ST. PETE BEACH - Plans were unveiled last week for the first major hotel redevelopment on the beach since issues surrounding the city’s comprehensive plan were resolved in May.
Robert Czyszczon, general manager of the Plaza Beach Resort, 4506 Gulf Blvd., explained his vision for The Allure, a new 66-room boutique hotel, during a community meeting Sept. 28 at the St. Pete Beach Community Center.
Plans call for a majority of the rooms to be two-bedroom, two-bath units offering 870 square feet of space. The remainder would be one-bedroom, two-bath units with 750 square feet.
“There are no two-bedroom, two-bath products on St. Pete Beach and that’s really the product this beach needs and is desired,” said Czyszczon.
Czyszczon has high expectations for the project based on similar two-bedroom, two-bath suite hotels in Treasure Island.
“The Sunset Vistas in Treasure Island is completely two-bedroom, two-bath and has one of the highest occupancy rates in Pinellas County,” he said. “They’re about 90 percent occupancy, which is unheard of in this area.”
DUNEDIN - Jean “Carlos” Ulloa said in so many words that he was just doing what he was trained to do during a life-threatening incident at Three Rooker Island April 19.
But a father, near tears, said his family is forever grateful to Ulloa for the firefighter paramedic’s actions to help rescue four children.
“On that day I wasn’t sure if I was ever going to see my children again,” said Ram Singh, addressing the Dunedin City Commission Oct. 1.
For his efforts, Ulloa received the Dunedin Fire Department’s Certificate of Valor for outstanding bravery in observing and preventing a potentially life-threatening incident. It’s the department’s highest award.
In a letter Singh wrote to Fire Chief Jeff Parks, Singh said as he was walking around the island with his boat captain, a few women were trying to get his attention, waving for him to hurry.
“As I got closer to them I realized that something had gone wrong. My wife had her hands covered over her face and [was] crying. She could not speak clearly but she was able to say that ‘the kids are gone.’ I was shocked beyond belief as I looked at the ocean (Gulf) only to see a vast body of water; no sight of humans but just boats,” Singh wrote.
LARGO - Building Official William Ondulich has resigned, following a complaint to the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation that employees in Largo’s building division were approving construction plans without proper licenses.
The complaint, made by a city inspector who was put on administrative leave Sept. 22 for a reportedly unrelated issue, stated that Ondulich knew the city’s three plans examiners signed off plans they weren’t qualified to review. The Largo Leader has reviewed documentation that may back up the accusations.
The cost for lack of expertise perceived by local contractors who deal with the city on a regular basis is loss of time and money during tight construction schedules. In the cases of some larger projects - including the new Walmarts on Ulmerton Road and Missouri Avenue and Largo’s Wawa - portions of plumbing had to be removed and reinstalled in the middle of construction when it was found that the plans didn’t meet state building standards.
Mistakes like that should be caught at City Hall and corrected before they make it back into the hands of contractors, said city building inspector Glenn Hall, who was responsible for finding the plumbing errors in the plans at the two Walmarts and the Wawa, as well as the state complaint.
CLEARWATER - One government’s trash pile could be a developer’s treasure trove, if Pinellas County Commissioners give staff the go ahead to negotiate with one of three with plans for the 240-acre Toytown landfill site.
Director of Purchasing Joe Lauro confirmed Sept. 24 that only three proposals had been received in response to a request for negotiation, or RFN, sent out by the county’s Economic Development Authority. Deadline to express interest in buying or leasing the property was Aug. 18.
An evaluation committee has since reviewed the proposals and ranked them according to criteria contained in the RFN, Lauro said. The committee ranked SportsPark Partners LLC as No. 1. Meridian Realty Capital LLC ranked No. 2, and SunRay Park ranked No. 3.
Staff will present the committee’s ranking of firms to the County Commission Oct. 6. Successful fruition of any of the three plans could be a big boost in the county’s economy in terms of new jobs and tax revenue. A previous deal approved by the commission July 1, 2008, to sell the land to Florida Gateway Development LLC was stalled by the Great Recession and never came to be. The developer pulled out in 2011.
ST. PETE BEACH - When St. Pete Beach City Commissioners gave the final approval last week on an ordinance allowing outdoor dining and alcohol consumption on sidewalks in the Corey Avenue business district, they said they opened the door for future redevelopment.
But for Rob Williams, proprietor of the popular Swigwam Beach Bar at 336 Corey Ave., it ended a three-year battle with other Corey business owners over the right for Swigwam patrons to enjoy a cold beer in the comfort of chairs on the sidewalk in front of the pub.
