Tuesday, April 24, 2018
News Roundup

Web cam to show surf conditions in Treasure Island

TREASURE ISLAND — Surfers and paddle boarders will soon have a more efficient way to check on whether the surf is up.

A webcam will soon be installed on the city's newly renovated Sunset Beach pavilion and shown on Suncoast Surf Shop's website. Instead of driving to the island to check out the swells, surfers will be able to just switch on their computers.

City commissioners have given the go-ahead for a six-month trial to see how installing a private webcam on its pavilion will work. Commissioners are hoping initial concerns about privacy and traffic won't result in any problems.

"Let's see how it rolls out," said Commissioner Tim Ramsberger, a surfer who sees advantages to a panning webcam that monitors surf activity. "We hope our concerns don't become problems."

Joanna Braddock, manager of Suncoast Surf Shop, thinks the webcam will be a win-win for the shop and the community.

"We don't see this as a way to generate money," she said. "We see this as a community service. Surfers want to know what is going on and this could provide residual benefits to hotels and shops on the island."

The shop, which opened its doors in 1966, now has a dedicated phone line — (727) 363-7873 (363-SURF) — that people can call to check on beach conditions. Often serious surfers and paddle boarders make quick trips to the beach in their cars when the wind is up in hopes of finding rideable waves.

A webcam would make those trips unnecessary, Braddock said, along with daily trips to update the phone line advisory.

"The swells in the afternoon or morning are so short-lived and the window of opportunity is so small, that's why having a webcam is so important," she said.

The $3,000 cost to install the webcam will be shared between the shop and Surfrider Foundation, a nonprofit organization that protects shoreline activity. Advertising will be sold to help cover the costs, Braddock said.

Commissioners have gotten calls from residents worried the webcam will attract more traffic to the island and could pose privacy concerns, photographing people on the beach or nearby private property as it scans.

But city attorney Maura Kiefer told commissioners that as long as the webcam is located in a public place there should be no expectation of privacy.

Braddock had hoped the city would consider linking to the webcam on its website but Mark Santos, information technology director with the city, said that won't happen.

He has no objection to a straight feed from the camera, but the link would go to a Web page with advertising, something the city couldn't control.

"We don't want people to think we sponsor the businesses," he said. With taxpayer dollars at stake, the city can't take the chance that a business that might be controversial would be included, Santos said.

The shop will pay a $35 monthly fee through the licensing agreement with the city and Braddock is hoping enough money will be made through advertising to cover the costs.

Despite the city's refusal to link to the webcam, Braddock says other businesses will be offered free access to the nonaudio camera feed.

"It makes sense. Who doesn't want to see how beautiful the beach is?" she said.

Braddock and shop owner Joe Nuzzo think city leaders aren't realizing the potential of the webcam as a tourist draw.

"It could be a valuable marketing tool for the city," Braddock said. "Everybody wants it. I've had zero negative feedback. Literally everybody I talk to thinks it's great."

Nuzzo agrees.

"People like the idea of being able to sit home in Canada and watch the beach in Treasure Island," he said.

Commissioner Alan Bildz, who represents Sunset Beach, was originally wholeheartedly in favor of the idea but now wants to review the situation after the camera has been working for six months.

"Boy, did I get an earful," he said of the calls he received when residents learned of the webcam. Many were concerned about increased traffic.

But Ramsberger actually thinks the webcam could reduce trips to the beach.

"This could help us notify surfers that the beach is closed during storms," he said. "It might help us manage the situation better."

Comments
ESPN: Antonio Callaway tested positive for marijuana at NFL combine

ESPN: Antonio Callaway tested positive for marijuana at NFL combine

Former Florida Gators receiver Antonio Callaway's off-field struggles continue.ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Tuesday evening that Callaway tested positive for marijuana at the NFL's scouting combine.Former Florida WR Antonio Callaway -- who some cons...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Lightning opens second round Saturday; time depends on opponent

Lightning opens second round Saturday; time depends on opponent

Game 1 of the Lightning's Eastern Conference semifinals begins Saturday at Amalie Arena regardless of whether the Maple Leafs or Bruins win Wednesday's first-round series Game 7 to advance.Still in question is the start time.If the Bruins advanc...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Days before graduation, crash kills Lakewood High senior, injures two others

Days before graduation, crash kills Lakewood High senior, injures two others

ST. PETERSBURG — Caps and gowns were in the future for Bryson Welton-Williams and his two friends.Then came Tuesday’s horrific car crash.The three 18-year-old Lakewood High School seniors drove off from school a few minutes early, just 22 days away f...
Updated: 1 hour ago
DNA, new plea set man free 17 years after Tampa murder

DNA, new plea set man free 17 years after Tampa murder

TAMPA — Almost 17 years ago, Dwight DuBose was condemned to spend the rest of his life in prison for a murder he says he didn’t commit.On Tuesday morning, he pleaded guilty to the crime in exchange for the promise that he would go free.DuBose, 45, wa...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Troopers seek driver who ran from fatal crash in Trinity

Troopers seek driver who ran from fatal crash in Trinity

TRINITY — The Florida Highway Patrol said it is looking for a driver who ran from the scene of a fatal three-vehicle crash that took place Tuesday afternoon on State Road 54 at Duck Slough Boulevard.The crash took place at about 2:33 p.m., closing do...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Pinellas County commits $41.7 million to Blue Jays Stadium

Pinellas County commits $41.7 million to Blue Jays Stadium

DUNEDIN — The Pinellas County Commission pulled the final trigger Tuesday on dedicating $41.7 million in bed taxes for upgrades to the Toronto Blue Jays’ stadium and spring training facilities, a pledge that amounts to covering more than half of the ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Hernando County to start neutering feral cats

Hernando County to start neutering feral cats

BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County will soon become a more cat-friendly community.The County Commission voted 4-0 Tuesday in favor of a policy to trap, neuter and vaccinate feral cats and return them to the wild. They hope to reduce the number of cats eut...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Rays-Orioles postponed, doubleheader planned for May 12

Rays-Orioles postponed, doubleheader planned for May 12

UPDATE, 6:06: The Rays will stay in rotation, so Faria will slide back a day and pitch Wednesday, vs. Cobb, and Archer will get an extra day's rest and pitch Thursday, against RHP Dylan Bundy.Also of note, Cash said 3B Matt Duffy (right hamstring str...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Monday meeting may determine fate of Brooksville Police Department

Monday meeting may determine fate of Brooksville Police Department

BROOKSVILLE — Brooksville City Council holds a special meeting at 6 p.m. Monday to consider an interlocal agreement proposal by Sheriff Al Nienhuis to take over law enforcement duties from the city police.The council has been struggling with an excep...
Updated: 3 hours ago
He tried to rob two pharmacies. Both times he left empty-handed.

He tried to rob two pharmacies. Both times he left empty-handed.

TAMPA — Police are looking for a man who failed to rob two pharmacies last week.No one was harmed during the botched heists, but the man may be armed with a handgun, police said.Detectives on Tuesday released surveillance video that showed the man in...
Updated: 3 hours ago