Friday, May 25, 2018
News Roundup

Robocalls to reduce temporary sign blight gets little Largo support

LARGO — They crowd medians and city rights of way, stuck in the ground or stapled to trees and utility poles. In garish colors, they advertise dating websites, cash for junk cars, cash for houses, cash for gold.

They are snipe signs. Largo code enforcement officers collected 3,178 snipe signs last fiscal year, down from about 7,000 annually in years past, but they are still a problem that annoys city commissioners.

This year, one South Florida city debuted a way to get rid of them that has proven successful and has spread to the Tampa Bay area. City Commissioner Curtis Holmes wants Largo to join cities using the latest weapon against snipe signs, but found himself alone during last week's commission work session.

The snipe sign silver bullet was dreamed up by Peter Bober, the mayor of Hollywood. As Hollywood public affairs director Raelin Storey tells it, Bober was stopped at a red light, staring at signs in his Broward County city, when he had an idea: The sign owners want people to call them. So why don't we call them? Why don't we call them so often they never want to put their signs in our city again?

Hollywood's city staff investigated how to make Bober's nuisance-calling idea reality and found a roughly $300 robocalling computer program from Voicent Communications.

Hollywood started using it in March, Storey said, entering phone numbers from the signs into a database and programming the software to call each number 25 times per day. Each call informs sign owners they have broken the law and that calls will continue until they pay a fine and take the signs down.

Nine months later, snipe signs are down about 90 percent in Hollywood, Storey said. And while the program hasn't made much money for the city — the signs are coming down, but people are not showing up in droves to pay fines — Storey says it was well worth the $300.

"It was an innovative and inexpensive way for us to address a perennial problem," she said.

The program now has spread to other cities. Largo Community Development staff gave a presentation about the pros and cons of robocalling to city commissioners Tuesday, at Commissioner Holmes' request.

The staff told commissioners about Hollywood's success and about how St. Petersburg and Clearwater have recently bought the same software. St. Petersburg's robocalling has not yet begun; Clearwater's has malfunctioned (it's not making enough calls) but Mary Jo Weaver, Clearwater's sign inspector, said even with reduced calls she has seen an impact.

However, Largo Community Development Director Carol Stricklin said she has concerns about robocalling being, basically, harassment, and hurting the city's reputation.

"This seems to me to be a less friendly or cooperative way to go about doing this," Stricklin said.

Commissioner Woody Brown replied that Largo shouldn't be concerned about annoying the types of businesses reliant on snipe signs.

Brown was still not in favor of bringing robocalling to Largo, though, and neither were any of the other commissioners. Mayor Pat Gerard left open the possibility that if Stricklin and her staff decided they needed robocalling software, Gerard would support it in the future.

Will Hobson can be reached at (727) 445-4167 or [email protected] To write a letter to the editor, go to tampabay.com/letters.

Comments
Calvary Christian’s record win streak ends in state final

Calvary Christian’s record win streak ends in state final

FORT MYERS — One of the most impressive streaks in high school baseball came to an end early Friday morning.Calvary Christian lost the Class 4A state championship 5-1 to Fort Lauderdale Calvary Christian at Hammond Stadium in a game that ended ...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Behind the deal: $52 million boutique hotel coming to Ybor City started with cafe con leche at La Tropicana Cafe

Behind the deal: $52 million boutique hotel coming to Ybor City started with cafe con leche at La Tropicana Cafe

TAMPA — Joe Capitano Sr. invested in the 1400 block of E Seventh Avenue in 1985, never doubting the huge potential of the property for Ybor City.But the deal to build a $52 million boutique hotel on the site didn’t start to come together until six ye...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Rays journal: Blake Snell, flying Denard Span finally solve Red Sox

Rays journal: Blake Snell, flying Denard Span finally solve Red Sox

ST. PETERSBURG — Having lost two straight and nine of 12 times overall to the Red Sox, the Rays needed two things to go right Thursday:First, a strong start from Blake Snell.Second, some early runs against Rick Porcello from an offense that had...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Thursday’s Rays-Red Sox game

Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Thursday’s Rays-Red Sox game

Home cooking clearly agrees with OF Denard Span. The 34-year-old Tampa product continues to deliver, producing at the plate, running the bases, making diving catches in the outfield, and Thursday, even going over the short sidewall twice in hot pursu...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Bucs’ Ali Marpet: NFL flip-flopping on anthem policy ‘a little bit odd’

Bucs’ Ali Marpet: NFL flip-flopping on anthem policy ‘a little bit odd’

TAMPA — This much is clear: The National Football League is focused on getting rid of kneeling players.That was the league's announcement Wednesday in requiring players to stand during the national anthem before games or possibly have their tea...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Rays once again will ‘open’ with relievers this weekend

Rays once again will ‘open’ with relievers this weekend

ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays weren't kidding about being serious that starting relievers gives them the best chance to win.So much so, they plan to do so again this weekend against the Orioles — in all three games. The plan is for Sergio Rom...
Updated: 5 hours ago
When will the Lightning run out of wait-til-next-years?

When will the Lightning run out of wait-til-next-years?

TAMPA — Disbelief will eventually give way to acceptance.The Lightning isn't there yet.It isn't there yet in a lot of ways.Will it ever be?Just wondering.Really, what guarantees are there?Late Wednesday, Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechki...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Deputies: Hours after birth, newborn abandoned in north Tampa

Deputies: Hours after birth, newborn abandoned in north Tampa

TAMPA — An abandoned a newborn baby was found in the University area on Thursday, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.A passerby found the baby boy wrapped in a red towel near the intersection of N 18th Street and E 143rd Avenue at ...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Driver killed after colliding with dump truck in south Hillsborough

Driver killed after colliding with dump truck in south Hillsborough

WIMAUMA — A 30-year-old man died on Thursday after his sedan crashed head-on into a dump truck, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.The crash took place at about 6 p.m. on U.S. 301 near Lightfood Road.Gerardo Yslas of Immokalee was driving a 2012...
Updated: 6 hours ago

Lottery resultsNumbers drawn after 9 p.m. are no longer available by our deadlines. For results, please go to tampabay.com/lottery.Pick 2, 3, 4, 5Thurs., May 24, midday:173952098e_SRit83991Thurs., May 24, evening:146065414e_SRit29962Mega MillionsToda...
Updated: 7 hours ago