03/04/15 Local Government
INDIAN SHORES — County officials shuttered Fire Station 26 in Indian Shores almost five years ago to save money, over protests from beach officials who said the move would reduce service.
They proved to be right. A county study in 2013 said service had suffered and recommended the station be reopened.
That looks like it's about to happen.
The Pinellas Suncoast Fire and Rescue Board unanimously voted last month to bring the service back on line. Indian Shores council members on Tuesday gave the nod to the idea. Their approval came during a workshop and won't be official until they vote on it at Tuesday's meeting. If they give the proposal the final nod, Station 26 would open in temporary quarters in the back yard of the Indian Shores Municipal Center, 19305 Gulf Blvd. The projected opening would be July 1....
02/25/15 Local Government
KENNETH CITY — Agreement is rare in this small town, but one thing most of the candidates for the Kenneth City council agree on is that the bickering must stop.
The candidates in the March 10 election aren't the first to say that. Council candidates for at least the past couple of decades have been commenting on the need for more cooperation among elected officials. It hasn't happened yet....
02/25/15 Human Interest
ST. PETERSBURG — Almost exactly two years ago, the SPCA Tampa Bay announced it would open a general practice veterinary clinic designed to provide affordable veterinary care to all Pinellas County pets.
Officials with the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals took a big step toward that goal Wednesday with the announcement the group had paid about $1 million for a vacant St. Petersburg office building at 3250 Fifth Ave. N and plans to spend $1.25 million renovating the property. When it opens in mid 2016, the hospital is projected to bring up to 20 jobs to the city from entry level animal caretakers to full-time veterinarians. ...
02/19/15 Local Government
CLEARWATER — Some people who call for emergency medical services in this city may be surprised by what they don't see — a fire truck or a red ambulance-style truck.
Instead, they see a sport utility vehicle with two firefighter-paramedics.
The SUV is an experiment that Clearwater fire officials are running out of the Court Street fire station to see if they can save money on EMS calls. If successful, the department might buy a second SUV to use for EMS calls on the beach....
02/19/15 Local Government
KENNETH CITY — This town was the first in Pinellas to install red-light cameras. Now it's following the crowd in getting rid of them.
Council members recently voted unanimously to allow its contract with American Traffic Solutions to lapse. The vote means the seven cameras — some on 54th Avenue N and 66th Street, two of the busiest roadways in the county — will go dark Sept. 22....
02/12/15 Local Government
LARGO — Ever since Safe Harbor, the sheriff's homeless shelter, opened four years ago, Largo officials have complained about the workload residents' demands for emergency medical service place on the city's firefighters.
Now Pinellas EMS officials think they have a way to relieve some of the strain.
They're proposing a six-month trial of a "community paramedic unit." The unit, a sport utility vehicle, would have two firefighters — one a paramedic and the other a paramedic or an emergency medical technician — who would be responsible for EMS calls to Safe Harbor, 14840 49th St. N, during the daytime. They would also be the first to answer EMS calls at other high-demand facilities in the area, including the Pinellas County Jail, the Criminal Justice Center, the Juvenile Detention Center, Pinellas Hope and Windmoor Healthcare. Those facilities are the top EMS users in Pinellas County....
PALM HARBOR — A retired school teacher from Indiana was injured early Saturday when she went to help a sheriff's deputy who was trying to subdue a suspect.
Sharon L. Scroggins, 59, suffered a concussion and bruising to her face after the suspect hit her in the jaw and knocked her to the ground.
The incident began shortly before 4:30 a.m. when Scroggins was driving her father, Maurice Scherf, 83, of Palm Harbor, to the doctor. She was heading down Alderman Road near Westlake Boulevard when a shirtless man ran in front of her 2000 Chevrolet Suburban....
01/29/15 Local Government
LARGO — Sewer rates are expected to jump at least 15 percent next year and could go even higher to pay for a $37 million plan to revamp the city's system.
City officials don't have much choice: The state is making them upgrade the system so untreated sewage will not end up in Largo streets and waterways.
