While campaign action continues ahead of the upcoming Nov. 4 elections, the voting has begun.
Supervisor of Elections Deborah Clark mailed 2,696 ballots to overseas voters Sept. 19; another 252,563 went out Tuesday, Sept. 30, to domestic voters who have requested a ballot.
All eligible voters can request a ballot by mail by visiting www.votepinellas.com, calling 727-464-VOTE (464-8683), or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, and include date of birth. The deadline to request a ballot be mailed is 5 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 29.
INDIAN ROCKS BEACH - It is all about helping people who need it. That is why two men have left Indian Rocks Beach on an epic journey by foot. They are walking to California.
Indian Rocks Beach resident Sam Leonard, 72, and his friend Al Blake, 74 of Sarasota say they are determined to make the 2,700-mile journey no matter how long it takes. Leonard was particularly descriptive about the time it might take.
“I think it is going to be like having a baby,” he said. “It will take about nine months. If we really hurry we might make it in six months.”
He did say that if some typically cold weather hits by the time they get to west Texas they might have to take a break.
“Sometimes it gets so cold there it can affect your skin. We can’t walk in weather like that. If a long term cold snap hits we might come back home and resume the walk later,” he said.
However it plays out Leonard says they will complete the journey, which is important because of the cause they are helping.
CLEARWATER - Thousands of spectators lined Clearwater Beach, both on shore and in boats on the water, to watch the Clearwater Super Boat National Championship Sunday, Sept. 28, after a weekend full of other fun and entertainment.
With the top boats reaching over 100 miles per hour, these aren’t your typical boat races. The following is a list of the results:
Superboat Unlimited Class
- Miss Geico took first, reaching top speeds of 104.3 miles per hour, and averaging 98.96 miles per hour. The boat completed the 68-mile course in 41 minutes, 14 seconds.
- Lucas Oil Silverhook took second place by mere seconds, sliding in just behind Miss Geico at 41 minutes 21 seconds. Its top speed per lap was 91.1 miles per hour and averaged 87.06 miles per hour.
Superboat Extreme Class
- Hooters Instigator easily won first in this race, completing the 40-mile course in 27 minutes and 39 seconds with an average speed of 86.8 miles per hour.
- Twisted Metal Motorsports came in second, only completing 24 miles at an average of 73.34 miles per hour.
- Stihl came in first with a top speed of 103.6-mile-per-hour lap and averaging 103.09 miles per hour. The driver completed the 76-mile course in 44 minutes and 14 seconds.
MADEIRA BEACH - Hell in the midst of paradise. That’s what resident and soon-to-be community activist Elaine Poe saw in her neighborhood, and some others in Madeira Beach.
She recalls the area being overrun by drug dealers, prostitutes and other undesirable types that landlords were either unable or unwilling to evict.
The problem had been festering for some time and Poe realized if it was going to be stopped, she had to be the one to do it.
“When a drug dealer moved in next door, that was my call to action,” she said in a recent interview.
Her first plan of attack was to form a Neighborhood Watch team, where she took the lead in identifying and reporting illegal activity to Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office deputies.
People asked Poe, “Aren’t you afraid of doing this?”
“I’m more afraid NOT to do it!” she would respond,
While the stepped-up policing brought initial success in reducing the problems, Poe realized offenders often got out of jail and then moved right back to Madeira Beach to continue with their crimes.
That’s when Poe started searching for a solution that would get rid of the drug houses and other centers of illicit activity. Following months of intensive research and consultation with communities facing similar issues, she took action. Poe assisted the city attorney in creating an ordinance that would force landlords to evict tenants that engage in specified “nuisance behaviors.”
CLEARWATER - Mobile home park owners, managers and residents still aren’t happy, even though county staff recalculated surface water fees, bringing some bills down by as much as 200 percent.
The group packed the Pinellas County courthouse in Clearwater Sept. 11 and returned in fewer numbers Sept. 23 to plead with commissioners to defer the higher bills until next year.
County staff explained that the tax rolls had already been certified, meaning the bills can’t be changed; however, adjustments can be made based on credits for reducing a properties impact on the stormwater system.
Staff also is adjusting the credit policy to allow for unique characters of mobile home parks and the trailers themselves.
When the county implemented its stormwater fees for fiscal year 2013-2014, some bills were inaccurate, including many mobile home parks. Since those bills were issued, county staff has digitized its data, enabling better calculations of impervious surfaces (that water cannot penetrate).
When water from rain, sprinklers and other sources hits impervious surfaces it runs off, eventually making its way to stormwater drains, ditches, ponds where it continues into other waterways, then on to Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. Pollutants contained in the run off affect the work staff is doing to maintain water quality standards set for the federal and state governments.
