City of St. Pete seeks $46 million in bonds for a new pier, not necessarily “The Lens”

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Next week the St. Petersburg City Council will consider a resolution to issue a $46.5 million bond for a new pier but not necessarily the currently selected ‘Lens’ pier design. 

According to a memo from assistant city attorney Jacqueline Kovilaritch to council, the issuance of the bond is, “for the purpose of financing and/or reimbursing the costs of any design, and the planning, site preparation, acquisition, installation, construction and equipping of a replacement city-owned municipal pier, including both landside and waterside improvements.”

The bonds, according to Kovilaritch, could be used to finance any design for a replacement pier. 

Kovilaritch wrote that the bonds would not be used to finance the demolition of the existing St. Petersburg Pier.

That pending demolition has yet to be approved by the Southwest Florida Water Management District, but a public Water Management District hearing about the pier demolition is set for June 5 in Tampa.  

If approved by council, the resolution would authorize the city attorney and bound counsel to purse validation of the bonds in a circuit court.

Should court validate the bonds it would protect the city against lawsuits regarding the bonds, Kovilaritch wrote. 

“Where a court rules in favor of the local government, the matters validated are considered to have been conclusively resolved, thereby giving both the local government and the market the confidence of knowing that future challenge is barred …

“Considering the litigation and controversy that have arisen in connection with replacement of the city-owned municipal pier, the city attorney’s office and bond counsel agree that validation of the bond offers an opportunity to take a proactive, cost-effective approach to resolving issues related to the issuance of the bonds and the ongoing threat of costly, resource-intensive litigation.”

The existing pier is closing for good May 31. What happens next is not certain. 

According to the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections, at the end of the day Tuesday, it has process more than 12,000 of the 20,458 Stop the Lens petitions. Of those process 92 percent have been found as valid.

Once the petition drive gets 15,652 certified petitions it would force the city to adopt the petition to cancel the city’s “Lens’ design contract with Michael Maltzan Architecture or hold a public referendum on the issue. 

Mayor Bill Foster has said publicly that a vote on the “lens” contract would happen on the Aug. 27 primary. 

On May 16 council approved another round of “Lens” funding by a 5-3 vote, though the approved was less than what city staff was asking for. 

The approved money will go toward wind tunnel testing, testing the caissons underneath the existing pier and costs related to permitting for demolition of the pier. 

Via William Mansell of Patch.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.