Penny for Pinellas Voter Information Session

The Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce Community Advocacy Quarterly Meeting focuses on the renewal of Penny for Pinellas

Join the Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce 9:00 a.m.February 16th at the Madeira Beach Rec Center, 200 Rex Place. Learn why voters should renew the Penny for Pinellas in November. Our guest speaker will explain how Penny for Pinellas was used to complete important infrastructure, beautification and capital improvement projects throughout our communities. The discussion will include a list of future projects projected to be completed if voters approve the renewal of the penny.

Investments from the Penny for Pinellas include:

  • New bridges that span our waterways and neighborhood parks
  • Faster travel with 68 new lane miles, 16 major roads with added lanes
  • Safer communities with more than 20 fire and emergency facilities built or renovated
  • More than 150 projects to enhance our stormwater systems and flood control
  • Protection of natural resources with hundreds of acres of land preserved, upgrades to 21 parks and more than 50 new miles of multiuse trails.

For more information on Penny for Pinellas visit: http://www.tampabaybeaches.com/events.

News: Municipal Elections March 14th

Ever an interesting political environment, the 2017 St. Pete Beach mayors race is proving to be no exception. When Mayor Maria Lowe resigned last summer to join her husband and son on their move to Normandy, the commission selected frequent commission critic Deborah Schechner, out of a field of ten applicants. One of the conditions of her selection was her promise that she would not run for the Mayor’s position in March, as it would give her an unfair advantage to run as an incumbant. Melinda Pletcher, whose vote for Schechner gave her the appointment, said she never would have voted for her had she remembered she had sued the city, especially since the suit was still active. Mayor Schechner has not commented on her broken promise to the commission.

Alan Johnson is the thinking voter’s choice for mayor. A retired engineer who spent  35 years at General Electric. Al has been active as Chairman of the city’s Finance and Budget Review Committee and previously served on the city’s Recreation Advisory Committee. Although this is Al’s first attempt at an elected position in the city, he has been a longtime volunteer and supporter of many city functions. He was founder along with his late wife Wendy Johnson of Motion Sports Management and the St. Pete Beach Classic Race which brings out 2,000+ runners and more than 200 community volunteers each January. Works hand in hand with Sheriffs, city hoteliers, particularly the Sirata resort. If anyone can understand the city’s economic challenges, continue to help mend the rift that exists between some residents and  redevelopment interests to help propel the community forward, it’s Al Johnson.

A third candidate, John-Michael Fleig, is another frequent vocal attendee at city commission meetings. Founder and partner of the Baywaters Inn and the Rita-Terese property Management Agency, Fleig says he has the “pulse of the overall public” in the city, and that his property management experience has taught him the importance of planning. He has not run for office in St. Pete Beach before, but  was a republican candidate in the 2nd Congressional District of Maryland in 1990, 1994 & 1998. He withdrew after pleading guilty in a plea bargain to being an accessory after the fact to murder, according to 1997-98 articles from the Baltimore Sun that are available online. Fleig also was announced as a 2014 Republican candidate seeking to represent the 13th Congressional District of Florida but did not qualify to run in the special election by the November 19, 2013 filing deadline.

A press release dated Dec. 24th, from politicalspitfir@aol.com, attributed to Fleig mostly assailed Mayor Schechner for her broken promise to the commission. While he complains she shouldn’t be allowed to run because ‘rules are rules’, it is not clear whether Fleig has even read the rules in the candidate’s handbook that he had to swear he read and understood when he registered to run for office. Neither his recent  “Press Release”  nor a flyer left at our door about his campaign included the necessary political small print, absence of which is grounds for fines or worse if a complaint were filed.

District 2 Commissioner Rick Falkenstein & District 4 Commissioner Melinda Pletcher retained their seats unopposed.

