Monday, January 22, 2018
News Roundup

New Pier group to gather feedback; another city clerk departs

Another new Pier group

Expect Mayor Rick Kriseman to name a "working group" in the next few days that will help him sort out what residents want at a new Pier. That's the news that interim city development administrator Dave Metz — standing in for Kriseman, who was observing Passover — brought to those gathered at the St. Petersburg Yacht Club on Tuesday evening for a meeting of the Southwest Florida Marine Industries Association. Metz said the new group's findings about activities and programs the public wants at the Pier will be shared with the mayor and City Council and provide a basis for soliciting designs.

Metz also gave an update of the Downtown Waterfront Master Plan. Council members are scheduled to discuss the scope of the contract for a consultant during a workshop Thursday and follow that with a vote on May 15.

Baseball chatter

Publicly, Kriseman has said he has met two to three times with Tampa Bay Rays officials about the baseball stalemate. But recently, his chief deputy suggested that talks may be moving at a steadier pace.

At a community meeting held Tuesday at the local NAACP branch, Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin said Kriseman has talks with the team "at least three times as much as the Times reports."

The Buzz notes that these meetings are not on the mayor's calendar, and his staffers haven't always been forthcoming about when such meetings are taking place.

Another clerk departs

More institutional knowledge will walk out of St. Petersburg City Hall come August.

City Clerk Eva Andujar said she plans to retire then, capping 32 years of service.

Andujar said she is looking forward to traveling with her husband. There's no word on who will take her spot, which is being advertised.

Andujar isn't the only one from her office who is doing something new. Last month, City Clerk Amelia Preston left after 33 years.

Transit tax angst

The City Commission in tiny Belleair Bluffs put its stamp of approval last week on the Greenlight Pinellas mass transit referendum, but not all five members were on board.

Mayor Chris Arbutine Sr. and Vice Mayor Jack Nazario (who also serves on the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority board) and Commissioner Joseph Barkley voted to support a resolution endorsing the plan that would increase the county's sales tax from 7 to 8 cents, raising roughly $130 million a year to pay for an expanded bus system and light rail.

Commissioners Suzy Sofer and Taylour Shimkus voted no.

Shimkus told Bay Buzz that she doesn't agree with raising the sales tax by 14 percent.

"Times are still tough and I want to see people keep as much money in their pocket as possible," she said.

Sofer, who started her third two-year term last year, said she sees the potential benefits but vowed during her last campaign not to support a tax increase.

"I wanted to stay true to my word, even though this was just a resolution," Sofer said. "We have a lot of residents on fixed incomes."

Sofer said the plan doesn't appear to offer enhanced bus service for her city of roughly 2,200. She said that many people would take advantage of a route to and from the beach.

Brad Miller, PSTA's chief executive officer, said the existing transit property tax would be replaced with the sales tax, so most Belleair Bluffs residents would see a tax decrease. Miller said the current bus service on the city's main north-south corridor would be doubled to 30-minute frequency, and there would be expanded night and weekend hours. He said that after November's vote officials plan to seek other ideas, such as a route across the Belleair Causeway.

Staff writer Waveney Ann Moore contributed to this report. Contact her at [email protected] Kameel Stanley can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8643. Follow @cornandpotatoes on Twitter. Tony Marrero can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 848-1431. Follow @tmarrerotimes on Twitter.

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