Friday, February 23, 2018
News Roundup

Stormwater rate increase proposed in Dunedin to pay for projects

DUNEDIN — Continued water quality monitoring at several Dunedin creeks. An outfall that would relieve flooding along President Street. A study to determine dredging needs for several bodies of water that flow into St. Joseph Sound.

The projects are among roughly a dozen that officials say a proposed 50-cent increase in monthly stormwater rates would help fund next year.

The hike — which would amount to a total increase of $6 on ratepayers' bills over the entire year — would generate $156,650 for Dunedin's stormwater fund, finance director Jeff Yates told the City Commission during a budget planning workshop Monday.

In 2012, Yates said, Dunedin used built-up reserves to fund a significant portion of projects.

Staff used a recent improvement in the city's credit score to refinance some loans, which allowed the city to generate enough debt savings to propose the 50-cent increase instead of the $1 officials had initially projected for next year.

The rate jump, Yates said, would help the city rebuild its stormwater reserves and recoup losses from a $200,000 reduction in Penny for Pinellas revenue.

Meanwhile, Yates said, the city will work to finish correcting years-old utility billing errors and look for grant opportunities in hopes of warding off the next projected rate increase of between 70 cents and $1.50 in 2016.

In other news:

• Commissioners threw tentative support behind City Manager Rob DiSpirito's proposal to help keep the struggling Dunedin Historical Museum afloat.

DiSpirito has recommended pulling $75,000 from Dunedin's reserves for a one-time cash contribution to the museum, on top of the nearly $59,000 it typically receives. The city would designate $25,000 of the extra money for a consultant to help the museum map out a plan for long-term sustainability.

The museum — facing a $74,325 loss next year despite aggressive fundraising — is integral in celebrating Dunedin's heritage, educating youth and drawing tourists to downtown, DiSpirito said.

"The concern was that in the next several years they were going to have to be closing their doors like Safety Harbor (Museum)," whose operations were recently absorbed by the city, DiSpirito said. He said a similar scenario in Dunedin might hurt the museum's chances at government grants.

The budget calls for $374,900 to go to various city-based programs and outside organizations, including the Dunedin Fine Art Center and the Clearwater Homeless Emergency Project.

• Dunedin this summer partnered with Clearwater on an employee medical center, where workers aren't charged a co-pay for services. Under the proposed 2013 budget, employees who decide to visit doctors of their choosing under the city's Humana plan would see their co-pays increase from $15 to $20 for primary care visits and to $35 for specialists. But they would get a $100 credit if they complete a health risk assessment through the city-run medical center.

• Staff was able to shift funds around and find $37,000 for an additional parks service worker. The change was requested by city leaders concerned that the department had added parkland but no staff in four years. Most cities operate at 11 acres per full-time equivalent employee, and Dunedin was operating at 16. Commissioners directed staff to keep looking for ways to restore funding for library materials and the city facade program.

Keyonna Summers can be reached at [email protected], (727) 445-4153 or on Twitter @KeyonnaSummers. To write a letter to the editor, go to tampabay.com/letters.

Comments
‘The sound of death:’ Deadly tornadoes ravage Central Florida in dark (from 1998)

‘The sound of death:’ Deadly tornadoes ravage Central Florida in dark (from 1998)

EDITOR’S NOTE: While many of us were asleep, a string of deadly tornadoes tore through east-central Florida on Feb. 22-23, 1998, destroying homes and resulting in 42 deaths and more than 260 injuries. On the 20th anniversary of that tragedy, here is ...
Updated: 29 minutes ago
Winter Olympics: Alina Zagitova wins figure skating gold, Russia’s first of Games

Winter Olympics: Alina Zagitova wins figure skating gold, Russia’s first of Games

GANGNEUNG, South Korea  — The Russians finally have a gold medal at the  Olympics, thanks to a 15-year-old who beat the fellow teen who inspired her to become a figure skater.Alina Zagitova won one of the Games' spotlight events Friday, edging ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Long awaited Clearwater Beach garage bleeds money in its first year

Long awaited Clearwater Beach garage bleeds money in its first year

CLEARWATER —City leaders discussed building a parking structure on north Clearwater Beach for more than 15 years before the seven-story Pelican Walk Parking Garage finally opened at the start of 2017.The city paid $11.3 million to own 450 of the deve...
Updated: 1 hour ago
The Daystarter: Tallahassee showdown on gun bills; schools contend with threats; legal lion Barry Cohen closes shop after cancer return; Rays open Grapefruit League play

The Daystarter: Tallahassee showdown on gun bills; schools contend with threats; legal lion Barry Cohen closes shop after cancer return; Rays open Grapefruit League play

Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what you need to know today.• The 80s are here to stay, according to 10Weather WTSP. Weekend temperatures cool only slightly, to the low to mid 80s, with a low rain chance. Next week is just more of the s...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Girl Scouts camp sold to member of Tampa’s Lykes family

Girl Scouts camp sold to member of Tampa’s Lykes family

ODESSA — The 63-year-old lakeside summer camp had no air conditioning or electricity. Cabin floors were often covered in grime, and cobwebs clung to the windows.But under new ownership, the 18.6 acres of Florida woods known as Camp Scoutcrest to memb...
Published: 02/23/18
Legal lion Barry Cohen reveals leukemia and tells how it has changed his priorities

Legal lion Barry Cohen reveals leukemia and tells how it has changed his priorities

TAMPA — Time was, if you were in deep trouble, you turned to Barry Cohen.He kept Jennifer Porter out of jail even after her hit-and-run accident left two children dead. He got charges against Steven and Marlene Aisenberg dropped and won them $3 milli...
Published: 02/23/18
Q&A: New Tampa Electric CEO Nancy Tower outlines safety plan

Q&A: New Tampa Electric CEO Nancy Tower outlines safety plan

TAMPA — Nancy Tower was in junior high when she first came to Tampa Bay from Canada to vacation with her family. Now, she returns here in a more permanent capacity — as Tampa Electric Co.’s new CEO.Tower was appointed to Tampa Electric’s top spot fol...
Published: 02/23/18
Epilogue: Lee Davis, businessman and adventurer, survived many a scrape

Epilogue: Lee Davis, businessman and adventurer, survived many a scrape

TAMPA — Friends and family have a saying about Lee Thornton Davis Jr. Once you met him, even for just a moment, you knew him forever."He was the most outgoing person I’d ever met," Dick Greco said.That’s something coming from Tampa’s gregarious, 84-y...
Published: 02/23/18
Oldsmar has a flea market, waterfront and parks... but really wants a downtown

Oldsmar has a flea market, waterfront and parks... but really wants a downtown

OLDSMAR — Wanted: One vibrant downtown. Contact: City of Oldsmar.Perhaps best known for its enormous flea market, Oldsmar sits at the top of Old Tampa Bay near the Pinellas-Hillsborough county line. On the one hand, it’s a convenient location for peo...
Published: 02/23/18
Iraqi general who helped defeat ISIS returns to Tampa for commando award

Iraqi general who helped defeat ISIS returns to Tampa for commando award

PALM HARBOR — Four years ago, during a visit to Tampa, Iraqi Staff Gen. Talib Shgati Mshari Al Kenani issued a warning to military leaders here about a jihadi group calling itself the Islamic State.This week, Al Kenani, head of the Iraqi commando for...
Published: 02/23/18