Celebrate Earth Day with Mail Art Contest

Pinellas County residents are encouraged to combine their love of environmental conservation with their creative talents to celebrate Earth Day this year. The UF/IFAS Extension Pinellas County is currently accepting entries for the 2017 Earth Day Mail Art competition. Participants may mail in their artistic entries for a chance to have them featured on social media.

Contest judges are looking for distinctive handmade entries based on the following themes:

• #ToEarthWithLove: creative art about giving back to Earth by recycling, composting and conserving water
• #LoveTampaBay: art pieces that express love for Tampa Bay’s waters and wildlife
• #PlasticAware: visualize how plastics impact the environment, people and/or communities

Entries in each category will be judged by age groups (12 and under, 13-18, and 18 and over). Prizes include a guided hike of Weedon Island Preserve, gardening-themed prize packs, energy saving kits, a tour of the Pinellas County Solid Waste Facility and more. To qualify, entries must be postmarked by Wednesday, April 5.

All artwork must be original and must not contain reproduction of existing artwork or images. Submit artwork to:

UF/IFAS Exension Pinellas County
Earth Day Mail Art Contest
Attention: Trevor Ackerman
12520 Ulmerton Road
Largo, FL 33774

Artists must include their name, email address, phone number, age and category that the artwork should be judged in. Winners will be contacted by phone or email on Friday, April 21.

All entries will be posted on the Pinellas Extension Facebook page and automatically entered in the “Facebook Fan Favorite” contest. That winner will receive a special prize as well. Vote for those entries atwww.facebook.com/PinellasExtension/.

For more information about the Mail Art Contest, prize information and further details about the rules, email Trevor Ackerman at tackerman@pinellascounty.org or visit http://pinellas.ifas.ufl.edu/MailArt.shtml.

Information courtesy of Pinellas County Government

Pinellas Citizen University Begins New Session April 13

Pinellas County residents can experience an up-close and behind-the-scenes look at the first-class services provided by their county government in this year’s Pinellas Citizen University.

Registration is now open for the 6-week course scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday evenings from April 13 through May 17, with a bonus Saturday class on May 20. Participants will get a behind-the-scenes look at various Pinellas County operations each week and talk to the experts as they explore a wide range of county functions. Classes usually meet from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.

During this year’s six week course, students will learn about the five goals of the county’s Strategic Plan with a focus on how our employees are Doing Things every day to serve the public, improving the quality of life of our citizens and making Pinellas an even better place to call home.

•    Learn about the budget and better understand how the county manages funds, including the Penny for Pinellas.
•    Get a behind-the-scenes look at the Pinellas County Jail and its facility operations.
•    See what it takes to plan a hurricane evacuation in the face of an approaching storm and how to stay safe.
•    Participate in a Touch-A-Truck demonstration of the Public Works equipment that is used to bring you safe, effective transportation and faster travel routes.
•    Tour the Waste-to-Energy Facility at Solid Waste and learn how it processes over 800,000 tons of waste per year, providing electricity to power 40,000 homes.
•    Hear about opportunities to excel after graduation and how to get involved in county government.

These are just a few of the exciting experiences planned for this year’s session of Pinellas Citizen University. Enrollment applications and a complete course schedule are available online at www.pinellascounty.org/citizenu or by calling (727) 464-4600.

Upon completion, each graduate receives a diploma signed by the Pinellas County Board of County Commissioners and a class picture to commemorate the event.

Tuition is $35 and includes a class shirt, all course materials, the graduation ceremony and a diploma. Registration for the limited-enrollment class is on a first-come, first-served basis. First consideration will be given to citizens who have not previously participated in PCU. Upon acceptance, a packet will be emailed to all participants with instructions, meeting places, a list of classes and other session information.

Information and photos courtesy of Pinellas County Government

Share Your Opinion Online for Penny for Pinellas

Citizens may share input on future project priorities online through April 16

  • Referendum vote scheduled for Nov. 7, 2017, on 10-year renewal of Penny for Pinellas
  • Citizens invited to provide input via online survey: www.pinellascounty.org/openpinellas
  • Survey will be open through April 16

To offer citizens more ways to voice their priorities for the Penny for Pinellas 1-percent sales tax, Pinellas County government has launched an online survey to gather input about future project areas funded by the Penny.

