09/30/14 Local Government
LARGO — City commissioners, apparently swayed by an acknowledgement of wrongdoing, declined Tuesday to censure Curtis Holmes for downloading inappropriate material to his city-owned iPad.
Holmes explained that he had traded in a city-owned laptop for the iPad. He said he was aware that information on the laptop was automatically routed to Largo but did not realize the same was true for the iPad. Had he realized that, Holmes said, he would never have downloaded the information so he could email it to his personal account....
09/25/14 Local Government
KENNETH CITY — This town still has no budget for the coming year and won't have one by Wednesday, the start of the new fiscal year.
Although most of what happens when Wednesday dawns is uncertain — this is apparently a first for Florida — one thing does seem clear: Nobody gets paid.
The town can't write checks until it has a budget.
Town Manager Matt Campbell said he doesn't see that as a problem, at least in the short run. Employees aren't due a paycheck until Oct. 10 and bills aren't usually paid until midmonth. ...
09/25/14 Local Government
LARGO — Florida voters still have a few weeks to decide whether medical marijuana should be legal, but Largo officials are planning ahead.
Although no one has approached the city with a request to open a medical marijuana treatment center, it's likely to happen if voters approve Amendment 2, which would permit the sale of medical marijuana in Florida.
Largo staff members "are going to get together and talk about it," said Carol Stricklin, community development director. "I think it's safe to say that we recognize we'll have to be prepared to specifically regulate that use. ... It's something we need to deal with whether Amendments 2 passes or not."...
09/22/14 Local Government
LARGO — City Commissioner Curtis Holmes, threatened with censure for downloading inappropriate material on his city-owned iPad, isn't going down without a fight.
Holmes has hired St. Petersburg lawyer Brian Battaglia to represent him. Battaglia lost a bid last month for a judgeship on the Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court to Clearwater lawyer Kimberly Sharpe. Battaglia, is the son of renowned lawyer Anthony Battaglia, who died Sept. 15. The senior Battaglia's funeral is today. Largo officials have postponed a meeting scheduled that day to discuss Holmes' possible censure to Sept. 30 so Brian Battaglia can attend....
09/18/14 Local Government
LARGO — City commissioners will hold a special meeting Tuesday to decide whether to censure one of their members for downloading inappropriate material on his city-owned iPad.
They also will decide whether to take the iPad away from Commissioner Curtis Holmes.
The 6 p.m. meeting was called at the request of several Largo commissioners who said they did not want to wait until Oct. 7, their next scheduled meeting, to handle the situation....
09/18/14 Local Government
PINELLAS PARK — An alternative energy company is planning to move here bringing with it at least 25 new jobs.
In return, Pinellas Park council members have agreed to waive up to $6,000 in fees if MagneGas Corp. moves its headquarters from Tarpon Springs. The move would be part of a business expansion.
Pinellas Park officials say it's a fair trade. MagneGas is projected to bring about $3.3 million into the local economy as well as the 25 jobs, some of which will pay above-average wages, according to Shannon Coughlin, the city's community business analyst....
LARGO — City Commissioners condemned one of their members and suggested he resign Tuesday for downloading inappropriate material to his city-owned iPad.
Officials said Commissioner Curtis Holmes downloaded multiple images from Facebook and YouTube, including a video of a scantily clad woman making sexual gestures and a photo depicting a sexual joke about Muslims.
Not all the material was available Tuesday. Holmes acknowledged accessing it but accused city officials of acting improperly....
09/16/14 Local Government
KENNETH CITY — The Town Council will try once again today to pass a budget.
The four-member council deadlocked last week because they were unable to agree on two items: raises for some employees and health insurance reimbursements for police officers.
Raises became an issue after Town Manager Matt Campbell proposed giving some raises as high as 41 percent. Those were later dropped to a proposed 10 percent increase that two council members supported. Two others said they would give 5 percent raises. It appeared last week that they had compromised on a 7 to 8 percent raise but could not agree on the health insurance reimbursement....
09/11/14 Local Government
LARGO — The neighborhood in southwest Largo has tried hard over the years to overcome the challenges facing it.
Residents have had some success. But they still have a way to go — contending with a narrow street lined by steep ditches, few sidewalks, foreclosed houses that sit empty, no street lights. It's a neighborhood in transition.
And now, neighbors say, it's facing one more challenge they don't need: Beacon Street Ministries wants to open a food pantry in a building occupied until recently by a private school for special-needs children. Neighbors say there were only 13 students. It was so quiet people barely knew they were there....
SEMINOLE — It would apparently be a first for Pinellas County if elected officials here give a developer millions of dollars in tax rebates for rebuilding Seminole Mall.
The developer, Richard Trzcinski, president of Primerica Group One, wants taxpayers to kick in about $7.6 million in what is labeled "public benefit enhancements" to the overall $80 million project. Although Trzcinski has not fleshed out details, he has suggested that could come in the form of a property tax rebate after the mall is rebuilt. He has also suggested going to Pinellas County and the state for additional financial incentives....
09/09/14 Local Government
KENNETH CITY — Over the years, this town of about 5,000 has on occasion achieved notoriety outside its borders in an assortment of ways.
There was the police officer who pepper-sprayed a duck. The proposed "neatness'' ordinance that would have allowed police to inspect residents' living rooms. The court battle over allowing a new mayor to take her seat after she won 70 percent of the vote....
09/04/14 Human Interest
LARGO — If all goes well, this city will have people swinging through the trees — on zip lines.
The zip line would be one of several games on a "tree adventure course" that city staff members propose setting up at the Highland Recreation Complex. It's an idea Largo commissioners signed off on earlier this year.
A zip line is composed of a pulley and a cable. The cable is set on a slant so someone can hold on to the pulley and glide from one place to another in midair....
09/03/14 Human Interest
SalonCentric will move HQ to Gateway
An 87,000-square-foot office building in Gateway that has sat empty for more than three years will soon have a major tenant. SalonCentric, a distributor of hair and nail salon products to professionals, is readying the former Paychex building for its new headquarters.
The company, which currently has headquarters in Largo, is a subsidiary of cosmetic giant L'Oreal. It will lease 52,500 square feet for its 180 employees. SalonCentric plans to expand over the next several months, but the number of hires isn't set, according to spokeswoman Rebecca Bray. ...
SEMINOLE — Mall developers say they want taxpayers to foot the bill for about $7.6 million in "public benefit enhancements" that would be part of a revamped Seminole Mall.
Those enhancements would include off-site road improvements; permits and fees; architectural, legal, accounting and engineering "soft" costs; loan fees; interest expense; and documentary stamps, according to a budget list submitted to Seminole city staff members....
08/21/14 Local Government
LARGO — City Manager Mac Craig received high marks for his job performance in his most recent job evaluation.
Craig received an overall average of 4.78 on a 5.0 scale for a ranking of "good to excellent." Six of the seven city commissioners rated his overall performance as "excellent." The remaining commissioner, Curtis Holmes, checked the spaces for both "good" and "excellent."...