Clearwater mail-in votes begin on new home for Winter the Dolphin

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Clearwater voters have begun casting mail-in ballots to decide on a new home for Winter the Dolphin.

The Pinellas County Department of Elections mail ballot numbers — nearly 91,000 requested through October 8 — include over 28,000 sent out for a referendum on a new the $160.5 million Clearwater Marine Aquarium.

According to the DOE website, 10.8 percent — 9,866 ballots — of 90,943 vote-by-mail requests for Pinellas County November 5 elections have come back. Nearly 8,000 were returned in just the past two days.  

Voters are asked to consider changing the City Charter so officials can enter a 60-year contract to build, operate and maintain a home for Winter the Dolphin.

If voters approve the referendum, CMA would pay the city $7.5 million to tear down the three-story City Hall property to make way for the aquarium complex. The CMA would raise the money with a 50-cent surcharge on ticket sales.

Winter was showcased in the popular 2011 movie Dolphin Tale, with a sequel currently filming at the current CMA on Windward Passage off Island Estates on the Intercostal Waterway.

A new complex would be located on the existing location of City Hall, 112 S Osceola Ave., between Pierce Boulevard and Cleveland Street.

Although there is no commitment on the size or location of the City Hall replacement, various locations are under consideration, including a downtown fire station set for demolition. 

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.