04/18/14 Local Government
Battle lines are being drawn over a proposal to make sweeping changes designed to hold down the costs of Pinellas' emergency medical services system.
The Largo City Commission voted unanimously Tuesday to take Pinellas County to mediation over the proposal. Largo has invited the other departments and districts that provide first response EMS service to the mediation table, which could be a first step to a lawsuit should an agreement not be reached....
04/16/14 Local Government
ST. PETERSBURG — Former Pinellas County Administrator Bob LaSala was so determined to cut costs in the county's emergency medical services system he refused to compromise, knowing the fight could end in court.
The veteran administrator put a new emphasis on Pinellas' social services safety net yet alienated the community providers he needed to make it work.
And, while he had a knack for budget cutting, he wreaked havoc on employee morale....
04/15/14 Local Government
CLEARWATER — With lightning speed, Pinellas County commissioners fired Bob LaSala on Tuesday in a unanimous vote that ended days of speculation about his future.
While commissioners have generally praised LaSala's handling of the financial difficulties the county has faced in the past few years, they also have criticized his personal style, blaming his sometimes abrasive personality for employee turnover and high-profile disputes with cities and community partners....
04/12/14 Local Government
CLEARWATER — Although their reviews of his job performance were generally good, most of Pinellas County Administrator Bob LaSala's bosses say his personal style is responsible for high employee turnover and conflicts with other county governments.
This is not the first time LaSala's sometimes abrasive manner and difficulties with communications have been criticized. But concerns have reached such a high level that County Commission Chairwoman Karen Seel last week pulled a discussion of his job evaluations from Tuesday's agenda in "lieu of other options."...
04/11/14 Local Government
LARGO — City commissioners here are ready to pressure the county to come to the bargaining table for talks about proposed funding cuts to the Pinellas emergency medical services system.
They have scheduled a vote for Tuesday that would bring city and county commissioners together to mediate their differences. Thus far, city officials say, Pinellas County staff members have refused to negotiate over the proposed cuts....
04/01/14 Local Government
LARGO — Commissioners here voted Tuesday to take the first step toward filing a lawsuit against Pinellas County to stop a proposal to slash funding to the county's emergency medical services system.
Under the motion made by Largo commissioner Harriet Crozier, city staff are to bring back a resolution at the commission's April 15 meeting to start the conflict resolution process with the county. State law requires governments to undergo mediation before filing a lawsuit. The vote was unanimous among the six commission members present. Largo Mayor Pat Gerard was not at the meeting....
04/01/14 Local Government
LEALMAN — A county commissioner has charged that firefighters here "should be ashamed of themselves" for using scare tactics to fight proposed cuts to Pinellas' emergency medical services system.
Pinellas Commissioner Janet Long made her statements Monday after seeing a flier that Lealman fire officials handed out in Five Towns, a condominium community for seniors. Among other things, the flier urges Five Towns' residents to "call today to save your fire and EMS service."...
03/28/14 Local Government
LARGO — City Commission members say Pinellas County's refusal to negotiate over proposed cuts to the emergency medical services system is pushing them closer to a lawsuit they hope would force the county to provide more funding.
The Largo commissioners' comments come just days before they're scheduled to discuss Tuesday a county proposal to cut the funds the city gets to provide first-response EMS service....
03/25/14 Local Government
In the ongoing debate over Pinellas' emergency medical services system, lots and lots of numbers get tossed around — costs, response times, possible savings — but no one seems to agree on them. • It would seem, though, that there's one number everyone could agree on — how many times a fire vehicle leaves a station. After all, get a list from the county of the calls to 911 that were made during a set time and let two people count them. They'd come up with the same number of calls. Right? • Well, no. Not necessarily. At least not if one is from the Pinellas County side of things and the other is from the fire department side....
03/21/14 Local Government
St. Petersburg could have company if it exits Pinellas' emergency medical services system.
Officials from at least two other cities and one fire district are ready to discuss the possibility now that St. Petersburg has opened the door by threatening to leave if the county holds firm on a proposal to slash EMS budgets.
"All options are on the table. All of them. What the county is trying to do is a sin, and they should be ashamed of themselves," said Kathleen Litton, chairwoman of the Lealman Fire Commission. "Absolutely, all options are on the table."...
03/20/14 Local Government
ST. PETERSBURG — Council members here were resolute and clear Thursday: If the county insists on slashing funding to pay for the delivery of emergency medical services, St. Petersburg will sue or leave the system.
Should St. Petersburg pull out, it would form its own EMS system and levy its own tax to pay for the service. The move would require action from the Legislature to change the state law that created Pinellas' EMS system....
03/19/14 Local Government
ST. PETERSBURG — The county this year proposed slashing the money it pays St. Petersburg for providing emergency medical services.
Today, City Council members are scheduled to discuss possible responses, including a proposal that St. Petersburg pull out of the countywide structure and create its own EMS system.
It could not be done quickly or easily. At the very least, the Legislature would have to "abolish the special act that makes the County Commission the EMS authority for the county," St. Petersburg council member Jim Kennedy said. Kennedy is chairman of the council's EMS committee....
03/18/14 Local Government
The road, one of the county's few east-west corridors, goes by many names.
To Florida transportation officials, it's State Road 694. To locals, the portion east of U.S. 19 is known as Gandy Boulevard. West of 19, it's Park Boulevard.
Soon, it could have a fourth name: Congressman C.W. Bill Young Memorial Highway.
The idea to name the roadway after the longtime congressman was the brainchild of Pinellas Park Mayor Sandy Bradbury. Bradbury said she wished to honor Young, 82, who died in October after 43 years in the U.S. House of Representatives. Young grew up in Pinellas Park and retained ties with the city throughout his life. He was instrumental in bringing the C.W. Bill Young Armed Forces Reserve Center, 2801 Grand Ave. N, to the city....
With only two votes separating two of the candidates in Indian Shores, it appeared from unofficial election results that the town is headed for a mandatory recount.
Three candidates were running for the two available seats on the council. Narrowly leading the pack was Pat Sorrano with 332 votes, or about 35 percent of the vote. Behind him were Mike Petruccelli with 315 votes and Diantha Schear with 313. Both had about 33 percent of the vote....
03/10/14 Human Interest
PINELLAS PARK — If it's spring, it's time for two of this city's biggest events — the Chili Blaze and Country in the Park.
Both events are scheduled for this weekend at the England Brothers Park.
The Chili Blaze was started in 2000 by Pinellas Park Firefighters, Local 2193 as a fundraiser for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. The event was designed to coincide with Pinellas Park's Country in the Park, taking advantage of the crowds and advertising. It has become such a success that it has become a regular part of the Pinellas Park celebration. It has raised as much as $20,000 for MDA during a single event....