t willing to take Gee's word for it. She asked him specifically why the need for such protection.
Gee said he couldnâ€™t tell her.
The Barrio Latino Commision has already gone on record opposing the sheriffâ€™s request. The BLC is a citizens panel charged with protecting the architectural integrity of Ybor City, a national landmark district.
The Sherriffâ€™s Department has had its operating center in Ybor City since the 1970s.
Councilwoman Linda Saul-Sena said the neighborhood has gone through many changes since then, and she wasnâ€™t certain vacating the street was appropriate.
Plus, there is considerable opposition to the plan among some business owners in the district.
Eric Schiiler owns Gaspar's Grotto, a restaurant and bar in Ybor City. He said essentially Sheriff Gee was lying about his intentions. And Schiller asked why there was the need for extra security now, and not immediately after 9/11.
The board approved the sheriffâ€™s request, 4-1, with Linda Saul-Sena dissenting; Charlie Miranda was absent.