St. Pete City Council puts off next phase of pier funding
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05/02/13 Janelle Irwin
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St. Pete City Council members won’t decide whether to approve $1.5 million for the new St. Pete Pier for another two weeks. Council members voted 5-3 Thursday in favor of putting the decision off until city staff can give board members a better idea of how that money is being spent.

The city’s head architect, Raul Quintana, had asked the city to green light the next design phase so that the project could stay on schedule.

The Lens design chosen to replace the current Pier has been criticized by thousands of St. Pete residents for a host of reasons. One group claims they have gathered enough petition signatures to let voters decide whether to build the new pier. Even though the signatures haven’t been verified by the Supervisor of Elections office, city council members have been cautioned about spending any more money until they know for sure construction will happen. City Council member Jim Kennedy moved to postpone the decision for two weeks.

St. Pete Mayor Bill Foster told Kennedy that city staff could get him a breakdown of how money would be spent to give some extra piece of mind. But he also warned council that he is operating as if there won’t be a referendum until the signatures Lens critics claim they have are verified. That didn’t sit well with city council member Charlie Gerdes who supported the motion to postpone approving the funds.

Fifty million dollars has been allocated to build a new pier to replace the inverted pyramid and roadway approach that is falling apart. So far the city has already spent more than $2 million of that. Opponents of the Lens have argued there were too many structural and design problems to proceed. The project manager of the design team, Tim Williams, said those problems have been addressed.

Architects and engineers working on the design had more than a dozen studies done to make sure there weren’t any more hiccups. They had teams look at things like sea level rise, wind and wave effects and structural integrity. The findings prompted changes to the width of both over-water pathways to accommodate emergency vehicles as well as adding more space for things like restaurants and seating. Williams said the team also changed the marina from an oval shape to a circle.

Changes also include increasing the size of the shade canopy by 5%. The current Pier is set to close at the end of this month.

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