St. Pete Beach cop shop leveled for parking, for now

- From her hair salon across the street, Joney O'Hare watches the demolition of St. Pete Beach's former police station and relays the latest scuttlebutt. 

"They have plans to put a library over there," O'Hare told FOX 13 News. "But from what I understand, I don't know if we have the funds to build a library."

No, St. Pete Beach does not have money for a new library or possibly a library/cultural arts center to occupy the soon-to-be-cleared land. Nor does it have a need for a police station anymore. 

The beach town now pays the Pinellas Sheriffs Office for law enforcement services.

Air conditioning and maintaining the structure cost $80,000 a year. A $20,000 study revealed no other use for what was a state-of-the-art cop shop 20 years ago. 

"Because of it's very unique structure as a jail, it was going to cost more to modify it than it would be to simply demolish it," Mayor Maria Lowe explained. 

Interestingly, the city is paying $78,000 for the demolition, less than one year's maintenance costs.

Yes, there is a plan to come up with money for a new library and possibly a cultural arts facility. St. Pete Beach has resubmitted a request to Pinellas County to create a community redevelopment area [CRA]. 

If the county agrees, the city and the would county divert future increases in property tax collections inside the CRA to a fund for public improvements. 

"You've seen other parts of the county really benefit from this type of economic development partnership with the county," Lowe said, referring to CRA's in St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Safety Harbor and Dunedin. 

In February, county commissioners rejected a CRA request from St. Pete Beach that would cost the county $50 million. The beach town scaled its request back to $38 million with a plan that spends the county's funds on basic infrastructure in the downtown area. 

"Our street layout is really cumbersome and it is not conducive to the safety of vehicles or pedestrians," the mayor said. 

The city would commit its CRA funds to other improvements, such as a new library.

Partnering with the county will take months and completing many of the improvements will take years. So the immediate use for the land beneath the disappearing police station is surface parking for St. Pete Beach's community center.

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