Tampa Council approves museum, park renovations

04/03/08 Mitch E. Perry
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The Tampa City Council today unanimously approved $37 million in contracts for the construction of a new Museum of Art and an expanded Curtis Hixon Park. But the vote was not without controversy.

The problem for a couple of Council members was the mayor's decision to put the projects in one resolution, when city staff had said last year said that the projects would be voted on separately.

Public Works and Utilities Administrator Steve Dagnault said at one time the thought was one of the projects would be done earlier than the other, and thus the need for separate contracts; but that’s no longer the case with the contractor, Skanska.

Skanska says it will cost more than $26-million to build a new Tampa Museum of Art, and approximately $12-million for a redesigned Curtis Hixon Park alongside Ashley Avenue in downtown Tampa. About $29-million is taxpayer funds from the Community Investment Tax (CIT).

David Vaughn, director of contract administration, tried to calm Councilman John Dingfelder, who took exception to the city consolidating the contracts.

But some council members did not take issue with voting on the two projects in one resolution. Councilman Charlie Miranda said he hadn’t spoken at all with Mayor Pam Iorio, but understood exactly what the city was aiming to do.

As the debate continued, Councilman Joe Catano grew antsy, and said it was time to vote. But Mary Mulhern was unhappy that the City Council could not vote on separate projects. Mulhern, a former employee at the Tampa Museum of Art , said she wanted it known that she was thrilled that construction of a new building was imminent. But she wanted to ask that those art fans put energy into holding the city accountable for the restoration of Kiley Park – which is south of Curtis Hixon on Ashley Avenue.

City Administrator Steve Dagnault said that the city would come back to address Kiley Park.

Although he voted for the resolution, Dingfelder appeared angered by the switch in tactics by the Iorio adminstration.

Groundbreaking for both the new museum and the renovated park is scheduled to take place later this month.

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