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Wengay Newtons Pier liability concerns are moot

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

St. Pete City Council member Wengay Newton is concerned about safety surrounding the now barricaded St. Pete Pier. According to WTSP, Newton believes the fence is inadequate to keep people from the shuttered inverted pyramid.

“These are the type of things that happen when you rush,” Newton told 10 News, noting that if someone got past the chain-link fences erected in advance of the structure’s demolition they could get hurt and sue the city. “There’s no hurry, no rush.”

City Council approved demolition of the Pier last week but questions regarding permitting concerns arose this week. The city says it has its own permits to demolish just the inverted pyramid, but there is now a question of whether a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit is needed to topple the four-decade-old building.

After fences went up in preparation for demolition City Council cut back on security around the Pier. Newton wants that security restored in order to minimize liability to the city.

However, according to Joe Patner, head of the city’s litigation team, there is little reason to worry the city could be left on the hook for any accidents that could occur as a result of an individual breaching the fences.

“Any attempts to enter the property would be at the risk of the individual, not the city,” Patner said.

SaintPetersBlog emailed the city about the potential risk. After receiving that email, Patner strolled out to the Pier to take a look.

“In my opinion there is no foreseeable liability issues arising out of someone sneaking over, under or through the fence or otherwise accessing the property,” Patner said. “It is quite clear that the property is currently fenced off from public access.”

Newton has been the sole City Council member against Pier Park and has long been an advocate for saving the existing Pier. He was also opposed to closing the building to the public while the city took steps to build a replacement.

This administration plans to move forward with demolition of the Pier as soon as possible and has said the delays in demolishing the inverted pyramid will not affect the overall goal to have a new Pier in place in 2018.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email janelle@floridapolitics.com.

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