Williams’ victory was the latest in a series of challenges he has been faced with. Surprisingly, he has walked away from all with success, including a recent battle with throat and neck cancer. On that front, he is now cancer free for five years and will soon be marrying his long-time fiancée Pam.
Williams’ story starts many years ago. It goes back to spring break in 1986 when at age 26 he began working as a bartender at the Swigwam Beach Bar behind what is now the Post Card Inn at 6300 Gulf Blvd.
“That was a fantastic job for all those years,” Williams said. “It was great watching the sun go down every night. I loved it.”
LARGO - Sixty-four arrests have been made in the past five weeks, as local law enforcement agencies collaborate to deal with a recent increase in auto theft and auto burglaries.
Two police chiefs and the Pinellas County Sheriff announced results of the work done by a 36-member Auto Theft Task Force at a Sept. 25 press conference at the sheriff’s administration building in Largo.
Of the 64 arrests, 36 suspects were adults and 28 were juveniles. Suspects were arrested for various crimes, resulting in 171 charges, including 37 for grand theft auto, 19 for fleeing and eluding, 19 for resisting arrest without violence, 12 for conveyance burglaries, 11 for driving while license suspended or revoked and others, according to a media release.
St. Petersburg Police Chief Anthony Holloway said an increase in auto burglaries was noticed in his city in February. Investigators soon discovered that cars stolen in St. Petersburg were being dropped off in Tampa and cars stolen in Tampa were being dropped off in St. Petersburg, he said.
So, Tampa police and St. Petersburg police began working together. Soon after, when it became apparent that the problem was bigger than earlier believed, they called Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri.
CLEARWATER - Julie Daniels remembers being stationed in Saudi Arabia during the Gulf War and hearing what she and her Air Force colleagues thought were enemy bombs exploding nearby.
As it turns out, the bombs were actually U.S. missiles.
“Sirens go off. Everybody jumps into their chemical gear. Because we don’t know. We are ripping stuff apart in the middle of the night,” she said.
She had pajamas on under her chemical gear.
“I had the mask on. It was crazy,” said Daniels, who spent 21 years in the military, retiring as a captain in 2007.
“There was actually a Patriot launch site two miles from where we lived. What we thought was actually bombing us were the Patriots launching. And it literally sounded like somebody was shooting bombs at us,” Daniels said.
She served overseas during the Gulf War for five months. That and other experiences in the military prepared her for challenges in her personal and professional life years later.
Joining the Air Force on the advice of a friend, she served in Germany before being stationed for 60 days at Hurlburt Field in Fort Walton Beach. Then she was deployed to a communication station as part of Operation Desert Storm. As can be expected, Daniels was nervous about her overseas assignment.
CLEARWATER - Transportation policies and project priorities were the topics of conversation at a Sept. 15 Pinellas County Commission work session.
The meeting continued talks that started in March when commissioners approved adjustments to the criteria used to prioritize transportation projects based on the Metropolitan Planning Organization’s 2040 Long Range Transportation Plan.
According to a report to the commission from staff, when the MPOs long-range plan was presented to the MPO board in September of 2014, county commissioners who serve on that board expressed concerns that some road projects did not rank well using existing criteria for funding.
A “working group” then took those concerns and used them as a basis to revise the criteria used to determine priorities and transportation needs. Staff presented those revisions to the county commission in March. At that time, the commission asked staff to prepare a report that showed what would happen if the new criteria were applied to the list of future roadway projects. The commission also asked staff to evaluate what changes the new criteria would make to projects currently on the list for funding by the Penny for Pinellas infrastructure tax.
DUNEDIN - City commissioners debated over a proposed downtown Dunedin parking option Sept. 17, expressing mixed opinions on what they want staff to pursue in the plan.
Nevertheless, after more than three hours of discussion, city commissioners voted 3-2 to ask staff to further refine a proposal to explore a public-private partnership involving a parking garage off Douglas Avenue to increase the downtown parking stock.
The commission’s action, based on the motion made by Commissioner Deborah Kynes, also asked staff to include a paid-parking component to create a revenue stream for parking needs and use proceeds from a settlement with BP stemming from the company’s 2010 oil spill to help fund the partnership.
“I think in part of all this mix there has to be some sort of paid parking bridge to the future,” Kynes said.
The staff’s new option, city memos say, called for a portion of funds from a BP oil spill settlement, about $1.9 million, to be used for a period of time. Free parking would be maintained.
