07/02/15 Local Government
SEMINOLE — In replacing their longtime city manager, council members here settled on a woman with extensive experience in municipal government.
Ann Toney-Deal's "education and professional credentials are outstanding, as well as her in-depth experience and knowledge of managing cities," Mayor Leslie Waters said Wednesday. "I look forward to working with her on behalf of the citizens of Seminole."...
06/30/15 Public Safety
One of Pinellas County's 18 fire departments is threatening to sue the county over years of cuts in the emergency medical services budget.
Over a three-year period at the beginning of the recession, county officials cut about $1.8 million in EMS funding from the budget of Pinellas Suncoast Fire and Rescue.
Suncoast spent the next few years lobbying to get the money back. Now, the Suncoast Fire Commission has voted to sue the county to get the money it lost and to have the funds restored in future budgets. The county contracts with the fire departments to provide EMS countywide....
06/25/15 Public Safety
LARGO — Listen to recent commission discussions about the Largo Police Department and a couple of issues seem clear:
• Police are stretched to the limit. They're so overburdened by the number of calls that they can only react and may not be available to back up a fellow officer if needed.
• Largo needs to hire at least 16 officers to help even out the workload.
But at least one Largo commissioner says she does not believe the data back up those assumptions. And, Samantha Fenger says, she's worried the commission is rushing to judgment without an adequate, calm discussion about the issue. It's a judgment that could cost Largo taxpayers millions as property taxes go up and fire fees are created to pay for cops, firefighters and the equipment that goes with them....
06/25/15 Local Government
SEMINOLE — City Council members are scheduled to hold a special meeting today to interview five finalists for the job of city manager. The hire will replace Frank Edmunds, who is retiring in August after about 20 years on the job.
The finalists are Anthony Hamaday, who has served as the township manager of Broomall, Pa., since 2009; Mark Kutney, the former city manager of Loxahatchee Groves on the east coast; Calvin Peck, who has served as the village manager of Bald Head Island, N.C., since 2006; Ann Toney-Deal, who served as the city manager of Haines City for 19 years; and Ernest Zmyslinski, who has served as the finance director in Warwick, R.I., since 1999....
06/18/15 Local Government
SEMINOLE — City Council members narrowed the field of applicants for city manager to seven at Tuesday's special meeting: five finalists and two alternates.
Whoever is chosen will replace longtime City Manager Frank Edmunds, who retires Aug. 15. Edmunds is the only city manager that Seminole has had.
The five finalists are scheduled to be in Seminole on Thursday for a public reception to meet the council, residents and business owners and for job interviews June 26. The council is scheduled to make a final decision at its June 30 meeting....
06/11/15 Human Interest
LEALMAN — It's no secret that this unincorporated area has some of the most decayed housing with some of the highest code violation fines in Pinellas County.
Now, a faith-based group has proposed that the county forgive those liens — some, owed by banks, worth hundreds of thousands — if the property owner will donate the house so that it can be fixed up and used for affordable housing....
06/04/15 Local Government
PINELLAS PARK — For almost a decade, an extreme skate park has been on city officials' wish list here.
Yet, when the item came up for a vote at last week's meeting, council members weren't so happy. They took the item off the agenda so they could thrash it over during a workshop.
The snag? The cost — an estimated $675,000 to design and build an extreme skate park and two "skate dots" at Broderick and Youth parks. A skate "dot" is a mini-skate area so small it does not even qualify as a "spot," according to Pinellas Park officials....
SEMINOLE — After years of wishing, hoping and guessing what stores might open in a rebuilt Seminole Mall, residents here now have some names.
One of them — Earth Fare — is new to the Tampa Bay area. Earth Fare is a North Carolina-based chain of boutique grocery stores that concentrates on organic and natural foods.
Representatives from Earth Fare could not be reached for comment. But its website, earthfare.com, says the company's philosophy can best be summed up in one word: "No."...
05/28/15 Human Interest
Civic leaders and community activists from across Pinellas have often gazed longingly at the acreage occupied by the county's schools and wished there was some way they could use those lands when they weren't occupied by students.
But the Pinellas County School District has been reluctant to let anyone else use its property. Now that's changing. The district has agreed to lease closed schools to other local governments. It's all about being a part of the community, school officials say....
LARGO — Officials here are struggling to find ways to pay for the hiring of more cops and firefighters and to pay for other city needs.
They've suggested creating new fees and raising existing ones to help fund their wish list. But what they find particularly frustrating is their inability to collect some fines that property owners owe — to the tune of $10 million.
That total comes from fines assessed to 259 property owners for failing to keep up their property. Some fines extend back for years. And they range from a few hundred dollars to more than $200,000....
05/20/15 Human Interest
PINELLAS PARK — When this city turned 100 a few weeks ago, officials had a rich trove of documents and artifacts to draw from when looking back.
That was in large part thanks to Jean Cromwell, who, until last month, reigned over Pinellas Park's Historical Society.
"She was it" where Pinellas Park's history was concerned, City Council member Ed Taylor said. "We wouldn't have anything archive-wise if it hadn't been for Jean." ...
05/13/15 Local Government
LARGO — Property owners here could see stormwater fees almost double over the next three years under a budget proposal for the coming fiscal year.
Commissioners gave the go-ahead to staff members Tuesday to bring back the proposal for a formal vote. The proposal, which would see the fees for stormwater increase by 25 percent a year for the next three years, is part of the $111.9-million capital budget proposed for the 2015-16 fiscal year that starts Oct. 1. The capital budget deals with the costs of projects proposed for the coming five years....
05/09/15 Human Interest
Charles McGarrah vividly remembers the day he met the woman who would become his wife — and her first words:
"My name is Wanda Smith, and I will not live to see my 25th birthday."
McGarrah was inclined to argue with her. But just six short years later, she died three months shy of her 25th birthday.
She and the couple's 7-month-old daughter, MaNisha, died with 33 other people in a horrific accident that sent them plunging from the Sunshine Skyway when a freighter struck the bridge. On Saturday, 35 years to the day of the accident, a monument was dedicated to the memory of those who lost their lives that day....
05/06/15 Human Interest
LEALMAN — About three years ago, a county study identified the five poorest areas in Pinellas.
Now Pinellas officials are considering trying something new — for them — to help lift the people in one of those areas out of poverty. If creating a community redevelopment area works in unincorporated Lealman, it could be expanded. Lealman is generally located between St. Petersburg and Pinellas Park on either side of Kenneth City. It generally extends from Interstate 275 on the east to Park Street on the west....
04/30/15 Local Government
PINELLAS PARK — One piece of advice many career counselors offer is to never follow a star when you take a new job.
Yet that's exactly what Pinellas Park's new police chief has done.
Mike Haworth took over command of the department last week from Dorene Thomas, a much-loved chief in the city and much respected in the law enforcement community, who straightened out a department that was mired in chaos when she took over....