The survey can be completed in five or less minutes by computer or mobile device via the county’s Open Pinellas citizen feedback tool at: www.pinellascounty.org/openpinellas.

The survey will be open through end of the day, Sunday, April 16, 2017.

The results of the survey will be considered as the Commission sets priorities for investing future Penny funds, which will be based on broad input, guided by the county’s strategic plan, partner feedback and additional public input. Each city will sets its own priorities; this online survey is focused on Pinellas County government’s future Penny investments. The Penny is shared between the county and 24 cities.

Citizens also have the opportunity to share their input at three open house meetings this month, starting today, Wednesday, March 15, from 6-8 p.m., at the Centre, 1500 16th St., Palm Harbor.

More details about these meetings is available at www.pinellascounty.org/penny.

Penny for Pinellas Background

Since it was initially approved by voters, the Penny has helped build a better Pinellas by supporting projects aimed at areas that matter most to citizens, including: improved roads,bridges and trails, water quality and flood prevention, ensuring a safe, secure community, and preserving parks and our environment.

To learn more about the Penny, including an interactive map of past projects, visitwww.pinellascounty.org/penny.

Penny Facts 

  • 1-percent sales tax paid by everyone who spends money in the county
  • One-third is paid for by tourists and seasonal visitors
  • The Penny is collected in Pinellas and builds a better Pinellas
  • Shared between the county and 24 cities
  • Funds long-term capital investments: roads, bridges, trails, water quality and flood prevention projects, parks, public safety facilities and environmental land
  • Not collected on groceries and medications; only collected on the first $5,000 of a single purchase
  • Not a new tax; the Penny has been in effect since 1990

Information courtesy of Pinellas County Government.

County seeks input on Penny for Pinellas

On Nov. 7, 2017, Pinellas County voters will decide on a 10-year renewal of the Penny for Pinellas 1-percent sales tax, from 2020-2030. Before the referendum vote, the Board of County Commissioners is seeking citizen input on the most important areas to invest future funds throughout the community.

The public is invited to provide input about the Penny at three open house meetings, which will run from 6-8 p.m. as follows:

Wednesday, March 15: The Centre, 1500 16th St., Palm Harbor
Monday, March 20: Historic Gulfport Casino, 5500 Shore Blvd. S., Gulfport
Wednesday, March 29: Pinellas County Extension, 12320 Ulmerton Road, Largo

Since it was initially approved by voters, the Penny has helped build a better Pinellas by supporting projects aimed at areas that matter most to citizens, including: improved roads and bridges, water quality and flood protection, public safety and environmental preservation.

The Penny is shared between Pinellas County and its 24 cities to fund long-term, capital projects, such as roads, bridges, stormwater projects, public safety equipment, fire stations, parks, land acquisition, public facilities and investments in courts and jails.

To learn more about the Penny, including an interactive map of projects, visit www.pinellascounty.org/penny.

Penny for Pinellas background  
• 1-percent sales tax paid by everyone who spends money in the county
• One-third is paid for by tourists and seasonal visitors
• All collected Penny funds stay in Pinellas
• Shared between the county and 24 cities
• Funds long-term capital investments: roads, bridges, stormwater projects, parks, public facilities and environmental land
• Not collected on groceries and medications; only collected on the first $5,000 of a single purchase
• Not a new tax; the Penny has been in effect since 1990

Information courtesy of Pinellas County Government.

Animal Services Needs Foster Care Families

In a continuous effort to promote animal welfare, Pinellas County Animal Services is seeking volunteers to join the foster care team. The program, named PACK (Providing Affection, Care and Knowledge), requires a foster application and approval. All foster care parents are required to complete the volunteer orientation class and foster training held at the following dates:

•    March 4, 2017    (Noon – 2 p.m.)     Foster Orientation and Training
•    March 22, 2017     (5:30 – 7:30 p.m.)     Foster Orientation Training

Some of the animals that will benefit from the program include: puppies and kittens too young for adoption, and those recovering from surgery or illness.

Foster volunteers will work directly with the volunteer coordinator and the medical staff.
The foster care training will provide potential foster parents with basic animal cleaning and feeding tips, care specific to the animal(s) being fostered and the shelter’s emergency procedures.