Largo officials plan to give the go-ahead Monday for construction to begin. The project, which is expected to take up to 1 ½ years to complete, will involve 14 miles of sewer pipes and the reconstruction of seven pumping stations. When finished, the upgrades will not only bring Largo into compliance with state environmental rules and prevent the overflow of sewage into city streets, it will also expand the system to handle expected population growth through 2030....
01/24/15 Local Government
Ambulances are spending twice as long at the scene of some serious injuries than the county says they should.
Using an international standard, Dr. Angus Jameson, the Pinellas emergency medical service system's medical director, set a goal that no more than 10 minutes should elapse between the time an ambulance arrives on the scene of a trauma alert and the time it leaves for the hospital with the patient inside 90 percent of the time. Instead, that number in 2014 ranged on a monthly average from just under 19 minutes to nearly 26 minutes....
01/22/15 Local Government
The mayors from St. Petersburg and Clearwater want other Pinellas cities to kick in more money to support Safe Harbor, the sheriff's homeless shelter.
Mayor Rick Kriseman of St. Petersburg and George Cretekos of Clearwater sent a letter to the county's other 22 cities last week making their case. Homelessness, they said, is a countywide issue that can best be solved by working together. And, Kriseman said Wednesday in an interview, some cities could be doing more....
01/21/15 Local Government
LARGO — A lukewarm commission has given the go-ahead for the city attorney to draw up a policy allowing the board to censure members.
The idea of creating such a policy was broached last year by then-commissioner Harriet Crozier in the wake of a bid to censure Curtis Holmes for downloading inappropriate content to his city-owned iPad. The move to censure was dropped after Holmes apologized, but Crozier urged a policy be established because of the many questions surrounding the commission's ability to reprimand one of its own....
01/15/15 Local Government
LARGO — The last piece of industrial land on Ulmerton Road in the city is about to be turned into a commercial property.
City commissioners have tentatively approved a change that would clear the way for a fast-food restaurant and a gas station to be built on Ulmerton Road at 66th Street.
To pave the way for the project, commissioners on Jan. 6 unanimously agreed to change the land use designation on 11 parcels on the northwest corner of Ulmerton and 66th from industrial to commercial. The property, totaling about 3.6 acres, is the last industrial land on Ulmerton in the city. ...
01/08/15 Local Government
PINELLAS PARK — Dorene Thomas began her policing career about 40 years ago as a tricycle-riding parking meter reader on Pass-a-Grille for the St. Petersburg Beach Police Department, as it was called then.
"I wasn't very good at it," Thomas said. Despite that, she had career goals: "I was hoping that one day I'd be sergeant."
She made sergeant and a whole lot more. When she retires from the Pinellas Park Police Department on April 24, she'll leave behind a string of firsts. First female police chief in Pinellas Park. First woman to head the Tampa Bay Area and Florida Police Chiefs associations. First chief, male or female, in the state to go through the Crisis Intervention Training program, a 40-hour intensive course designed to teach police the safest ways to interact with mentally ill residents they encounter on the job....
01/07/15 Local Government
LARGO — Commissioner Curtis Holmes demanded last year that two employees be disciplined after they spoke against him for downloading inappropriate material on his city-owned iPad.
Largo City Manager Mac Craig refused to do so.
Now Holmes wants Craig fired. Craig's refusal to fire or otherwise discipline the two, Holmes says, is a violation of the manager's contract. The remedy, Holmes said, is to fire Craig and strip him of his severance pay. ...
12/31/14 Human Interest
Four years ago, two vandals released JR, a great horned owl, from his cage at McGough Nature Park.
The subsequent search for JR and the relationship between the owl and his caretaker, Joel Quattlebaum, created headlines.
Now, their story is being turned into a movie, Turtle Tale, told from the viewpoint of the many turtles at McGough.
"It's the first movie contract in the city," Largo parks superintendent Greg Brown said. "I thought it was a cool idea. Obviously, the bird got a lot of attention."...