Sunday, Dec 21, 2014

Pinellas court workers hitch ride during parking deck construction

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CLEARWATER — If you have to do business at the Pinellas County Justice Center as, say, a juror, or even a crime suspect, you might notice the place slightly more chaotic than usual.

There are shuttle buses disgorging clerks, court employees donning sneakers to walk to their cars, and a sea of pavement south of the complex that’s cordoned off as if it were a Superfund site.

A plan to erect a three-level parking garage on that sea of pavement, where there were roughly 500 parking spaces, got underway in earnest Tuesday, setting in motion alternative parking arrangements.

Those who used to park there are now steered to three separate lots north of the complex.

Because the lots are farther away, shuttles are taking people to the complex and then back to their cars.

But fear not, prospective juror or defendant.

The system inconveniences not you, the infrequent visitor to the complex, but the court employees who work there every day. And it was set up that way.

“The thrust was to have the citizens be close to the building and the employees use the lots,” said Mark Pistillo, a retired county senior project manager who was hired on a contract basis to assist with the project.

“If you want to go in there and pay a traffic ticket, you want a parking space,” Pistillo said. “You don’t want to fight to get one.”

At 8:25 a.m. Tuesday, fully 10 minutes after jurors are supposed to be at the 49th Street complex, there were still spaces for visitors in the main lot directly in front of the building, though they were filling up fast.

The inconvenience for the employees is not expected to last more than 10 months, when the $12 million project is scheduled to be finished.

And then, presumably, things will be better than ever. The three-level garage, with two covered floors and an outside parking deck on top, will hold 1,000 cars, twice as many as the old lot.

sthompson@tampatrib.com

(727) 215-6504

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