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.