______________________

Christine Anne Brown and Linda Bailey are running for Gulfport Council Seat for Ward 2. Ward 4 is more competitive with 4 contenders: Bobby L. Reynolds, Michael Fridovich Richard Fried and Ernest Stone. Treasure Island candidate registration was open until January 4th, so details in that race were not available at press time. More on the local races in the February issue.  PN

Residents Reminded of Fireworks Ban for New Year’s Eve

  • Ban on the retail sale, purchase or use of fireworks that project into the air or explode
  • Use of sparklers remains legal, but residents are urged to follow necessary safety steps
  • Place pets in a sheltered and escape-proof area of the home during fireworks displays

As revelers prepare to ring in the New Year on Dec. 31, Pinellas County reminds residents of the ban on the retail sale, purchase or use of fireworks that project into the air or explode.

Pinellas County Emergency Medical Services and Fire Administration urges residents to play it safe by enjoying fireworks displays that are conducted by trained professionals.

Resident Safety:

Sparklers and fountains remain legal, but they can be dangerous, reaching temperatures of up to 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit. Only those over 12 years of age should handle sparklers of any type. Youth often get burned by sparklers every year, so responsible adult supervision is necessary at all times. Officials urge extreme caution and advise residents to follow basic safety recommendations:

  • Read and understand all product warnings.
  • Never place any body part directly over a device when lighting the fuse.
  • Use sparklers only as intended outdoors.
  • Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy in case of fire or other mishap.
  • After using these devices, douse them with plenty of water from a bucket or hose before discarding.

Residents who witness the use of illegal fireworks are asked to call their municipality’s law enforcement non-emergency number. A list of law enforcement non-emergency phone numbers is available at www.pinellascounty.org/publicsafety/pdf/Contacts.pdf. Residents should call 911 only in the event of an emergency.

Pet Safety:

Pinellas County Animal Services reminds pet owners to keep a close eye on their pets during fireworks displays as these can lead to animals running loose onto streets and freeways, getting lost or ending up in shelters.

“Pet owners should be aware that some dogs will do anything they can to escape the noise of fireworks,” said Pinellas County Animal Services Director Doug Brightwell. “One of the easiest ways for pet owners to ensure their pet won’t run away is by placing them in a quiet, sheltered and escape-proof area of the home.”

Other safety tips include:

  • Make sure your pet is microchipped, license is current and tags are secured to the pet’s collar.
  • Keep pets indoors in a cool, comfortable place with some minor noise distraction such as a radio or television.
  • Do not take pets to fireworks events.
  • If you are leaving town and cannot take your pets with you, make sure you leave them with someone who will be particularly cautious and responsible during New Year’s Eve celebrations.

Pinellas Commission Adopts FY2017 Budget

pinellascountyThe Pinellas County Board of County Commissioners adopted the final $2.2 billion budget for the 2017 fiscal year at its Sept. 27 final budget public hearing.

The FY2017 budget represents a 6.4 percent increase over the current budget, due to a net increase in personal services, capital and reserves. No increase in the countywide millage rates was required to balance the budget and meet important needs and priorities. The 2017 fiscal year begins Saturday, Oct. 1.

“The adopted budget aligns with the county’s strategic goal of responsibly managing public resources in our delivery of everyday services to our residents,” said Commission Chairman Charlie Justice.

The FY2017 budget carefully and incrementally will restore service levels to meet pressing community needs in a financially-prudent manner. Key areas include:

  • Increased staffing for code enforcement to reduce response times.
  • Health program enhancements including HIV/AIDS educational outreach, dental sealant for elementary and middle school children, and 211 after-hours staffing to reduce call wait times.
  • Establishment and funding for a Community Redevelopment Area (CRA) in Lealman to enable specific improvements to services and infrastructure as guided by the community.
  • Homeless support to enable rapid re-housing, case management and care coordination.

A comprehensive overview of the budget is available for citizens to review at the Office of Management and Budget website, www.pinellascounty.org/budget/. Residents may also watch a video to learn more about the budget process.

The County Commission held its first public budget hearing on the FY2017 budget on Sept. 14. Earlier in the year, the BCC held a Community Conversation in May, inviting citizen input in person, by phone and on digital platforms about issues important to them. Throughout the spring and summer, the Commission held a series of budget information sessions to review key program areas and develop strategies to better serve the community. At these sessions, the Board obtained information on budget proposals for county departments, as well as budget presentations by independent agencies and elected officials.

