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South Pinellas community news

INDIAN ROCKS BEACH

Pinellas Suncoast fire district chief retires

Fire Chief Bert Polk, who heads the Pinellas Suncoast Fire and Rescue District, is retiring.

Polk has served as the district's chief since November 2010. His last day will be July 4.

Polk said he is returning to South Carolina to be closer to his family. He has taken a job in Columbia in the state fire marshal's office. Polk served as South Carolina fire marshal from 2000-2003.

"It's really not an issue of the job I'm leaving. It's about going back to family," Polk said.

Getting the job in Columbia, he said, "made it possible for me to make the move."

Polk began his public service career in 1972 as a firefighter/paramedic in St. Petersburg. He retired in 1996 as division chief. He served as fire chief in Moline, Ill., from 1996 to 2000 when he moved to the South Carolina job.

After leaving the fire marshal's position, he founded RKP & Associates consulting services. Polk became the interim fire chief for the Lugoff, S.C., Fire Protection District in April 2007. He was appointed chief and served until 2009.

After taking the job with Pinellas Suncoast, he became head of the Pinellas County Fire Chiefs Association. He has become known countywide as the voice of the fire chiefs in the ongoing debate with county officials over the funding of Pinellas' emergency medical services system.

He will be replaced as spokesman for the chiefs group by Lealman fire Chief Rick Graham, who serves as vice president of the association.

SEMINOLE

Manager wants spending cut

Property owners here would see spending drop by about 5.1 percent in the coming year under a budget proposed by City Manager Frank Edmunds.

The proposed $794,332 spending decrease would reduce Seminole's operating budget from about $15.4 million to about $14.7 million for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1.

Under the proposal, which council members are due to discuss next month, all city departments except community development would see reduced spending. Community development would see a $31,786 increase in spending. The biggest drops in spending would come in the departments of public works and administration. Spending on public works would decline by about 19.8 percent, or $386,764, from about $1.95 million to about $1.56 million. Seminole's administration department would see a 12.1 percent reduction, or about $355,522 from about $2.9 million to about $2.6 million.

PINELLAS PARK

Library honors former director

City officials here have rededicated the library to honor former library director Barbara Ponce who died in June 2013. Ponce started working for Pinellas Park in 1978 as an administrative clerk and was promoted to the position of assistant library director five years later. She took the library's helm in 1985 as director, and was later promoted to the position of community activities administrator, overseeing the parks and recreation and the media and public events divisions as well as the library. She retired in 2008. She then joined the Pinellas Public Library Cooperative's board of directors. During her career, she served periodically as an adjunct professor at the University of South Florida's School of Library and Information Science, and served on the State of Florida's Advisory Council on Libraries from 1994-1997.

Times staff writersz Anne Lindberg and Keyonna Summers contributed to this report.

DUNEDIN

Taoist Tai Chi Society buys Fenway Hotel

For years, city commissioners and a large contingent of residents had planned and paved the way for a white knight-turned-developer to swoop in, and restore the long-vacant Fenway Hotel to its former glory.

A Pennsylvania real estate team announced in November that it was negotiating with PNC Bank to buy the 6.4-acre property out of foreclosure and revamp it into a boutique hotel.

Those dreams were dashed last week when the Tallahassee-based Taoist Tai Chi Society of the United States of America announced it had bought it for $2.8 million, with plans to renovate it into the nonprofit's new headquarters.

Now, city leaders and residents are regrouping, with some welcoming the new vision, some begrudgingly lending their support and others vowing to take the fight to City Hall.

"That boutique hotel, that's where our mindset has been," Mayor Dave Eggers said. "It was something that fit our city."

The Taoist society envisions the site as an international conference center where 42,000 members across 26 countries would travel for religious festivals, workshops and formal instruction in tai chi exercise.

St. Petersburg lawyer George Rahdert had bought the Fenway in 2006 only to have his restoration and expansion plans scuttled into foreclosure by the recession and neighborhood opposition.

"I'm personally delighted that it's been acquired by a responsible organization that will preserve the property rather than tear it down," Rahdert, who represents the Tampa Bay Times, said.

DUNEDIN

Subhed here

For years, city commissioners and a large contingent of residents had planned and paved the way for a white knight-turned-developer to swoop in, and restore the long-vacant Fenway Hotel to its former glory.

A Pennsylvania real estate team announced in November that it was negotiating with PNC Bank to buy the 6.4-acre property out of foreclosure and revamp it into a boutique hotel.

Those dreams were dashed last week when the Tallahassee-based Taoist Tai Chi Society of the United States of America announced it had bought it for $2.8 million, with plans to renovate it into the nonprofit's new headquarters.

Now, city leaders and residents are regrouping, with some welcoming the new vision, some begrudgingly lending their support and others vowing to take the fight to City Hall.

"That boutique hotel, that's where our mindset has been," Mayor Dave Eggers said. "It was something that fit our city."

The Taoist society envisions the site as an international conference center where 42,000 members across 26 countries would travel for religious festivals, workshops and formal instruction in tai chi exercise.

St. Petersburg lawyer George Rahdert had bought the Fenway in 2006 only to have his restoration and expansion plans scuttled into foreclosure by the recession and neighborhood oppositio.

"I'm personally delighted that it's been acquired by a responsible organization that will preserve the property rather than tear it down," Rahdert, who represents the Tampa Bay Times, said.

South Pinellas community news 06/19/14 [Last modified: Thursday, June 19, 2014 10:39am]
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