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Pinellas transit tax supporters kicking off campaign on Feb. 7

Andrew Wolfe has shared with the St. Petersburg City Council a proposal to remove “Africanized” bees from the city and take them to remote locations.

JIM DAMASKE | Times (2010)

Andrew Wolfe has shared with the St. Petersburg City Council a proposal to remove “Africanized” bees from the city and take them to remote locations.

Pro-transit tax campaign ready to roll starting Feb. 7

Pinellas transit advocates have been wondering lately when the pro-referendum campaign will get going. In December, it was going to be January. Now January is gone, so it's going to be February.

With nine months to go before the question goes before voters, the campaign to persuade voters to support a referendum that would increase the county's sales tax to pay for expanded bus service and light rail is now scheduled to launch on Feb. 7.

Organized by Ronnie Duncan, chairman of the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority, the campaign is going by the name "Greenlight Yes." That's a slight derivation from the name of the publicly funded education campaign, which was branded "Greenlight Pinellas," and is no surprise, since both campaigns are employing the Tucker Hall public relations firm and the ballot language refers to the proposal as the Greenlight Pinellas plan.

Opponents of the referendum, a group called No Tax for Tracks, held their campaign kickoff last week.

Familiar face back at City Hall

Come Monday, another former St. Petersburg staffer will be stepping back into public service.

Mayor Rick Kriseman has tapped Todd Yost to once again head up the codes department.

Yost, who left the city in 2011, had a varied former career — most recently as the city's lobbying chief under former Mayor Bill Foster. He first began working for the city in 1988, and had stints in the recreation, sanitation and codes departments.

Yost, whom interim Human Resources director Chris Guella called "versatile," will be paid $105,000 in his new role.

Guella said Dave Dickerson, who had been interim codes director, turned in his resignation. Dickerson will leave the city Feb. 7.

Honeymaker has a 'bee' plan

A Pinellas County beekeeper pitched a plan to St. Petersburg leaders last week that would get aggressive insects to "buzz off."

Andrew Wolfe, a county-licensed honeymaker, told City Council members he has a fail-safe plan to rid the city of its feral bee problem.

Too often, he said, residents are plagued with nests filled with "Africanized" bees associated with uber defensive behavior and attacks on people and pets. In November, for example, a swarm of 80,000 bees stung to death a pit bull and sent another to the hospital.

Wolfe said he charges $150 — less than traditional exterminators — to remove problem hives for residents. But he said a greater impact can be had if officials do something to prevent the spread of the African bee gene.

He proposed the city hire him to trap the bees, which he would then transport to remote locations. He would harvest the honey they produce. Wolfe said he would charge the city $100 a trap, which he would maintain.

City Council members were intrigued with the idea, if not outright enthusiastic. Wengay Newton wanted to know if Wolfe would be open to sharing honey sale profits with the city.

"We could talk," Wolfe, 32, said.

Interim City Administrator Gary Cornwell said he would follow up.

Kameel Stanley contributed to this report. Mark Puente can be reached at mpuente@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8459. Follow him on Twitter @markpuente.

Pinellas transit tax supporters kicking off campaign on Feb. 7 01/31/14 [Last modified: Friday, January 31, 2014 3:39pm]

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