To be part of the foster care team, participants must possess:
•    Genuine concern for the welfare of the animals
•    Willingness to be compassionate to special needs animals
•    Commitment to follow all foster policies and directives as required by the volunteer coordinator
•    Transport foster animals to and from shelter during business hours

“Adoption cannot take place without temporary foster homes for our animals,” said Doug Brightwell, director of Pinellas County Animal Services. “We partner with our residents to provide our animals with additional love and care outside of the shelter.”

Contact the Volunteer Coordinator at (727) 582-2636 or sgroves@pinellascounty.org or fill out the application at www.pinellascounty.org/volunteer.

In 2016, Pinellas County Animal Services volunteers fostered 1,060 animals that needed additional time and care.

Pinellas County Animal Services is located at 12450 Ulmerton Road in Largo. Regular hours of operation are Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. – 6 p.m., with the adoption center closing at 5:30 p.m. Saturday hours are 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. and services include adoptions. Rabies vaccinations are administered on Thursdays from 1 – 4 p.m. The facility is closed on all Pinellas County holidays. For information on how to adopt, donate or volunteer, join Pinellas County Animal Services on Facebook. To learn more about the shelter, visit www.pinellascounty.org/animalservices or call (727) 582-2600.

Beware of the “Can You Hear Me?” Scam

Pinellas County Consumer Protection (727) 464-6200

•    Pinellas County Consumer Protection is alerting residents of new robocall scam
•    If you receive a phone call asking “Can You Hear Me?” – hang up; do not say yes
•    Residents advised to not answer calls from unfamiliar numbers

The latest scam may sound like a commercial, but it’s not. Pinellas County Consumer Protection is advising residents who receive a phone call asking “Can you hear me?” to hang up and not say yes.

The objective is to get the victim to respond to the question by saying “yes”. That affirmative response is recorded and then used to authorize unwanted charges on a phone bill, utility bill or with a stolen credit card.

To add legitimacy to the transaction, the scammer may have already collected some personal information about the victim. When the victim disputes the charge, the scammer will validate the charge with the recording of the victim saying “yes,” therefore approving the charge.

Remember: the question doesn’t have to be “Can you hear me?” It can be any question that prompts a “yes” response. The best way to prevent becoming a victim of a telephone scam is to not answer calls from unfamiliar numbers. Residents are advised to hang up if they answer the call.

If you suspect you are a victim of this scam, here are some steps to take:

•    Check your credit card, phone or cable statements for unauthorized charges.
•    Dispute the unauthorized charges with your billing company.
•    If you have been told that you have been reported as approving the charge(s), request proof.

For more information, or to file a complaint, contact Pinellas County Consumer Protection at  (727) 464-6200 or visit www.pinellascounty.org/consumer.

Local Bay Vista Fundamental Student Gives Back to SPPD

“You even have queso!” The officer exclaimed in appreciation of the taco bar fixings spread on a center conference table that was typically used to discuss details of serious crimes. Today was a bright spot in what can be a dark and  intense world for Sergeant Kevin Haemmelmann and his team in the Major Crimes Unit of the St. Petersburg Police Department.

Savannah Walker, 9 year old Bay Vista Fundamental student, explained that her neighbor in St. Pete Beach and Shells Restaurant had donated the tasty cheese dip as part of her Taco Tuesday luncheon which now covered that same conference table. Fourth grader, Savannah Walker, put lunch together for the officers as part of an annual community service  project for school. Her motivation, she states so simply. “Can you imagine our world without them? There would be no one to fight the bad guys. “ So on Tuesday, January 10th, Savannah Walker, with the help of her mother, grandmother and numerous donors from the greater St. Petersburg community,  served the twenty plus detectives an elaborate taco bar for lunch in their office.

Savannah, a fourth grader, is required once a year by her Gifted Studies teachers, Darcy Webb and Lori Bjostad, to do a community service project.  The Walker family gladly embraces this annual project of giving, having done it with their two older children as well.  “They are creating a tradition of giving to the community you live in and instilling the tradition that you can make a very real difference. As  parents, we love seeing our kids get outside of themselves. They identify a need they are passionate about and we figure out a way to help them help others ,” says Savannah’s mother in praise of the Bay Vista Elementary tradition.

