Friday, December 15, 2017
News Roundup

Pinellas seeking more help for the disabled at gas stations

Most drivers fueling up at a gas station just have to press a few buttons and swipe their credit card. But for those with physical disabilities, that routine errand can be much more difficult. Pinellas County officials are considering an ordinance that would ease their pain at the pump.

The county wants to follow Hillsborough and Pasco counties in requiring gas stations to post a phone number on their pumps so disabled patrons can call to request assistance from an employee.

The ordinance's proponents say it is a commonsense, inexpensive measure that will address the problem that filling up poses to the disabled.

"When you're in a busy gas station, especially at rush hour, it's a little dangerous to roll out there in your wheelchair, with your ramp down, cars zinging in and out," said Ben Ritter of Tampa, former government relations director for the Florida Gulf Coast Paralyzed Veterans of America.

The Americans With Disabilities Act already requires gas stations with two or more attendants on duty to assist disabled customers. Pinellas' proposed ordinance would enable the county to enforce the requirement, said County Attorney Jim Bennett.

"The ADA has a requirement, so the question is, how do we go about making it a requirement that we can readily enforce? And an ordinance is the way to do that," he said.

Ritter, who first developed the idea of displaying gas stations' phone numbers on their pumps, said the requirement has been ineffectively enforced. "People pull up to a gas station, wave their (handicapped) placard, honk their horn, usually to no avail," he said.

This problem originated with the advent of self-service, said Pat Morricca, head of the Gasoline Retailers Association of Florida, who has given input on the ordinance. Fewer employees on duty means fewer clerks available to help the disabled, he said.

"You can't tell somebody to put two people on because of the disabled," he said. "It's bottom line today with everything."

Morricca added that he supports Pinellas' proposed ordinance in its current form. The association represents fewer than 100 retailers statewide, he said.

But Ned Bowman, executive director of the Florida Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association, who has spoken to county officials about the ordinance, said he is not yet convinced of its necessity.

"I'd be curious to know how many people they think it's affecting," he said. "Is there a need for it?"

The association represents more than 90 percent of the more than 7,000 gas-selling convenience stores in Florida, Bowman said.

He would favor posting signs at stations with two or more attendants on duty. Drivers could avoid going from station to station seeking assistance, he said, adding that he thinks the problem is overstated. "Most of the disabled know where to go get gas," he added.

Sandy Sroka, ADA coordinator for Hillsborough County, which in December became the first county to adopt this kind of ordinance, said she has heard no complaints from customers or gas stations. "We're pleased so far," she said.

Sroka, who uses a wheelchair, said she has found the new law useful in her own life.

"It's been great because I don't have to rely on someone else being in the car to assist me," she said, adding that she can now pull into stations with the lowest prices without fretting over whether she will be able to get help.

A public hearing on the proposed ordinance is scheduled for today's County Commission meeting. Public hearings begin at 6 p.m. on the fifth floor of the county courthouse, 315 Court St., Clearwater.

Andy Thomason can be reached at (727) 445-5155 or [email protected]

Comments
Festivus 2017: Submit your grievances and complaints here

Festivus 2017: Submit your grievances and complaints here

Here's your chance. Tell us what annoyed you in 2017, and we'll share it with our readers.
Updated: 22 minutes ago
Cannon Fodder podcast: Let’s revisit Monday night games in Bucs’ past

Cannon Fodder podcast: Let’s revisit Monday night games in Bucs’ past

Times Bucs writer Greg Auman has injury updates on Lavonte David and Gerald McCoy and a nostalgic trip through the Bucs’ history on Monday night, including the current three-game win streak and yes, that infamous 2003 Colts game where the Bucs were u...
Updated: 29 minutes ago
Tampa Bay Times’ all-Tampa Bay girls swim teams

Tampa Bay Times’ all-Tampa Bay girls swim teams

Hillsborough County Swimmer of the Year: Morgan Tankersley, Sr., PlantTankersley defended her state title in the 500 free (4:44.75) and placed second in one of the country’s fastest 200 free races in 1:46.75, 2.07 seconds behind Buchholz junior Isa...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Love of science is the goal, now that every Pinellas elementary school has a lab

Love of science is the goal, now that every Pinellas elementary school has a lab

SEMINOLE — It was hard for the second-graders at Orange Grove Elementary to resist the urge to rush into the school’s science lab and tinker with the colorful objects neatly arranged on each table.Thursday was just their second time in the lab this y...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Deputies: Plant City men fled in stolen car, later found in swamp

Deputies: Plant City men fled in stolen car, later found in swamp

DOVER — Two Plant City men, with several outstanding warrants, face additional charges after Hillsborough County deputies said they were driving a stolen car when they fled an attempted traffic stop on Thursday afternoon.The men ran away from deputie...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Why the Bucs need a Dungy more than a Gruden

Why the Bucs need a Dungy more than a Gruden

TAMPA — The worst week of Dirk Koetter’s life rolls on.It’s Gruden Week, just like Shark Week, only with smaller teeth and a bigger playbook. It’s the big build-up to Gruden’s induction into the Buc Ring of Honor this Monday night, with the accompany...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Arrest made as former gay bathhouse in Ybor City is hit by arson a third time

Arrest made as former gay bathhouse in Ybor City is hit by arson a third time

TAMPA — Tampa police arrested a man Friday on charges he set fire to a vacant Ybor City bathhouse hit by at least two earlier arsons this year.Police said Carroll DeMoss, 46, was found early Friday inside the building at 1512 E 8th Ave. after patrols...
Updated: 1 hour ago
The meta-soap opera of Omarosa Manigault’s White House exit

The meta-soap opera of Omarosa Manigault’s White House exit

WASHINGTON — As the spooling drama of Omarosa Manigault Newman’s White House departure spun into its 36th hour, Washington began asking itself: "Does it actually matter whether Omarosa quit or was fired?"Dumbest story ever," tweeted John Harwood, the...
Updated: 2 hours ago
How the Disney/Fox deal will shake up Hollywood

How the Disney/Fox deal will shake up Hollywood

Associated Press NEW YORK — After years of tremors, the earthquake that had long been predicted finally shook Hollywood. Disney’s deal to purchase most of 21st Century Fox ends the era of the "Big Six" major movie studios, toppling one ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Being your own lawyer: bad idea. People in Tampa Bay do it anyway.

Being your own lawyer: bad idea. People in Tampa Bay do it anyway.

LARGO — Daniel Richards walked into the courtroom in his orange jail scrubs. Carrying a stack of papers, he stood in front of Pinellas Circuit judge Chris Helinger as she glanced at the handwritten documents he filed days earlier."I foresee foul play...
Updated: 2 hours ago