The measure would pay for two new surface parking lot leases, and a public-private partnership would retain and increase downtown parking by about 317 parking spaces.
SEMINOLE - Pinellas County Sheriff’s deputies are asking the public for help to locate a man last seen Wednesday morning at a Seminole assisted living facility.
According to a media release, 69-year-old James Rodney Northcraft left the Safe Haven Assisted Living Facility, 9000 86th Ave. N. in Seminole, in his wheelchair about 7:15 a.m. Oct. 7.
The administration of the facility reported him missing on Friday and told deputies that Northcraft usually leaves the facility for the day, but returns in the evening. Deputies said that Northcraft has Parkinson’s and does not have his medications with him.
CLEARWATER - Two individuals and one team received Fire Professional of the Year awards during the Sept. 24 Pinellas County Commission meeting.
A video highlighted each of the awardees in the second year of this program.
First up was Lt. Warren Cargill, who has been fighting fires with Largo Fire Rescue for 29 years. Cargill is the Fire Professional of the Year. An event early in his life set the tone for the three decades of his service, according to the video’s narrator.
One of the scariest diagnoses a woman will ever hear is “You’ve got breast cancer.”
The National Cancer Institute estimates that 231,840 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year and 40,290 will die. Excluding skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer in women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Statistics show that one in eight women, about 12 percent, will develop invasive breast cancer during their lifetime.
PINELLAS PARK - After months of hard work, the Pinellas Park Better Block is finally here. The pop-up event, designed to showcase the city’s growing business and arts district in the 5600, 5700 and 5800 blocks along Park Boulevard, will take place Saturday, Oct. 10, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Sunday, Oct. 11, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The Better Block event falls within the Community Redevelopment District, where, in recent years, the city has purchased a number of blighted properties to revamp the area and encourage the growth of small businesses. An international program that was founded in Dallas, this unique pop-up event, which focuses on urban redevelopment, is designed to build a life-sized working model of what the area could look like. It will include pedestrian-friendly transportation, pop-up art galleries, boutiques, vendors and public art, and arts and entertainment programming.
LARGO - Sarah Malone and several members of the Largo Tidal Waves swim team can’t wait to compete at the upcoming state championships of the Special Olympics. They have one problem, though.
“The medals are like huge. They are not easy to carry on your neck,” she said.
It’s a problem her teammates know all too well. Five of the six qualifiers from the team that practices at Southwest Recreation Complex in Largo twice a week have come home with medals from the state competition in the past.
OLDSMAR - Oldsmar Mayor Doug Bevis, city council members and City Manager Bruce Haddock celebrated the ribbon cutting for the new Workforce Institute at St. Petersburg College, at 127 State St. W. in Oldsmar, Sept. 15.
Formerly the Oldsmar Senior Center, the new facility will have courses in manufacturing, business management and technology, according to the SPC press release from Rita Farlow, director of marketing and strategic communications.
“The goal is to bring training options to a specific area of the county, where local businesses have expressed the need to close skills gaps and to expand education opportunities for residents in north Pinellas,” Farlow said.
Homespun by Hands and Hearts Arts and Crafts Show LARGO – The 20th annual Homespun by Hands and Hearts Arts and Crafts Show will be Saturday, Oct. 10, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., at the Christian Life Enrichment Center of St. Paul United Methodist Church, on the corner of Highland Avenue and Rosery Road.
The show has featured the best of local artists and craftspeople for the last 20 years. This year’s show includes unique handcrafted items from more than 85 local vendors. Children are invited to create their own arts and crafts in the Children’s Activity Center and enjoy the St. Paul pumpkin patch across the street.
The $1 cost of admission to the craft show benefits the homeless of Pinellas County.
For information, visit www.stpaulumc.org.
Arts and crafts fair LARGO – The 20th annual Arts and Crafts Event will be presented Saturday, Oct. 10, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., at St. Paul United Methodist Church, 1199 Highland Ave.
The event will feature 85 vendors, door prizes, a children’s activity center and pumpkin patch. All crafts are original, handcrafted and created by the artists themselves. The craft show is being held inside and outside the Christian Life Enrichment Center of the church.
There is a $1 donation at the door with the proceeds going toward the homeless and other select ministries in the church.
For information, call 585-0273.
Blessing of the Animals LARGO – A Blessing of the Animals will take place Saturday, Oct. 10, 10 a.m. and noon, at St. Dunstan’s Anglican Church, 2790 Sunny Breeze Ave.
