Fire Rescue to replace three fire engines by September
East Lake Fire Rescue is in the processing of buying three fire engines at a cost of $1.6 million.
The new trucks, which are being ordered from Pierce Manufacturing, will replace three of the fire district's engines that have an average age of almost 12 years.
"Our current fleet was showing signs of age, with downtime and maintenance costs increasing," fire Chief Tom Jamison said.
Deputy Chief Jason Gennaro led the acquisition team that selected the equipment and vendor.
Most of the purchase — $1.5 million — is being paid for with revenue from the Penny for Pinellas sales tax. The new trucks will arrive in September.
City Council explores how best to plan for development
The City Council unanimously approved on Thursday spending $250,000 to conduct a strategic direction action plan, a citizen survey and a branding effort for downtown and the surrounding neighborhoods.
The three-pronged approach will help city planners identify how best to proceed in developing the area and working with large organizations like the Clearwater Marine Aquarium and the Church of Scientology, city staff said.
The strategic action plan will be conducted by the Urban Land Institute, which would start work in a few months and should have a report ready by the end of the year. The institute has recently conducted a review of the St. Petersburg waterfront and Tampa.
Vice Mayor Paul Gibson said he thought the city should wait until voters decide whether to bolster public transportation as part of the Greenlight Pinellas initiative on the November ballot.
"If I were to start this, I would start it when I know the answer," Gibson said.
But Mayor George Cretekos said Greenlight's light-rail component, the aspect of the initiative most likely to reshape downtown, would be many years down the road if voters approve the plan.
Cretekos urged city planners to include the East Gateway and N Fort Harrison Avenue neighborhoods as part of the institute's review.
"To me, those are pretty vital to the downtown," Cretekos said.
Pilots volunteering for young people
Local young people ages 8 to 17 will have a chance to take to the skies from 8 a.m. to noon Saturday as Experimental Aircraft Association Chapter 282 hosts a Young Eagles Flight Rally at Clearwater Airpark, 1000 N Hercules Ave.
The rally is part of the EAA Young Eagles Program, created to interest young people in aviation. Since the program launched in 1992, volunteer pilots have flown more than 1.8 million young people in more than 90 countries.
"Free airplane rides are just part of the Flight Rally," said Bob Flynn, the event's spokesman. "We hope to build one-on-one relationships among pilots and young people, giving a new generation the chance to learn more about the possibilities that exist in the world of aviation."
Pilots at the event will also explain more about their airplanes, allowing young people to discover how airplanes work and how pilots ensure safety before every flight. Following the flight, each young person will receive a certificate making them an official Young Eagle. Their name will then be entered into the "World's Largest Logbook," which is on permanent display at the EAA Air Adventure Museum in Oshkosh, Wis. The logbook is also accessible online at youngeagles.org.
Other activities scheduled for the Flight Rally include listening to the pilot's briefing prior to flying, monitoring the aircraft in flight via radio, and touring the EAA Chapter 282 hangar, where an aerobatic craft is being built by members of Chapter 282. Snacks, coffee, cold drinks and other items will be available for a small donation.
Along with Flight Rallies, EAA members — when able — also fly Young Eagles on an individual basis. Each pilot volunteers their time and aircraft so the flights can be provided free of charge for interested young people.
Those attending the Flight Rally on Saturday are asked to be at Clearwater Airpark starting at 8 a.m. to register for their flight. Registration is first come, first served and will continue until 11 a.m. unless organizers reach the maximum of 50 Young Eagles, at which time registration will close. Flights begin at 9 a.m. and continue until noon.
Additional information about the EAA Young Eagles program is available at eaa.org or eaa282.org.
Boating safety class still open
There are still seats available for the About Boating Safely class March 8-9 at the Clearwater Police headquarters, 645 Pierce St. Start time both days is 8 a.m. The class is being presented by the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla 11-1 Clearwater. Topics include boating emergencies, navigating and the legal requirements of operating a boat. There is a material fee of $35. Call Manny Sosa, (727) 469-8895 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Road to close for improvements
Edgewater Drive, between State Road 580 and Sunset Point Road, will be closed through March 24 while contractors work on a $3.5 million stormwater drainage improvement project. During the month-long road closure, north-south traffic will be diverted to Patricia Avenue.