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The ultimate wish list for Pinellas County — where to spend $7.1 million

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Pinellas commissioners have twice asked for ideas on spending millions in funds the county received from the BP settlement.

The first time, more than 800 people answered. Commissioners met and discussed general guidelines then went back to residents for concrete suggestions.

When the online survey closed Thursday, 378 people had responded.

Some ideas were big: “helping the poor,” fixing the county’s sewer issues, buying electric buses or charging stations for electric buses, spay and neuter all animals, incentivize the use of solar energy, complete the Pinellas Trail, return the money to the taxpayers.

Others were smaller and more specific: replacing the roof on the Palm Harbor Library, purchase a rescue boat for the East Lake area that can be used in Lake Tarpon and north county, build a shared parking lot for the East Lake Library and Cypress Woods Elementary School, buy Hammock Park in the Dunedin area, buy the Tides Golf Course in unincorporated Seminole.

Commissioners are scheduled to hold a workshop from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. July 12 to discuss the public’s ideas.

Here are some proposals, and the reasons for suggesting them:

*A commemorative statue or banner in downtown Dunedin or Pinellas County to recognize Dunedin Highland Middle School’s 2016 Odyssey of the Mind team.

“Odyssey of the Mind is an international, creative, academic problem-solving competition. Teams from around the state, country and the world compete. Dunedin’s team is unique in that they are back to back state champions, and this year the eighth-grade team placed first in the world competition and the seventh-grade team placed second. The eighth-grade team also won the coveted Ranatra Fusca Award, which is Odyssey of the Mind’s highest honor. Such accomplishments have never been done in this region. This year, the State of Florida only had three teams to qualify for World Finals, the two Dunedin teams and one team from the University of Florida.

“While recognizing the school and team is important, this request should be granted for economic development reasons. It is clear that people often visit Florida and Pinellas County. However, if we want to attract more visitors and convert some of those visitors to residents, we need to offer more than just great beaches and a great lifestyle. We need to offer jobs or economic opportunities for their businesses and we need to offer great schools and development opportunities for families.”

Projected cost – less than $10,000.

*Make needed improvements to the Seminole Junior Warhawks Athletic Association fields.

“Improvements made to the Seminole Junior Warhawks Athletic Association fields would improve safety concerns and playing conditions for the youth of our local area. Kids play at SJWAA from Largo, Ridgecrest, Seminole, Indian Rocks and Belleair.

“Youth sports have a great impact on our community.  Youth involved in sports learn about being a part of a team, sportsmanship, perseverance, hard work, and are less likely to become involved in drugs or illegal activity.  Youth involved in sports are also being encouraged to maintain a healthier lifestyle in a time when child obesity continues to rise.

“If the SJWAA fields are improved it increases the ability for the SJWAA teams to host more tournaments, ultimately increasing local revenue from visiting teams staying in hotels and eating at our local establishments.”

Estimated cost: $300,000.

*Rail from Tampa International Airport to St. Petersburg

“Just arrived in Denver and their 2-month-old (one year was used to test the system) rail system is magnificent. It goes from Denver airport to a hub in downtown Denver. This is a long trek, but people can’t get over how it helps traffic flow.  If we could team up with Tampa financially, we could build a rail system over the Howard Frankland that would connect Tampa Airport to St Petersburg. How many people have missed flights when there is a major accident on the bridge? How many less cars would be clogging up the bridge, less accidents and a real benefit to our tourism? I would be happy to talk about Denver’s rail, and if you are interested, I would get costs, etc. They are slowly adding more rail routes to get to outlying areas in Denver. The city is growing, and they are providing leadership for their future.”

Estimated cost: More than $1 million

*Pinellas surge barrier feasibility study

“Take the first step in constructing a surge barrier connecting several existing higher-elevation areas that, when connected with a continuous elevation, provide a barrier against deadly storm surge in the central part of the county. A feasibility study of such a barrier would look at using existing publicly available rights of way to construct a low surge barrier along inland corridors, one-half to two miles from the coast, where it would be relatively low with virtually no adverse community impacts.”

Estimated cost: $500,000 to $1 million

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