School Board to Partner With County for Athletic Fields
by Carl Wagenfohr
EAST LAKE - Their efforts to secure a piece of county-owned Brooker Creek Preserve for much needed athletic fields recently defeated by environmental concerns, north county parents were frustrated by what many perceived as unresponsive government. But that all changed on Tuesday.
"It's always a great day when we put kids as our priority," said Pinellas County School Board member Peggy O'Shea on Tuesday as Pinellas County, Pinellas County Schools and the East Lake Youth Sports Association announced a first of its kind partnership to meet the recreational athletic needs of North County youth.
School Board member Jane Gallucci recounted a comment she made to School Superintendent Clayton Wilcox, "You know we have those 44 acres up there. Is there something we could do in working with the county to develop that and help out North County and the kids?" That's all it took to move Wilcox to work with his staff and County Administrator Steve Spratt to come up with a solution, said Gallucci.
The 44-acre parcel of land at the southeast corner of Keystone and East Lake roads is targeted for a future middle school, but the construction of that school is not yet in the School Board's 5-year plan.
School Board staff reworked the preliminary site plan for the school, leaving room for four multi-purpose fields that can be used for soccer, football and lacrosse. Pinellas County will fund the development of those fields, and the East Lake Youth Sports Association will maintain them.
"I believe that today is a win-win for the taxpayers of Pinellas County, that two governmental agencies are collaborating, and the extremely exciting bottom line is for the kids. We are using taxpayer money very appropriately," Gallucci said. The county will not only construct the fields, but also clear and improve the land on which the future school will be built, benefiting the school district.
The county will be continuing its policy of funding only capital projects for recreation, and not providing any support for ongoing operation and maintenance of the facility. The volunteer and fund-raising efforts of the East Lake Youth Sports Association will provide all of the required maintenance without relying on taxpayer funds, Latvala said.
County Administrator Steve Spratt said that he hoped to have all of the site permits within one year, and that the fields could be constructed in eighteen months.
Pinellas County continues to work with the City of Clearwater on recreation partnerships. Latvala said that the Joe DiMaggio complex on Drew Street is a possibility, but there is nothing to announce at this time.
Return to Home Page
Return to Current Edition