Pinellas County deciding how to spend money from BP settlement

In this April 2010 file photo, oil can be seen in the Gulf of Mexico, more than 50 miles southeast of Venice on Louisiana's tip, as a large plume of smoke rises from fires on BP's Deepwater Horizon. Image AP.

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) –- Pinellas County just received $7.2 million as part of a settlement with BP stemming from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

During and immediately after the disaster, hotels and motels dealt with plummeting business on fears the white sands of Gulf beaches would be covered with thick oil. Other businesses, like restaurants and shops, were also affected.

“We saw cancellation of visitors,” said Pinellas County Commission Chairman Charlie Justice. “We saw loss of those tourism dollars we normally see.”

The settlement was handed over to try to make up for some of those losses.

“It’s very rare in government to get a $7 million check that doesn’t come with a bunch of strings,” Justice said.

Leaders want to put every dollar to good use. They’re asking residents for ideas on how to spend it.

Some ideas that have been tossed around include neighborhood improvements, veterans programs, and even a gondola to take people to Clearwater Beach from the mainland.

“Recreation centers, parks for kids, things for people do in Clearwater that live here,” suggested resident Kristi Dodson.

Leaders welcome ideas on the county’s website. They hope to narrow a list of suggestions in the coming weeks and may put the money toward more than one thing.

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