Thursday, February 22, 2018
News Roundup

Pinellas County Bay Buzz

2020 Plan veto still stings

There continues to be fallout from Gov. Rick Scott's veto of $1.625 million for St. Petersburg's antipoverty effort.

Or at least, a lot of frustration.

Rep. Kathleen Peters, R-South Pasadena, went before the City Council last week and personally apologized about the local delegation not being able to bring home money for the 2020 Plan.

"We worked really hard for it. We got it through the House and Senate," Peters said. "We'll try again next year."

She said she and other Pinellas politicians would get with the city in the fall to start laying groundwork for that effort.

Bay Buzz asked the governor's office why Scott axed the 2020 money and got this response from spokesman John Tupps:

"Governor Scott believes that by creating an opportunity economy in Florida where everyone can find a job is the best way to help families provide for themselves. The unemployment rate in Pinellas County is nearly half of what it was when the Governor took office (from 11.2 percent to 5.7 percent since December 2010).

In order to help Florida continue to create jobs, Governor Scott signed a budget that has investments to help ensure that every Floridian who wants a job can get one such as

$750,000 for the National Cyber Partnership - Cyber Training Pilot Initiative for Veterans

• $122,000 for the Louise Graham Regeneration Center, Inc. in Pinellas County to provide vocational and independent living skills training to very low income adults with developmental disabilities,

• $1,150,000 for the Tampa Bay Innovation Training Center"

Putting a (cool) lid on it

St. Petersburg City Council member Karl Nurse wants the city to consider making new roof requirements for future developments.

It would save money and be more sustainable, he said.

"One of the easiest ways to lower the temperature inside a building is to have a roof that reflects much of the heat," he wrote in a new business item submitted for next week's council agenda.

Nurse said a number of places across the country have been requiring either lighter colors on new roofs or replacement ones.

He'd like St. Petersburg to follow suit and start requiring that the next time it updates the land development regulations.

Discord continues over Pasco land

Pinellas County Commission Chairwoman Karen Seel apologized Tuesday for not taking a formal vote before soliciting appraisals on land the county owns in Pasco County.

During an informal public workshop last month, Commissioner Susan Latvala broached the issue of selling the land back to Pasco, and she and three other commissioners reached a consensus to solicit appraisals from Pasco County.

With the controversy intensifying this week over the prospect of Pinellas selling Cross Bar and Al Bar ranches, Seel said the vote should have been on a commission agenda.

"That was my mistake," she said.

Commissioners did agree Tuesday to put the issue on an upcoming agenda to, as they put it, have a public airing of the facts. A vote is not expected.

Cross Bar features 17 wellheads that pump millions of gallons of water out of the aquifer each day. Latvala insists the county no longer needs the land because Tampa Bay Water, of which Pinellas is a part, owns the water rights and revenue from a sale would help the board address pressing needs.

Some commissioners also complained Tuesday about an email sent to county residents over the weekend by Tom Rask, a commission candidate and frequent critic.

"ALERT," the email began. "Your Drinking Water is Endangered!"

"With no notice and no public input, Pinellas County is now seeking to sell our drinking water source," the email states. It urged residents to contact the four commissioners who supported an appraisal — Ken Welch, Janet Long, Charlie Justice and Latvala — and voice opposition to any sale.

The commissioners said they received dozens of emails from constituents in response to Rask's message, which they called misleading. Commissioners on both sides agreed that putting the issue on an agenda allows for an informed debate, though it's unclear if Pasco's appraisal would be completed by then.

"No matter how I feel about it, I want people to have the facts," Seel said.

Times staff writers Kameel Stanley and Tony Marrero contributed to this report. Stanley can be reached at [email protected], (727) 893-8643 or on Twitter @cornandpotatoes.

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