Savannah’s grandmother, Louise Redfearn, who recently relocated to the area from Utah jumped right in to help her granddaughter and added, “It was great to give back to people who give so much and to put a smile on their face when they work in a challenging line of work.” Savannah asked for taco bar donations in a short video that she posted on her  mother’s Facebook page.  “I raised $75 and people from all over St. Pete gave me ingredients for the bar.  I even had enough [money]to buy them a nice Publix cake!”  The family adds that the community seemed excited to give something small but very tangible to the officers.

The detectives seemed to not only enjoy the tacos and , but also truly enjoyed being appreciated by the community.  To this end, they thanked Savannah in a way that only they could.  On February 2nd, they pulled into her driveway in their armored vehicle with sirens and lights blaring.  The whole neighborhood gladly surrounded the vehicle in a surprise celebration as they presented Savannah with a plaque, purchased with voluntary donations from the unit, and bestowed her with the title of “Honorary Detective.” Later that evening, Savannah leaned in to her dad and asked, “ Can we do this every month?” The lesson learned, yet again, is that when one gives, one often gets quite a bit in return.


Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber Advocates for VISIT FLORIDA

Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce has issued a call to action to its members fighting proposed legislation that would completely eliminate VISIT FLORIDA; the state’s tourism marketing agency.

Individuals in the industry need to contact their legislators and remind them of the benefits tourism generates and how VISIT FLORIDA helps small businesses and communities reach new markets that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to capitalize on.

VISIT FLORIDA is essential in bringing visitors to our state who generate 23% of our sales tax revenue, create over 1.4 million jobs, support small business and boost our local economy with $108.8 billion in economic impact. It is critical to renew the focus on the value of marketing the Sunshine State.

For more information and to take action visit: http://www.tampabaybeaches.com/tourism-matters.html

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.

Easy Recycling Options in Pinellas County

  • New 2017 Recycling Directory available online and in local newspapers
  • Pinellas County’s A to Z Guide is now GPS-based
  • Both are accessible online

In a continuous effort to practice superior environmental stewardship, Pinellas County is offering new tools to give residents and visitors easy recycling options. The county has released the new 2017 Recycling Directory and converted its popular A to Z Guide to a geo-locatable web tool.

This year’s directory, which is published annually by Pinellas County Solid Waste, is packed with the latest information about managing waste as a resource and how to properly “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Recover.”

The directory is accessible online.  A free copy of the directory will also be inserted in local newspapers.  The directory will be distributed in the Sunday, Jan. 15, edition of the Tampa Bay Times, the Thursday, Jan. 19, edition of The Weekly Challenger newspaper, and in the Friday, Jan. 20, edition of the tbt* Newspaper, the Tampa Bay Times’ free daily newspaper. Free copies will also be available at many libraries and government offices throughout the county.

Residents can find out how to recycle or safely dispose of just about anything from their home with the county’s A to Z Guide. Pinellas County Solid Waste has partnered with ReCollect, a waste collection mobile application developer, to convert the popular A to Z Guide to a geo-locatable tool.

The online A to Z Guide will allow users to type the name of an item they want to recycle and discover if the material can be reused, recycled or composted as well as where it can be disposed of. If users enter their address, the tool will direct them to the closest recycling or reuse locations, or the nearest disposal sites.

In 2015, Pinellas County attained the highest recycling rate (89%) in Florida, according to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. The rate contributes toward the state’s goal of recycling 75 percent of its waste by 2020.

“Pinellas County residents do a great job recycling and reducing waste, which conserves resources and preserves the life of our landfill,” said Pinellas County Solid Waste Director Kelsi Oswald. “With the new online tools, it is even easier to learn about solid waste management and best practices to reduce, reuse and recycle in our community.”

To learn more about the online A to Z Guide for recycling and disposal in Pinellas County, visit www.pinellascounty.org/solidwaste/getridofit/default.htm. To request a copy of the directory or learn more about recycling, visit www.pinellascounty.org/recycle or call (727) 464-7500.

Pinellas County Solid Waste will be holding the first annual Eco Fun Festival on Sunday, Feb. 26, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Solid Waste facility located at 11418 34th St. N., Clearwater. The free event will feature sustainable living exhibitors and presentations, facility tours, touch-a-truck for children, food vendors and family-friendly fun. The event will be held rain or shine. Visit www.pinellascounty.org/ecofunfest for more information.