The Pinellas County “Doing Things for You” app is available for residents to report issues and access useful resources. Pinellas County can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram. More information is available on the county website www.pinellascounty.org which features LiveChat for assistance. Pinellas County complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Pinellas: Proposed FY17 Budget

The Pinellas County government budget took center stage during the July 19 regularly-scheduled Board of County Commissioners meeting, as county staff presented the proposed FY17 budget and received a national-level award for the county’s FY16 budget document.

The proposed FY17 overall budget is $2,185,397,210 and captures proposed budgets for all of Pinellas County Commission governmental and enterprise services, constitutional officers and other services including fire districts and court support. Citizens may review the proposed budget document online. Moving forward, the Board will hold budget information sessions and public hearings over the next two months in preparation for adoption of the FY17 budget and property tax rates on Sept. 27.

Also during Tuesday’s meeting, Commission Chairman Charlie Justice presented the county’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) with the Distinguished Budget Presentation Award from the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada for the presentation of the county’s 2016 budget document.  This is the 12th consecutive year that Pinellas has earned the award.  

pinellas-officials

“The Distinguished Budget Presentation Award represents a significant achievement by the county,” said Bill Berger, OMB director. “It reflects the commitment of the Board of County Commissioners and our staff to be transparent in presenting our budget, to follow best practices in governmental budgeting and, ultimately, to be responsible stewards of the public’s resources.”

To receive the budget award, the Office of Management and Budget had to fulfill nationally-recognized guidelines for effective budget presentation. The guidelines assess how well the budget serves as a policy document, a financial plan, an operations guide and a communications device.

This accomplishment underscores a component of the strategic plan to be responsible stewards of the public’s resources, which includes ensuring the financial stability of the county.  

The GFOA established the Distinguished Budget Presentation Awards Program (Budget Awards Program) in 1984 to encourage and assist state and local governments to prepare budget documents of the very highest quality that reflect both the guidelines established by the National Advisory Council on State and Local Budgeting and the GFOA’s best practices on budgeting. Documents submitted to the Budget Awards Program are reviewed by selected members of the GFOA professional staff and by outside reviewers with experience in public-sector budgeting. 

From the Desk of Sheriff Bob Gualtieri: Vacation Safety

pinellas-sheriff-badgePlanning a vacation this summer? There’s no better way to recharge than to get away, relax, enjoy the sights and spend time with family. But as we unwind, remember to never let your guard down when it comes to safety.

Keeping ourselves, our loved ones and our personal belongings safe must be our top priority, and doing so begins before we even leave home.

Secure your home. Lock your doors and windows. Lock up valuables, such as jewelry. Consider leaving some lights on. Tell a friend or neighbor that you will be out of town, and ask him/her to pick up your mail and newspapers, because a packed mailbox or a stack of newspapers at your front door signals would-be burglars that you are not there. Always leave a number where you may be contacted in case of an emergency.

If you would like someone to check on your home while you are away, contact your local law enforcement agency. If you live in the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office jurisdiction, call us at 727-582- 6200, and a deputy or Volunteer Patrol member will be glad to a conduct vacation home check.

On the road, keep cash, credit cards, identification, passports, itineraries, cell phones, cameras and other items of value with you at all times. Consider using traveler’s checks and/or credit cards instead of cash whenever possible.

Never leave your luggage unattended. Keep it within visual range, even while you check in at the airport, a hotel, or a rental car station. If you can secure your valuables in a hotel room safe – do so. Once in your room, find the exit routes, and familiarize yourself with the evacuation procedures in case of an emergency.

Try to acquaint yourself with the place you are visiting ahead of time. Make a plan with your family about what to do if you get separated for any reason. Perhaps, agree on a place and time that you will regroup if you get split up.

As you get ready to explore, keep small children close.

Remain aware of your surroundings. Practice the normal safety routines that you would if you were home. Don’t get stuck in an unlit parking lot or a lonely dead-end street, and avoid risks that you would not normally take.