Celebrating the Feast of St. Francis, St. Dunstan’s invites the general public to bring their pets for an individual blessing by the Rev. Fr. James Derbyshire. The blessing will take place on church grounds in a shaded area. Water stations will be available, and each pet will receive a small, appropriate goody bag.
Boat Safety Course CLEARWATER – A boating safety class will be offered Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 10-11, 8 a.m., by U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla 11-1 at the Cheek-Powell Heart and Vascular Pavilion, second floor, at Morton Plant Hospital, 455 Pinellas St.
Materials are $50. Parking is free.
The class, taught by certified instructors, covers topics including boating emergencies, getting underway, navigation and legal requirements.
All graduates receive a Florida state certification card.
Boating safety course TARPON SPRINGS – The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Tarpon Springs Flotilla offers a boating safety course the second Saturday of the month, 9 a.m. to noon, at the auxiliary’s classroom at Turtle Cove Marine, 827 Roosevelt Blvd., at the west end of the sponge docks.
The course, titled “About Boating Safely,” is designed for both experienced and novice boaters. Some of the topics presented will be boating emergencies, know your boat, getting underway, navigating the waterways, operating your boat safely, and legal requirements.
The fee is $40, which includes all printed materials. Florida boater safety certification cards are given to individuals who successfully complete the course.
Boca Ciega High class of 1965 50th reunion ST. PETE BEACH – Boca Ciega High School’s class of 1965 will host its 50th anniversary reunion on Friday and Saturday, Oct. 9-10, at Silas Dent’s Bayside Banquet Hall, 5501 Gulf Blvd.
The event also will feature a tour of the BCHS campus on Friday at 4 p.m. Attendees should meet in the lobby of the BCHS administration building. Friday evening, there will be a meet-and-greet from 7 to 11 p.m. with hors d’oeuvres, a cash bar and music in the gazebo.
On Saturday, attendees can hang out at Harry’s Beach Bar at the Sirata Beach Resort, across from Silas Dent’s. Saturday evening, from 6 to 11 p.m., there will be a barbeque buffet and sundae bar, cash bar and sock hop music with The Impacs. Cost is $80 per person.
Bonner Park guided nature hike LARGO – A guided nature hike will be offered Saturday, Oct. 10, 11 a.m., at Bonner Park, 14444 143rd St. N.
Guests will take a guided walk through the woods, seeking out animals at the park.
The hike is part of a series of monthly nature hikes, offered second Saturdays, at different nature parks in Largo.
The hike is free but donations are accepted.
To preregister, call 518-3047.
Fall Campout LARGO – A Fall Campout will be offered Friday and Saturday, Oct. 9-10, at Bonner Nature Park, 14444 143rd St. N., Largo.
The program will begin Friday at 4 p.m. and will conclude Saturday at 10 a.m. Cost is $10 a person. Children age 2 and younger are free.
The Friends of the Largo Nature Parks will host the family camp out. Food, campfire events and nature programs will be presented under the stars at Bonner Nature Park. Advance registration and payment are required. To register, visit NatureParkFriends.org. For information, call 518-3047.
Festival of Service DUNEDIN – The First United Methodist Church of Dunedin will host a Festival of Service Saturday, Oct. 10, 9 a.m. to noon, in downtown Dunedin.
FUMC Dunedin and supporting local businesses will work with volunteers to pack 10,000 compassion meals on Main Street. The meals will be distributed to people experiencing hunger – right here in Pinellas County and abroad.
In addition to feeding 10,000 families, the church will be celebrating its centennial with carnival games and a bounce house for children and families, a mobile blood donation unit, and a pet blessing at 9 a.m. in Pioneer Park.
This street party also will feature fun games and treats.
There is no cost to participate in any of the event activities.
Fish broil ST. PETE BEACH – Gulf Beaches Elementary Magnet School PTA will host its annual fish broil Saturday, Oct. 10, 2 to 8 p.m., at 8600 Boca Ciega Drive.
This annual school fundraiser supports the recently re-opened Gulf Beaches Elementary Magnet School. This event brings staff, students, their families and friends together for an afternoon of community, fun and fundraising featuring great food, games, and activities.
This event opens the campus to the entire community and brings students and families together to celebrate the start of a new school year. Funds raised will provide educational materials and support for programs at our school.
The event will feature local artists, live music, food and drinks. Attendees can purchase fresh fish or barbecue chicken dinners with two sides for $5. There will be carnival games, fish painting, a bounce house, face painting, photo booth, dunk tank and local vendors.