St. Pete Science Center revitalization controversy, final vote Thursday

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) – The former St. Petersburg Science Center is causing controversy. Some say revitalizing the center would be great for the community, others say it could be a burden. The final vote is Thursday.

St. Pete City Councilor Robert Blackmon said the former St. Pete Science Center was at its peak 15 years ago and had been vacant for two years. He said the conversation about the comeback is the source of conflict with Mayor Rick Kriseman.

“Scientific learning is more important than ever, [we have had the] worst red tide in a generation, worst pandemic in 100 years. The science center makes sense, ”Blackmon said.

Blackmon spoke at a city meeting last week saying the project was fiscally compliant.

“We can get a $ 15 million facility for $ 3.5 million,” Blackmon said.

However, Kriseman questioned that math at the meeting.

“We’ve heard a lot of different numbers, I’ve heard a number up to $ 6 million,” Kriseman said.

Kriseman told McLarty on Wednesday that he knows the center’s value, however, he said, as stated in his December 2020 memo, what he objects to is potentially sticking taxpayers with the bill. Something Blackmon said is not even within the realm of possibility.

“This is factually incorrect,” Blackmon said, claiming there was no way that was going to happen … The only reason the mayor is against it is because he doesn’t want me to get it. a political victory, ”Blackmon said.

Blackmon is a Republican running for mayor. The current Democratic mayor, Mayor Kriseman, supports his opposing candidate.

“Does politics come into play here? McLarty asked Kriseman on Wednesday. “No, they don’t,” Kriseman said.

“Politics should have nothing to do with the Science Center and whether the Science Center comes to life there or another. It’s a bit of a disappointment honestly that Mr. Blackmon brought the policy into it, ”Kriseman said.

Mayor Kriseman took to Facebook a few days ago and said “Robert Blackmon didn’t do his homework”, and said “… there is no plan”.

Blackmon responded to this Facebook post and said he has concrete plans and the support of several community organizations, including the Sierra Club.

The board voted 5-3 to approve the project going forward. McLarty asked Kriseman what his thoughts were against the council vote.

“Well, that’s my job. My job is to watch over taxpayers and that’s what I do here, ”Kriseman said.

The big final vote takes place at a meeting in St. Pete City on Thursday at 1:30 pm. Public comments are allowed, so if you feel strongly for or against the Science Center, you can go out and speak your mind.


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