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City is moving forward on courthouse

The City Council learned Monday it will likely have a contract with the developer chosen to build a new courthouse and Police Department on North Main Street within the next week and a half or not at all.

"What they can build for what we can afford to pay," said James C. Roscetti, an attorney hired by the city. "We're now at the point of filling in the blanks to see if we can do it [with the developer]."

Roscetti was hired by the city last month to handle negotiations with the chosen joint developer -- Ciminelli Development Co. of Williamsville and Largo Real Estate of Wheatfield -- to help reach a development services agreement to design and build the planned $37 million public safety complex. He discussed a possible contract with Council members during a closed-door session and admitted afterward that it's "possible, but not probable," that the city doesn't have enough money to include the Police Department in the complex.

The state Office of Court Administration has ordered the city to replace its deteriorated courthouse in the public safety complex on Hyde Park Boulevard by March 2007.

Largo President Gary Coscia said the quote of $37 million includes court and police, and the city is currently investigating possible funds.

A new draft contract was given to the city Feb. 21, and Coscia said some of the language the city did not like in previous drafts was omited.

Roscetti said it's likely that, if approved, the developer would negotiate the purchase of land for the project, lend money to the city to purchase the property, adding that cost to a lease-buy back arrangement. It would all result in the city owning the land and building in about 25 to 30 years, and is the scenario the city administration wants.

"They know exactly where the city stands," said Council Chairman Charles Walker. "In another week and a half if we can't get something agreed upon, we're going to have to go another way."

With so many items undecided, city leaders and the developer do agree on one thing: The 2007 deadline will be missed. Walker was encouraged by two resolutions the Council passed Monday regarding the courthouse.

The following seven residents were appointed to a courthouse advisory committee to study financing, building and other components of the project:

Thomas Price, Paul Tronolone and Shawn V. Weber by Mayor Vince Anello; Christopher H. Brown, William Williamson and Rodney A. Giove by the Council; and Laurie Davis by the Main Street Business and Professional Association.

The Council also approved $44,000 to the city's Engineering Department to begin necessary items for a state environmental quality review of the new public safety complex site.

"We have to show some kind of progress to show the courts we're serious," Walker said. "I think the courts will understand . . . as long as we have progress; 2007 won't be a done date, but it will be done soon after that."

Also on Monday, the Council approved a zoning amendment that eliminates the parking requirement for all businesses in the downtown commercial district except hotels and motels. The requirement had been waived for almost every new business in the last several years by the Zoning Board of Appeals and was seen as unrealistic.


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