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City of St. Pete has deal to buy Science Center

Margie Manning



City Council member Robert Blackmon has been spearheading the campaign to re-open the Pinellas County Science Center building, which the city purchased in 2020.

CareerSource Pinellas has accepted an offer from the City of St. Petersburg to buy the Science Center in west St. Pete.

The city offered $3.15 million for the nearly seven acres of land and the 27,400-square-foot building at 7701 22nd Ave. N.

The city plans to use part of the property to expand the capacity of the nearby Northwest Water Reclamation Plant, one of several facilities where there were millions of gallons of unpermitted wastewater discharges in 2016 and smaller discharges since then. No decision has been made on what to do with the rest of the property, said Ben Kirby, a spokesman for Mayor Rick Kriseman.

The St. Petersburg City Council will be asked to approve the property purchase, likely in July. The water plant expansion won’t happen right away as the city has to work through regulatory compliance, but in the meantime the city will reach out to people who live in the neighborhood to update them on the process, Kirby said.

CareerSource Pinellas expects proceeds of $2.4 million after the sale closes, likely in 90 to 100 days, Jennifer Brackney, CEO, told the Pinellas County Board of County Commissioners Tuesday.

Related story: New CareerSource Pinellas CEO talks righting the ship amid investigations

It will bring an end to one of the issues behind a shakeup at CareerSource Pinellas, a job training and placement agency. Former CEO Ed Peachey was fired last year amid investigations into the practices he established at CareerSource Pinellas and its sister organization, CareerSource Tampa Bay.

Peachey had won approval to buy the Science Center in 2014, then took out a $700,000 mortgage on the property and spent $400,000 on repairs, the Tampa Bay Times reported. A more than half-million dollar mortgage payment now is coming due.

After getting an update on the planned sale, Pinellas County commissioners approved the proposed $10.4 million budget for CareerSource Pinellas for the 2019-2020 program year.

Before the sale closes, CareerSource Pinellas is faced with an unusual problem — finding homes for several creatures that have been on display at the Science Center.

“Iguanas, a tarantula and a frog. We found a home for Elliot the snake,” Brackney said.

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