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Seminole athletics, electric bus charging station top shortened list for Pinellas BP money

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

It took about four hours, but Pinellas commissioners whittled down 54-item wish list to a shorter list of projects that could be done using settlement money from the BP oil spill.

The 54 suggested projects had a price tag of about $23.5 million. The total price tag on the shorter list was about $6.2 million, under the $7.1 million available from the settlement. But the commissioners also had a “research” list of possible projects they need more information about before they make a final decision about what gets funded.

“We’re going to have to come back and trim again,” Commissioner Charlie Justice said.

Two projects that appear likely to make it to the final list are $284,000 to design a sports complex for the Seminole Junior Warhawks Athletic Association and about $590,000 for a charging station for electric buses.

Five of the six voting commissioners support both those projects. The seventh commissioner, John Morroni, is ill and did not vote.

The SJWAA offers baseball, softball and soccer for youths. The fields are at 11500 125th St. N, just west of Walsingham Park.

The charging stations would go in St. Petersburg and would enable the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority to begin a pilot program to see if electric buses are a viable option for the county. The PSTA has said it will buy two electric buses if the county pays for the charging station.

One proposal that caused the most conversation among commissioners concerned an arts proposal made by Janet Long. Long suggested creating a $1 million endowment for the orchestra to help enhance outreach to the community.

It would be a lasting legacy of the BP funds and is a quality of life suggestion, Long said.

Ken Welch said he liked the idea of supporting the arts but did not want to limit that support to the orchestra. He suggested contributing $500,000 in some format to be available to arts across the board.

Karen Seel had yet another idea: Hire an artist to create an iconic piece of public art.

Dave Eggers was skeptical, saying, “There’s just way too many other needs out there.”

Commissioners agreed to set aside $500,000 for the arts. Details of the way it would be distributed would come later if the item makes it to the final list.

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