TAMPA -- The Hillsborough County Tax Collector's Office debuted a new website this month that, among other things, allows users to make appointments and see live reports of office wait times.
The new hillstax.org, which went live March 7, was the product of more than a year of work between the tax collector's office and Bayshore Solutions web developers. The new site features easier navigation, a cleaner design, and cost $68,000, according to Nancy Millan, tax collector office director of community relations. ...
03/07/14 Local Government
TAMPA — Hillsborough County Administrator Mike Merrill has poached the city manager of Plant City to be his No. 2, he announced Friday as part of a broad reorganization of the county's top leadership.
Greg Horwedel, who has overseen Plant City government since 2010, will become deputy county administrator. He'll handle many day-to-day duties, Merrill said, freeing Merrill to focus on major policy issues facing the county like transportation, economic development and homelessness....
03/05/14 Local Government
TAMPA — While state lawmakers consider pumping more money into Florida's penniless motion picture incentive system, Hillsborough County commissioners approved spending $300,000 Wednesday to lure two movie productions here.
Whether the movies actually come will probably depend on what happens in Tallahassee.
The bulk of the county money — $250,000 — is earmarked for The Infiltrator, based on the true story of a U.S. Customs agent who spent years working undercover as a Tampa-based money launderer investigating Pablo Escobar's cocaine cartel and the banks that helped drug suppliers and smugglers hide money....
TAMPA -- Democrat Elizabeth Belcher, a retired IRS investigator, filed this week to run against incumbent Republican County Commissioner Victor Crist in District 2.
Belcher filed to run Monday, according to the Hillsborough Supervisor of Elections.
This will be the second run for office for Belcher, who lost in 2012 to incumbent Republican state Sen. Tom Lee. Belcher won 46 percent of the vote in that election. ...
TAMPA--Local transit advocates plan to come to Wednesday's Hillsborough County Commission meeting to tell commissioners to "walk the walk" when it comes to planning for regional transit.
Connect Tampa Bay, an organization founded by a few young professionals to push for more transit options in the area, posted a note on Facebook asking members to show up at Wednesday's meeting by 9:00 a.m. to "tell Hillsborough County to ... walk the walk."...
03/01/14 Local Government
TAMPA — When the legislative session starts this week, an unlikely group will be keeping tabs on talks about new casinos in South Florida — management of six local cultural institutions, including the Florida Aquarium, Lowry Park Zoo and David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts.
For each of the past three years, the six institutions have shared about $2 million in Seminole Tribe gaming funds. The tribe pays Florida more than $200 million annually as part of a compact that gives the Seminoles exclusive rights to blackjack and other games in its casinos, including the Seminole Hard Rock Tampa. The compact calls for part of that money to go to local communities where the casinos are located....
The people in charge of Moffitt Cancer Center's upcoming Men's Health Forum couldn't have picked a better person to open with a few words of welcome than Hillsborough County Commissioner Les Miller. • The 62-year-old former state lawmaker has survived three bouts of cancer: prostate cancer in 1985 and 2007 and kidney cancer 2005. • Cancer runs in his family. Miller's father died of prostate cancer, his sister died of leukemia, and both his wife and daughter have twice survived cancer. Times staff writer Will Hobson spoke to Miller recently about what he has learned from his health battles, how they've changed his life and what he hopes to accomplish in the second half of his commission term....
02/22/14 Local Government
TAMPA — In 2002, local leaders adopted a 10-year plan to end homelessness in Hillsborough County based on the "housing first" philosophy sweeping the nation. In 2005, the city of St. Louis adopted a similar plan.
Nine years later, St. Louis' plan has lowered its homeless population by more than 30 percent.
Hillsborough's plan was never carried out.
Local leaders are starting over. Last month, a group visited St. Louis to see what a working program looks like. ...
02/19/14 Local Government
TAMPA — Carl Mathews calls them "loud boomers." They play their car stereos so loud that his car shakes when they pull up next to him. For days after, the 79-year-old Riverview man says, the noise haunts him.
"When you get that booming … for the next several days, you hear nothing but booming," Mathews told Hillsborough County commissioners.
Commissioners heard Mathews and passed an ordinance Wednesday aimed at banning loud car stereos in unincorporated Hillsborough....
02/17/14 Local Government
TAMPA — As the one-year anniversary approaches of a Seffner man's death in a sinkhole that opened under his bedroom, Hillsborough County government is finalizing plans to take ownership of the property and install a memorial plaque.
The owners of the three lots threatened by the sinkhole last year in Seffner have agreed to transfer ownership of their land to the county, according to a report that Parks, Recreation and Conservation Department staff will present Wednesday to county commissioners....
02/12/14 Local Government
TAMPA — For the second time in two years, Hillsborough County has hired a new director to run its animal shelter.
Scott Trebatoski, the city of Jacksonville's shelter director, was picked as the next Hillsborough County Animal Services director, county officials announced Wednesday.
Trebatoski was a finalist in 2012 when an interview panel that included local animal welfare advocates selected Ian Hallett — then deputy chief of the shelter in Austin, Texas — for the job here. In December, after months of complaints from some of those same advocates, County Administrator Mike Merrill transferred Hallett to a different department and started looking for a new director....
TAMPA — The 6-year-old girl had been hugging her sister when the mortars exploded near their home in Syria. The shells leveled the house, and killed everyone in it except for the 6-year-old, who survived because her sister's body shielded her from the shrapnel.
The story was one of several told Saturday afternoon by survivors of the Syrian civil war during "Voices From Syria," a program at the University of South Florida's Marshall Student Center. ...
02/07/14 Human Interest
This story has been changed to acknowledge the following clarifications: Rob Nelson, the principal of Tampa's Plant High School, now says he remembers Tony and Lauren Dungy's son receiving racist hate mail in 2008. When the story was first published Feb. 7, Nelson told the Times, through a district spokesman, that he was unaware of the incident. And the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office says it was able to locate part of an investigative report on the incident. Sheriff's officials had previously told the Times no report existed....
02/05/14 Local Government
TAMPA — A multimillion-dollar proposal to launch a high-speed ferry service crossing Tampa Bay inched forward Wednesday as Hillsborough County commissioners approved spending up to $125,000 to study its feasibility.
The ferry would primarily shuttle MacDill Air Force Base employees who live in southern Hillsborough to the base from a terminal near Apollo Beach. Routes linking downtown Tampa and downtown St. Petersburg on nights and weekends could be added....
TAMPA — The beauty of the name of Connect Tampa Bay's proposal, executive director Kevin Thurman explained, is its simplicity. That name? Go Hillsborough.
"Don't stop, don't go slow," Thurman said. "Just go."
Once you get past the name, though, it gets a little more complicated.
New rail transit (with 27 to 37 miles of tracks), advanced traffic signalization installed across the county, new bus toll lanes (which bypass intersections for buses and other drivers who pay tolls), lots of new biking/walking trails and ferry service were among the highlights of a proposal the transit advocacy group unveiled Thursday night....