Sunday, December 17, 2017
News Roundup

Feud between Largo and county over fees may be ending

LARGO — The debate between the city and Pinellas County over the county's "pre-emption" ordinance may come to an end Tuesday. For now.

The City Commission last week approved an agreement between the two governments that settles how much the county will pay Largo in permitting fees for the new $81 million public safety complex the county will build in the city. On Tuesday, the County Commission is scheduled to approve the agreement.

County attorneys drew up the controversial pre-emption ordinance last fall after learning Largo would charge it $205,000 more in fees than the county would charge itself using its own permitting fees. The ordinance exempts facilities of "countywide significance" — like courthouses, county parks, and health and welfare facilities — from city regulations.

The ordinance drew a chorus of complaints from cities across Pinellas, led by Largo, which was the first city to formally lodge a complaint in September. However, the County Commission passed the ordinance in October.

That prompted Largo City Attorney Alan Zimmet to recommend formal conflict resolution, the state-mandated precursor to legal action between government agencies. Zimmet feels the ordinance oversteps the county's legal powers.

City commissioners urged an attempt at compromise first, though, and the attempt was successful pending County Commission approval Tuesday. Mayor Pat Gerard thanked Zimmet for avoiding a legal battle between the two governments.

"I know you wanted to go to mediation right away," Gerard said, "but I appreciate your working through it and coming to what looks like a pretty satisfactory agreement for all of us."

Under the agreement, Pinellas County will pay a combination of its own rates and city rates. The end result is the county will pay the city about $421,000 in fees for the public safety complex, or about $196,000 less than what Largo originally charged the county.

While the agreement resolves the disagreement over how much the county should pay for this facility, the underlying disagreement over the ordinance remains. The interlocal agreement includes language that says it should serve as the guide to resolve similar disagreements in the future.

While Largo may have sheathed its legal sword, St. Petersburg has moved forward with conflict resolution over the pre-emption ordinance. Staff from St. Petersburg and Pinellas County will meet next week, according to St. Petersburg Chief Assistant City Attorney Mark Winn, and a meeting between their two governing bodies will follow.

Groundbreaking for the public safety complex has been delayed while the county and city wrangled over permitting costs. Work should begin by May or June, according to Paul Sacco, director of real estate management for Pinellas, and will take 26 months to complete.

In other City Commission action this week:

• Commissioners approved the first reading of a change to city code that will allow drive-through restaurants on a conditional basis in the downtown development area. The switch was prompted by McDonald's, which wants to rebuild its West Bay Drive location. That McDonald's was built before the city barred drive-throughs downtown.

• Commissioners approved a new plan for vacation and sick time compensation for the city's non-union employees, which constitute about one-quarter of the city's workforce. Under the new plan, employees will accrue vacation time quicker, but will not be able to convert as much unused paid time off into cash.

Commissioner Harriet Crozier had a few pointed questions for human resources director Susan Sinz about the changes, which will save the city about $31,000 in the first year.

"Why did you put this on the table for us to consider?" Crozier asked.

"To save money," said Sinz, which prompted a smile from Gerard.

"Good answer," Gerard said.

Will Hobson can be reached at (727) 445-4167 or [email protected]

Comments
Lightning wins at Avalanche with four-goal second period

Lightning wins at Avalanche with four-goal second period

DENVER — The Lightning left for Las Vegas Saturday for the first of four nights in Sin City.But Tampa Bay’s first regret came before it boarded the charter flight; the Lighting lamented making Saturday’s 6-5 win over the Avalanche much more thrilling...
Updated: 4 hours ago

Bucs’ Gerald McCoy, Lavonte David out for Monday’s game vs. Falcons

TAMPA — As if containing All-Pro Julio Jones and the Falcons offense isn’t challenging enough, the Bucs will try to do so Monday night without perhaps their top defensive players, tackle Gerald McCoy and linebacker Lavonte David.On Saturday, Bucs coa...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Trump defends tax plan, proclaims economy set ‘to rock’

Trump defends tax plan, proclaims economy set ‘to rock’

WASHINGTON — Closing in on the first major legislative achievement of his term, President Donald Trump on Saturday defended the Republican tax cut as a good deal for the middle class while boldly suggesting it could lead to explosive economic growth....
Updated: 8 hours ago
Aquarium reopens to divers

Aquarium reopens to divers

Florida Keys News BureauVisitors to Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters dive with among indigenous Keys fish Friday in Marathon. The attraction reopened Friday after closing just before Hurricane Irma hit the Florida Keys on Sept. 10. Although tourism f...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Florida moves to control booming, invasive iguanas

Florida moves to control booming, invasive iguanas

MIAMI — With burrowing iguanas showing up in people’s toilets and damaging expensive sewer lines, Florida wildlife managers are stepping up efforts to control the state’s booming population of the wild, invasive reptiles. The Florida Fish and Wildlif...
Updated: 9 hours ago

Fan helps fund Miami Stadium’s historic marker

MIAMI — For thousands of kids who grew up in Miami, going to the old Miami Stadium in the Allapattah neighborhood was a part of coming of age. Opened on Aug. 31, 1949, with a game between the Miami Sun Sox and Havana Cubans, two Class B Florida Inter...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Florida man sues for $2.8 million fishing tournament prize money

Florida man sues for $2.8 million fishing tournament prize money

OCEAN CITY, Md. — Phil Heasley of Naples caught the fish of his life, but the $2.8 million in tournament prize money got away. Heasley reeled in a 6-foot white marlin last year off Maryland’s coast. But in a sign of how concerned some big money tour...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Romano: Some bullies survive beyond the schoolyard

Romano: Some bullies survive beyond the schoolyard

Sometime soon, members of the Florida House will be asked to consider a solution for bullying in public schools. It’s a dubious idea based on the premise that students should flee their tormenters, and use voucher funds to attend a private school of ...
Updated: 9 hours ago

Two die in head-on crash on Gunn Highway in Odessa

ODESSA — Hillsborough County deputies are investigating a head-on crash on Gunn Highway that killed two and sent a child to the hospital Saturday afternoon.About 12: 45 p.m., Terry Lee Bronschidle, 70, of Tampa was driving his Chevy Traverse south on...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Q&A with Syracuse coach Benoit Groulx about the Lightning’s next generation

Q&A with Syracuse coach Benoit Groulx about the Lightning’s next generation

DENVER — There might be one team in hockey hotter than the Lightning.It is Tampa Bay’s AHL affiliate, Syracuse.The Crunch has won 10 straight after Friday’s victory over Providence. Why is this important? While the AHL is a developmental league, the ...
Updated: 10 hours ago