ST. PETERSBURG — As the city prepares to dole out $446,000 in grants to combat homelessness, one City Council member wants to widen the focus to allow groups aiding the elderly or youth to compete for money.
Wengay Newton said homelessness is important but already receives money from other sources in the city's $216 million dollar budget.
He would like nonprofits like Neighborly Care Network, which provides Meals on Wheels and other services to elderly clients, to be eligible for the grants, which can be as large as $40,000....
08/27/14 Local Government
ST. PETERSBURG— A City Council committee will take a first look today at a proposal to tack on $2.56 to the average resident's utility bill, or a 4.75 percent hike. Much of the proposed increase would cover spending on big-ticket projects, which city officials say would save ratepayers in the long run.
The typical residential household using 4,000 gallons of water and wastewater would pay $56.39 if the increase is approved. The city has raised the cost of those services every year since 1995, except for 1997-1998....
08/27/14 Local Government
ST. PETERSBURG — Thomas Cavallaro was looking for certain things when he decided to move south from New York.
His new home needed to be walkable, have lots of amenities and be coastal. Downtown Tampa was a contender, but the pull of St. Petersburg's waterfront was stronger.
"I'm an urbanite," said Cavallaro, 66, who lives in a condo across the street from the Hilton St. Petersburg Bayfront. "I like this town a lot. I'm not embarrassed as a Manhattanite to bring my friends here."...
08/25/14 Mass Transit
ST. PETERSBURG — The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority's board chairman wants to be better informed and more directly involved after a few recent gaffes by agency staff, according to a recent memo sent to board members.
The PSTA's decision to post the names of those who request public information on the agency's website and a controversial ad campaign have both drawn criticism in recent months....
ST. PETERSBURG — The city's arts and cultural offerings aren't marketed enough, says one City Council member, who thinks bed tax money might be the answer.
County tourism officials do a great job touting Pinellas beaches, but the city's arts community doesn't get the same treatment, Steve Kornell said.
"I've never seen an ad focus on the arts," Kornell said, contrasting that with cities like Memphis, Austin, Texas, and Santa Fe, N.M., which highlight their cultural amenities. "A whole host of cities do ad campaigns geared completely to the arts."...
08/22/14 Human Interest
ST. PETERSBURG — Chirag Parmar doesn't play the Florida Lottery anymore.
Nearly three months after state lottery officials stripped him of the right to sell lottery tickets at his seven Pinellas convenience stores and gas stations, Parmar has sworn off the shiny scratch-off tickets that jeopardized his career and family.
"I can't lose all that for a stupid habit of mine," said Parmar, 36, of Seminole....
08/22/14 Local Government
Former St. Petersburg police Chief Goliath Davis III opposes a proposed change to the city charter that would protect council members from being removed from office for voicing their opinion on mayoral appointments.
Davis, writing in the Weekly Challenger, urged residents to vote against the change on Nov. 4.
Supporters of the charter change are unhappy with Mayor Rick Kriseman's decision to select Clearwater police Chief Tony Holloway as the city's new chief, Davis wrote....
08/21/14 Local Government
ST. PETERSBURG — A 55-bed dormitory and service center for homeless teens gained preliminary approval from the City Council on Thursday after a few initial bumps.
Starting Right, Now, a Tampa-based nonprofit, was close to inking a deal with the Pinellas County School District to occupy the vacant Harris TIP school, at 4600 Haines Road, when council member Darden Rice this month asked for a delay in zoning changes....
ST. PETERSBURG — Amid much fanfare two years ago, developer Darryl LeClair unveiled bold plans for a new Tampa Bay Rays stadium at Carillon Business Park in the Gateway area.
It offered a St. Petersburg solution to the team's pleas for a new stadium, and it was about 15 minutes closer to Tampa than Tropicana Field.
But no one from the Rays ever approached LeClair, who is close to giving up on his dream of building a mixed-use stadium, office and residential project on 16 acres he owns south of Ulmerton Road....
08/14/14 Human Interest
ST. PETERSBURG — When Chris Wescott bought "the Castle" late last year, it was a wreck.
Frogs thrived in a 13-foot-deep pool so dirty that Wescott couldn't see the bottom. An enormous hive of honeybees — with combs estimated to be decades old — occupied a second floor porch of the distinctive stone mission-style mansion on the corner of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street and Foster Hill Drive N....
08/08/14 Human Interest
ST. PETERSBURG — A Tampa nonprofit that works with homeless teens want to open a "minicampus" in north St. Petersburg, complete with boys and girls dormitories, a dining hall, offices and tutoring space.
But the City Council, led by member Darden Rice, has put the brakes on the group's plan to lease an unused school building at 4600 Haines Road. Rice said the last-minute addition of a zoning change for the property on Thursday's meeting agenda took her by surprise....
08/07/14 Local Government
ST. PETERSBURG — Saying it was a small step to protect their free speech rights, the City Council unanimously approved a proposal Thursday to change the city charter to allow members to weigh in on high-level mayoral appointments without fear of being removed from office.
The issue now goes to voters on Nov. 4.
"You can't be the voice of the people if you can't talk," said council member Steve Kornell....
ST. PETERSBURG— A city review board approved plans Wednesday for a new craft brewery near Tropicana Field and the Pinellas Trail.
The Development Review Commission unanimously signed off on Pinellas Ale Works' plans to convert a long-vacant building into a tasting room, beer garden and brewery capable of making 750 barrels a year.
The site at 1962 First Ave. S is a block north of the trail and four blocks west of the Trop, a location co-founder Matthew Brown hopes will capture bicyclists and baseball fans....
08/06/14 Local Government
ST. PETERSBURG — Mayor Rick Kriseman's administration is working to standardize the way the city doles out more than $1.5 million to festivals, parades, races, museums and other groups each year.
Kriseman and City Council members have grappled with a long line of requests from arts organizations, unions and nonprofits seeking various kinds of financial help.
Council member Amy Foster said she would like to see a clearly defined process created so that groups across the city know how to access available cash. She said she doesn't know how to explain to constituents how the system works. ...
The electric fence around Tibbetts Lumber Co. has been unplugged for months. Politically, though, the lumberyard partially owned by powerful State Sen. Jeff Brandes is still buzzing.
Last month, the St. Petersburg City Council twice nixed a plan to change city code to allow the juice to be turned back on for the 10-foot electric fence around the lumberyard at 3300 Fairfield Ave S.
The fence was too near a sidewalk used by Gibbs High School students and other residents, several council members said....