In St. Pete, time running out for RNC preparations - FOX 13 News

In St. Pete, time running out for RNC preparations

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ST. PETERSBURG (FOX 13) -

The "tick-tock" of the clock has overtaken any official announcement of a Republican National Convention welcoming party at Tropicana Field. 

"We're just running out of time. We're 80 days out," Mayor Bill Foster said.

Thursday, the St. Petersburg City Council will be asked to approve spending $270,000 on monitored security cameras. 

"You know these things have to be ordered, they have to be installed, the software platforms have to be engaged, people have to be educated on how to use this type of technology," Foster explained, "The RNC is causing the sense of urgency."

Information provided the city council says the cameras will be deployed in "strategic areas". 

Asked for more specific locations, Foster said "Strategic areas are those that may be defined by the Secret Service in securing an event or those determined by the St. Pete Police Department, knowing that we're going to have high-traffic tourist areas that'll be just eaten up with humanity."

The RNC Host Committee has yet to formally announce the welcoming event, which would combine traditional parties for approximately 7,000 Republican party delegates and approximately 15,000 members of the media. 

The monster-sized party would be held Sunday, August 26th.  More than a year ago, the Tampa Bay Rays arranged to be absent on that day, and the Secret Service has acknowledged Tropicana Field will be the site of a national security event.

For nearly a year, Pinellas law enforcement agencies have been quietly making contingency plans for events that may be held outside of Tampa. 

The RNC is expected to attract a wide variety of protesters, including some who are considered dangerous. 

"There's no distinction between Tampa and St. Pete anymore, so we have to be prepared," Foster said. "Anyone wishing to disrupt the event will not distinguish between events in Tampa and events in Pinellas County." 

St. Petersburg's mayor has been a proponent of security cameras for years, but there was no money for the kind of system he envisions.  Now Foster expects federal security funds funneled through the city of Tampa to pay for the first phase. 

"I wouldn't buy anything if I thought we were just going to use it for one week and then it grows into obsolescence," Foster said.  Since the RNC has expedited the project, "We need to be compensated," he said. 

The mayor also said the camera system, which will include recording and monitoring hardware and software, is the largest RNC-related expenditure, but there will be others. 

"Truly, everything from fire hydrant locks to adjustable handcuffs—I mean, again, you're preparing for a lot of people and a lot of security."

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