LARGO - Without glasses, 11-year-old Richardson Alexis is basically blind. But glasses, especially at “an insane high prescription” of -20, would cost Alexis’ family $250, said missionary Bethany Perissien, who works in the St. Jean de Sud region of Haiti.
“That may as well be a billion dollars to this family,” she explained.
Luckily for Richardson, Perissien was able to fit him with one of the hundreds of eyeglasses donated by the ophthalmologists in the Largo office of the Eye Institute of West Florida, where she used to work. A special pair of glasses, made by the office of optometrist Joel Marantz of St. Petersburg, is on its way to Haiti.
For now, Richardson can see dramatically better.
“I was a little worried he would take them off right away after he left our compound,” Perissien explained.
But a few weeks later, she saw Richardson at his school.
“I was delighted to see him wearing them,” Perissien wrote in an email from Haiti. “(T)o see him wearing glasses in school, to see the blackboard better - that’s why I am doing what I am doing.”
LARGO - For the past year, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri has been working with mayors from the barrier island municipalities on a uniform process to allow orderly and safe re-entry for residents and businesses after a mandatory evacuation order.
Gualtieri and several mayors gathered for a press conference Feb. 16 in the sheriff’s administration building in Largo to explain the new process.
After the governor declares a state of emergency, because of a storm or other natural disaster, it is then up to local officials to effect a mandatory evacuation, Gualtieri said. By local ordinance, that responsibility falls to the chair of the Pinellas County Commission.
After the disaster is over, the next major step is for residents and business owners to re-enter evacuated areas, such as the barrier islands. By ordinance, the sheriff is responsible for the re-entry process.
“We recognized some time ago that we had a disjointed process throughout the county where we had some cities that were doing it one way and some that were doing it another and some had no process at all,” Gualtieri said. “And, as that old saying goes, ‘failing to plan is planning to fail.’”
CLEARWATER - Motorists who regularly travel State Road 60 (Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard) are likely familiar with the flashing yellow arrows installed on traffic lights a few months ago as part of Pinellas County’s Traffic Management System.
Flashing yellow arrows on left-turn traffic signals were initially approved for use in Florida and 17 other states in 2010 by the Federal Highway Administration. The FYA signal allows motorists to make a left turn, when traffic is clear.
Studies published in 2009 showed that a FYA was a better way to alert drivers that they needed to yield to opposing traffic than a green light. Researchers also found that motorists reacted favorably to installation of FYAs with little or no public education.
Ken Jacobs, section manager with the Public Works Traffic Division, told Pinellas County Commissioners Feb. 10 that motorists were adjusting to the new signals on State Road 60, although some had difficulty when they were first installed.
“They are very confusing,” said Commissioner Dave Eggers. “With the flashing yellow, the public thinks they can go, but actually they have no right of way.
Jacobs told commissioners that studies had shown that people understood intuitively what a flashing yellow meant. He said traffic experts agreed that using one standard for left turns in all states would be good. And the best method for left-turn signals is a FYA.
Predictions that the national average cost of a gallon of regular gasoline would drop below $2 seem to be short-lived.
Gas prices started on an upward trend beginning in late January. As of Feb. 15, the national average for a gallon of regular unleaded was up to $2.25, according to AAA’s Fuel Gauge report. That’s an increase of 7 cents from Jan. 15, and 16 cents more than motorists were paying on the same date in January.
Floridians were paying an average of $2.32 on Feb. 15 - 11 cents more than the average pump price reported a week ago and 14 cents more than last month.
However, motorists in Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater are still paying the cheapest prices in the state. Local prices average $2.23 - up 15 cents from last week and 27 cents from January.
So what happened to pump prices under $2 that local motorists were paying in January? What happened to the predictions of gas under $2 a gallon nationwide? The national average dropped to $2.04 a gallon Jan. 28, the lowest weekly price since April 6, 2009.
“Gasoline prices almost always rise in February,” Mark Jenkins, spokesman, AAA - The Auto Club Group, said Feb. 15. “The rate of increase slowed over the weekend, but motorists should expect more volatility at the pump for the next couple of months.”
LARGO - At age 11, most kids are focused on Little League and memorizing multiplication tables. By 14, they’re spending Friday nights at the movie theater and learning how to apply makeup.
But for one day a year, Pinellas County fifth- and eighth-grade students get a taste of adulthood at the Gus A. Stavros Institute in Largo.
Enterprise Village, opened in 1988 by Gus Stavros and former Superintendent Howard Hinesley, is a self-contained economic education program that teaches fifth-graders the basics of economics.
In the six weeks leading up to the field trip, students from every public elementary school in Pinellas County, as well as some private schools and schools from surrounding counties, study educational objectives on subjects including the free enterprise system, want versus need and the relationship between businesses and consumers.
As part of the curriculum, students also apply and interview for three jobs at one of the dozens of businesses at Enterprise Village, including HSN, Bank of America, CVS Pharmacy and Kane’s Furniture.
CLEARWATER - The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority Board of directors participated in a special interactive workshop Feb. 18 to help streamline and improve the county’s mass transit system.
The facilitated workshop at the Epicenter at St. Petersburg College in Clearwater included in-depth discussion and brain-storming to develop new options for service and financial efficiencies for PSTA.
DUNEDIN - City commissioners will meet in a planning session Monday, March 2, with a facilitator to determine goals and establish priorities for the next year.
The meeting is scheduled from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Achieva's Center Courte, 1659 Virginia St. in Dunedin.
Dunedin Commissioners voted 5-0 Feb. 19 to hire Florida Institute of Government at the University of South Florida to be the facilitator at Achieva Credit Union’s office in Dunedin. The firm’s base fee is $2,900.
CLEARWATER - A fifth grade teacher at an elementary school in St. Petersburg took home the honor or the 2015 Outstanding Educator of the Year Feb. 24 at the Evening of Excellence at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater.
Pinellas Education Foundation and Pinellas County Schools presents the annual event.
Kimberly Lopez, a fifth grade teacher at Melrose Elementary received the outstanding educator award. She’s been teaching in the county for 36 years.
TREASURE ISLAND - Joggers and walkers using the Central Beach Trail in Treasure Island will soon see some activity related to the repair of cracks in the 2-year-old, 4,400-foot sidewalk.
City commissioners voted 3-2 on Feb. 17 to spend $12,720 for Atkins North America Inc., to provide input on ways to stop the ongoing cracking issue.
Atkins, the city’s consultant in litigation involving the cracks, will supervise an operation that involves using a saw to cut into slabs along the trail that have not shown signs of cracking. The idea is to prevent future cracks.
ST. PETERSBURG - Boys & Girls Clubs of The Suncoast hosted its annual Youth of the Year Luncheon and Awards Ceremony on Feb. 16, at the Hilton Carillon in St. Petersburg.
Kassindjaa Montague from the Ridgecrest Boys & Girls Club in Largo was selected as this year’s Youth of the Year recipient from a pool of six other club members in Pinellas County. She will represent Boys & Girls Clubs of The Suncoast in statewide competition.