If you are travelling by car, stay on safe, well-travelled roads. Map your drive to avoid getting lost and ending up in dangerous situations. Be aware of construction areas: Adjust your speed, allow time for possible delays, and ensure your vehicle is adequately fueled.

Don’t drive when you are tired. If possible, take turns driving with other family members to prevent fatigue. Prolonged driving can make you groggy and more prone to a traffic crash. Stop periodically for rest. Drive defensively. Make sure everyone is properly buckled up, which includes using the appropriate child safety restraints.

Park your vehicle in a safe location. Don’t leave items in plain view when you leave your car.

Instead, store your items in the trunk or somewhere out of sight. Lock your doors and close your windows to prevent a vehicle burglary. Burglars are generally looking for an easy target, locking your doors will prevent a crime of opportunity.

A little planning, along with a dose of good common sense and judgment can go a long way toward making your summer vacation fun, and above all, safe.

Have a great time being a being a tourist – not a target.

City of St. Pete Beach Commission Mayor-Commissioner Vacancy

spb-city-bannerThe City of St. Pete Beach has a vacancy on the City Commission for the seat of Mayor-Commissioner, effective June 30, 2016. As provided in the City Charter, the City Commission shall fill the vacancy until the next regular election. At their July 7, 2016 Special Meeting, the Commission approved the process to fill the vacancy as follows:

Interested candidates must meet the following qualifications:

1. Shall be a full-time resident of the City of St. Pete Beach for a period of one (1) year prior to June 29, 2016; and
2. Shall be a qualified voter of Pinellas County; and
3. Shall be qualified under the Constitution and laws of the State of Florida to hold the office to which he or she desires to be nominated or elected.

Interested candidates must:
1. Submit letter of interest; and 2. Submit a resume (or Curriculum vitae); and
3. Specify the reason(s) you want to serve as Mayor and what specific skills/qualifications you possess that make you the better candidate.

The City Commission will interview candidates in the Commission Chambers prior to the regular City Commission meeting on Tuesday, July 26, 2016. The exact time will be determined.

The Oath of Office will be given to the successful candidate that evening at the regular meeting beginning at 6:00 p.m.

If interested, please provide the documents listed above by 12:00 p.m./noon on Friday, July 15, 2016 to: Rebecca C. Haynes, City Clerk City of St. Pete Beach 155 Corey Avenue St. Pete Beach, FL 33706 727.363.9220 cityclerk@stpetebeach.org No consideration will be given to applicants who submit documents after the deadline.

St. Pete Beach Mayor Maria Lowe Resigns

“As Memorial Day approaches, I am honored to announce that my husband has been selected as the Deputy Director of Cemetery Operations for the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) which tends the graves of our fallen soldiers worldwide.

I am immensely proud that our family will be a part this remarkably patriotic responsibility. The cemeteries like Normandy are a striking, somber reminder of the sacrifices made in order to uphold the freedoms of our country and preserve the freedoms of our allies. Some gave all…and we must never forget that freedom is not free.

maria-lowe-first-day

ABMC is headquartered in Paris, France where we will move by the end of the year. However, we will maintain our home in St Pete Beach and return often to be with our beloved friends and community. When our time of service is done, we’ll return home.

I will continue to serve as Mayor for the remainder of the year. I look forward to working with the candidates that will seek your vote to be your next Mayor so that there will be a quality transition and exchange of knowledge. Being a Commissioner is a remarkable experience and I hope more people will raise their hand to help guide and protect our piece of paradise.

Thank you for the opportunity that you have given to me to be a part of this community in such a rewarding way.” – Mayor Maria Lowe

Words by Maria Lowe
Picture is of Maria on her first day. Photo by Bill Horne. 

Pier Approach Design Team Seeks Input on Project Design

The design team for the Pier Approach – W Architecture and Landscape Architecture and Wannemacher Jensen Architects – are seeking input from the community on aspects of this vital project.

The Pier Approach will connect the downtown core to the Pier with an active, connected and coordinated sequence of facilities and venues, using the completed Downtown Waterfront Master Plan as a guide.

pier-approach

The public is invited to provide input to the design team on specific design components for the Pier Approach on Tuesday, March 15, 2016. During the meeting, the design team will provide a brief overview of the initial concepts, then facilitate discussion on design ideas.

