Budget conference: Senate, House agree on $1.5M for Pinellas Science Center revival

The Science Center of Pinellas County was established in 1959, but closed in 2014.

The Senate has met the House in its offer to allocate $1.5 million for the Pinellas County Science Center.

The offer comes as a result of the House maintaining a $1.5 million appropriation for the center, reflected in its first Transportation and Economic Development budget offer. The Senate originally held strong, keeping with its proposal and allocating only $500,000 for the facility in its previous offer. But the Senate now is matching the House’s funding level.

Likely a priority of Pinellas County Republican House Speaker Chris Sprowls, the appropriation would support renovations on the existing Science Center building.

According to appropriation requests (HB 3831, SF 1464) filed by Sen. Darryl Rouson and Rep. Linda Chaney, the funding would be directed toward storm damage and rising construction costs for the building. Last year, the Legislature approved $500,000 of a requested $1 million.

The $1.5 million would entirely fund this project, according to the requests.

Specifically, the funds would be used to “support renovations on the existing building” as well as make the building ADA compliant, according to the requests.

The Science Center of Pinellas County was established in 1959, serving as many as 22,000 children per year in its prime before closing in 2014, according to the requests.

In the last few years, Pinellas County lawmakers sought to revamp the center to “enable new generations of Pinellas children and families to immerse themselves in STEM/STEAM education.” Many of those who have pushed for the center to be revamped experienced the science center when they were young.

The St. Petersburg City Council has approved moving the building back into the city’s general fund from the Water Management department and has committed $2.1 million to preserve the building’s current condition and conduct a feasibility study on what renovations need to be done, according to the requests.

Pathfinder Outdoor Education, which is set to head the center and its programming, would be in charge of the funding to renovate the facility in hopes that “youth — especially minority, low-income and disenfranchised — will have access to STEM learning.”

Kelly Hayes

Kelly Hayes studied journalism and political science at the University of Florida. Kelly was born and raised in Tampa Bay. A recent graduate, she enjoys government and legal reporting. She has experience covering the Florida Legislature as well as local government, and is a proud Alligator alum. You can reach Kelly at [email protected].


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