Monday, June 25, 2018
News Roundup

Pasco County considers hiring more firefighters

NEW PORT RICHEY — Three years after cutting 33 positions from the Pasco County Fire Department to make up for a budget in free fall, county commissioners on Tuesday signaled they're prepared to hire enough firefighters to restore the department to pre-2009 levels.

The move comes as Fire Chief Anthony Lopinto said he had burned through his $450,000 overtime budget in May — four months before the end of the fiscal year — because staffing levels are so low.

His request: 11 new firefighters, at an annual cost of $690,000. Coupled with the addition of 15 employees in 2010, that would put Lopinto at his exact 2009 staffing level. (Seven of the positions that were cut that year were vacant at the time.)

"I'm not asking for an increase here," he said. "I'm just reminding you that we're not back to where we once were."

Lopinto said 117 employees are needed to cover each 24-hour shift. On any given day, the department is three firefighters short because of vacation, sick leave and unexpected retirements. And new hires typically need six months of training before they're put in service, he said.

Because this year's overtime budget is depleted, Lopinto has been using "residual" salary funding from unfilled positions to cover those costs. The last resort to cut costs is reducing the number of emergency responders who go out on some calls from three to two.

Such a move, called "brownouts," could increase the risk for accidents. Experts say fire trucks should have four people, so two can wait outside a fire, ready to run inside to help if something goes wrong. Over the years, Pasco has added enough firefighters to go from two workers per truck to three.

At a workshop Tuesday, commissioners said they're willing to hire the new firefighters. With full staffing, Lopinto said the department would spend about $200,000 less on overtime.

"I support his extra staff," said Commissioner Pat Mulieri. "We don't want brownouts in our stations. The more people he has, the less overtime (he is spending)."

To find the money for the new firefighters, commissioners will have to adopt the so-called "rolled-back" property tax rate for fire service. Such a move would offset an expected 5.9 percent drop in property values.

The proposed new tax rate for fire service would increase from $1.42 in taxes for each $1,000 in assessed value to $1.54. For a $150,000 home with $50,000 in exemptions, that would mean roughly an extra $12 per year in taxes if the home's value stayed the same this year.

Lee Logan can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 869-6236.

Comments
Tampa man faces murder charge in hit-and-run that killed father during family bike ride

Tampa man faces murder charge in hit-and-run that killed father during family bike ride

TAMPA ó A Tampa man faces charges , including premeditated first-degree murder, following his arrest Sunday night in a hit-and-run that killed a father and left his 3-year-old son seriously injured while on a family bike ride earlier in the afternoon...
Updated: 0 minutes ago
The Daystarter: Arrest made in New Tampa hit-and-run; who will pay for their name on proposed Rays park in Ybor?; Rays complete series sweep of Yankees

The Daystarter: Arrest made in New Tampa hit-and-run; who will pay for their name on proposed Rays park in Ybor?; Rays complete series sweep of Yankees

Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what to know today. † • We’ll have another wet day to start the week, with widespread afternoon and evening thundershowers, according to 10Weather WTSP. High temperatures should top out near ...
Updated: 26 minutes ago

Hooper: Michelle Obamaís 2016 clarion call needs to be heard today

When they go low, we go high.Those words drew an astounding amount of applause when then First Lady Michelle Obama delivered them at the 2016 Democratic National Convention.Yet some people treat the statement as merely the basis of a good meme, inste...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Woman killed by lightning strike on Siesta Key

Woman killed by lightning strike on Siesta Key

A woman was killed Sunday afternoon in a lightning strike on Siesta Key.According to the Sarasota County Sheriffís Office, deputies responded after receiving a call around 2:15 p.m. of a person struck by lightning in the 6000 block of Midnight Pass R...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Ex-Bucs DE Keith McCants arrested, facing cocaine charge

Ex-Bucs DE Keith McCants arrested, facing cocaine charge

Former Alabama star and Bucs defensive end Keith McCants was arrested in St. Petersburg early Monday morning and is facing a felony charge of possession of crack cocaine, according to arrest records.McCants, 50, was arrested by the Pinellas County Sh...
Updated: 2 hours ago
PolitiFact Florida: Republican PAC misleads in ad about Sen. Bill Nelsonís record on Social Security, Medicare

PolitiFact Florida: Republican PAC misleads in ad about Sen. Bill Nelsonís record on Social Security, Medicare

A new ad portrays Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson as a career politician who doesnít have the backs of senior citizens.The New Republican PAC, which is backing Gov. Rick Scott in Floridaís closely watched Senate race, released a 30-second ad criticizing ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
What name would a new Rays stadium carry? Itís a multi-million dollar question

What name would a new Rays stadium carry? Itís a multi-million dollar question

TAMPA ó Yankee Stadium, Fenway and Wrigley are ballparks whose names are woven into the lore of Americaís national pastime.Petco Park and Guaranteed Rate Field? Not so much.The trade-off for that clunky corporate handle is typically an annual payout ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
The pros and cons of Tom Jurich as potential USF AD candidate

The pros and cons of Tom Jurich as potential USF AD candidate

Former Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich has emerged as a legitimate candidate to take over USF, as our Joey Knight reported late last week.Despite the chatter around USF and in the industry, I'm skeptical; I wouldn't be surprised if the Bulls'...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Visit St. Pete-Clearwater partners with HSN to turn shoppers into tourists

Visit St. Pete-Clearwater partners with HSN to turn shoppers into tourists

Valerie Stupís toes are in the sand at Clearwater Beach. Guy Yovan is spotting dolphins near Johnís Pass. Sarah Anderson is touring the Dali Museum.Usually HSNís shoppers only see their favorite network hosts inside the studio selling handbags, cookw...
Published: 06/25/18
Wondering what St. Pete is up to? Check the cityís data yourself

Wondering what St. Pete is up to? Check the cityís data yourself

ST. PETERSBURG ó Maybe you want to track your tree-trimming request. Or see what kind of water mains were worked on last month. Or check how many police calls came from downtown on a recent Thursday before 4 p.m. (The answer is 25.)Now city residents...
Published: 06/25/18