The public meeting will be held from 7-9 p.m. on March 15 at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg’s University Student Center Ballroom, 200 6th Ave South in downtown St. Petersburg.

After the meeting, the City of St. Petersburg will provide opportunities for online input from the public. W Architecture and Landscape Architecture and Wannemacher Jensen Architects will consider the input gathered at the March 15 meeting and online in the concept design for the Pier Approach.

On-street parking for the March 15 meeting is available near the USFSP Student Center. Parking is also available in USFSP’s parking garage at 260 5th Ave South for a $5 fee.

The public meeting will be filmed and available to view on StPete.org and the City of St. Petersburg’s TV Channel (Bright House channel 641, Verizon FIOS channel 20 and WOW! Cable channel 15) within a few days of the meeting.

For more information on the meeting, please contact Kristin Brett at (727) 744-2020 or Kristin.Brett@StPete.org.

The new St. Petersburg Pier and Pier Approach create the Pier District along St. Petersburg’sdowntown waterfront. The schematic design of the $50 million Pier is nearing completion, while design for the concepts for the $20 million Pier Approach is now underway. In October 2015, W Architecture and Landscape Architecture in partnership with Wannemacher Jensen Architects were selected to design the Pier Approach, and the first phase of the design contract wasapproved in late January 2016. Concept completion for the Pier Approach is expected in May/June 2016. Additional information about the new St. Petersburg Pier and the Pier Approach is available at NewStPetePier.com.

Pinellas prepares for the Great Tornado Drill

the-great-tornado-drillTake shelter and a selfie to participate in the Jan. 6 exercise.

With El Niño threatening the Tampa Bay region with severe weather this winter and spring, Pinellas County is partnering with other central Florida counties and the National Weather Service to prepare with the regional Great Tornado Drill.

Everyone is urged to participate. Businesses, organizations, families and individuals are asked to first identify a shelter and their source of emergency alerts, such as messages received on a mobile phone, weather radio or other notification service. The alerts should be loud enough to wake a person up if a tornado were to hit in the middle of the night. 

Then at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 6, the NWS will issue a test alert through the Weather Alert Radios only, following a scenario that a tornado is in the area, and warning people to take shelter. Regardless of whether the alert is heard at 10 a.m., participants should practice taking cover and then take a selfie of their group.

By using the hashtag #PCtornadodrill and posting it on Pinellas County’s Facebook at www.facebook.com/PinellasCountyNews, Twitter at www.twitter.com/PinellasCoNews or Instagram at www.instagram.com/PinellasCounty, participants will have a chance to win a NOAA weather alert radio, provided by the State of Florida. 

The test in Pinellas County will be over at 10:30 a.m. This is a pilot program to encourage business leaders, faith-based organizations, non-profits, governmental agencies and individuals to identify how tornado alerts will be received at work or home, where safe rooms could be used as shelters during tornadoes, and how to move staff, customers or family into those areas in the safest manner possible. 

To participate:

1. Know how to receive severe weather warnings.
2. At 10 a.m. on Jan. 6, practice finding your shelter and take a selfie.
3. Post the photo with hashtag #PCtornadodrill.  

The best photo entries will win a NOAA Weather Radio. NOAA broadcasts continuous emergency weather information from offices around the country. When a warning is issued, these radios emit a loud tone that will awaken those near to take protective cover. This device is available at drug stores, home improvement stores and other large retailers.

The Great Tornado Drill is a joint effort of the National Weather Service and numerous Florida counties, including Pinellas, Hillsborough, Polk, Pasco, Manatee and Sarasota counties as well as Brevard, Indian River, Lake, Okeechobee, Orange, Osceola, Seminole, and Volusia counties. Registration for the drill is not necessary. For more information on emergency preparedness, go to www.pinellascounty.org/emergency.  

Pinellas County “Doing Things for You” app is available for residents to report issues and access useful resources. Pinellas County can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram. More information is available on the county website www.pinellascounty.org which features LiveChat for assistance. Pinellas County complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act.