Sheriff's request for barrier approved

02/07/08 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 Sheriff’s Office.

The Sheriff’s Office Operation Center resides between Palm and 9th Avenue in Ybor. Since Sept. 11, 2001, the Sheriff’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 couldn’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 department’s front door, but since that’s not possible, the wall include security gates on 20th Street, which bisects the sheriff’s compound.

City Councilwoman Mary Mulhern wasn’t willing to take Gee's word for it. She asked him specifically why the need for such protection.

Gee said he couldn’t tell her.

The Barrio Latino Commision has already gone on record opposing the sheriff’s request. The BLC is a citizens panel charged with protecting the architectural integrity of Ybor City, a national landmark district.

The Sherriff’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 wasn’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 sheriff’s request, 4-1, with Linda Saul-Sena dissenting; Charlie Miranda was absent.

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