SAND KEY - Concerned that as time goes on people might not remember the events of Sept. 11, 2001 as distinctly, a Clearwater firefighter decided to do something unique in the hopes of keeping the memory of those who lost their lives alive.
Lt. Mark Wing decided to don full firefighting gear, then, in the heat, 90-plus degrees, he ran 11 miles from Clearwater Fire and Rescue Fire Station 44 on Sand Key to Fire Station 49 behind the Clearwater Mall.
Before the run, he was concerned because of the heat and the extra 60 pounds of gear he would be carrying.
“I’ve done longer races, but not in full gear,” he said. “I’ve done the distance before, and I know it will be the heat that I’ll be battling.”
To battle the heat, Wing carried lots of water and sports drinks.
His day didn’t stop once he reached Station 49. Once there, he shed the firefighters gear and donned a military-style backpack and turned around and ran the 11 miles back to Station 44. He wanted to represent the firefighters and the military members who were all involved in the events surrounding 9/11.
PALM HARBOR - It is one thing to ride your bike 50 or 60 miles on the weekend. It is quite another to attempt a 1,500-mile bike ride across the country.
Palm Harbor’s Rick Watson is going to try it and he is sure he can do it.
Watson, 61, plans to ride his bike from Washington, D.C., to Lincoln, Nebraska to raise money for a military-related charity. Departure date is Sept. 22. He says he’s doing it out of a sense of thanksgiving.
“I have always enjoyed bike riding but I’ve never done anything remotely like this,” he said. “I need to try to give a little something back somewhere. I’ve always respected the military and I found this charity and it sort of went from there.”
The charity is Homes for our Troops and as the name implies it provides homes for severely injured and disabled veterans.
“I’ve done a lot of research and Homes for our Troops is a highly rated charity,” he said. “They build custom homes for veterans some of whom might be paralyzed or missing limbs.”
LARGO - The inaugural Sunset Market in Largo Central Park lived up to its name Sept. 5.
“The weather held out for us, and we had a beautiful sunset at the Sunset Market,” said market organizer Jennifer McCafferty.
Forty-three vendors participated in the first weekly market. McCafferty said she expected about 50 vendors for the second market Friday, Sept. 12, but will keep to no more than 60 as the market grows.
“I think it went well for our first one,” she said. “Everybody had a good time, including eating. We ate a lot.”
The market will run every Friday through May, 3 to 7 p.m., in parking lot No. 1 of Largo Central Park, at southwest corner of East Bay and Central Park drives. Vendors will offer vegetables, fruits, raw local honey, herbal teas and wild-caught seafood as well as organic body products, essential oils, arts and crafts.
McCafferty said she thought rain in the surrounding areas kept greater crowds away for the inaugural market, though it didn’t rain on the market itself. Vendors were pleased with the Largo location, she added.
“We got a lot of ‘walk-in’ traffic,” McCafferty said. “A lot of the people said, ‘We saw the tents coming down from East Bay.’”
CLEARWATER - Animal rights activists will have to wait a little bit longer to find out how much support Pinellas County will lend toward their mission to trap, neuter, vaccinate and return free-roaming cats.
Maureen Freaney, Animal Services bureau director, updated county commissioners during an Aug. 19 meeting about work ongoing with nonprofit organizations and concerned citizens on the feral cat problem. She expects that staff will be ready to present a proposed ordinance that would support a pilot program for TNVR by November.
Animal Services has been working with MEOW Now since September 2013. MEOW stands for Managing and Ending Overpopulation Wisely. The group’s mission is to “humanely reduce the community cat population,” using TNVR, along with caregiver support and advocacy.
SPCA Tampa Bay and Humane Society of Pinellas also have been involved in the planning for the pilot program.
In 2013, county commissioners asked staff to work with interested parties to develop the pilot program based on an approved business plan from Meow Now and ordinance revisions necessary to support the program.
Freaney said in an Aug. 18 memo to the commission that county staff had worked with the stakeholders on what “we believe is a fair ordinance proposal for piloting TNVR in Pinellas County.”
BELLEAIR - The owners of the Belleview Biltmore Hotel have won the first round in their effort to be granted a “certificate of appropriateness,” which would give them the right to do whatever they wish with the hotel. That means that demolition is on the horizon.
The town’s Historic Preservation Board voted 5-1 to recommend to the Town Commission that the certificate be granted.
LARGO - After hearing a volley of public opinion on the matter, it was Largo Commissioner Curtis Holmes’ own response that prompted his fellow elected officials to back away from censuring him for inappropriate use of a city-issued iPad.
Holmes spoke against the advice of his attorney, who argued in his client’s defense for ten minutes during the public hearing Sept. 30. But Holmes said he couldn’t help himself but to give an explanation.
Pinellas County is continuing to take water samples from Joe’s Creek and nearby waterways after a sewer main ruptured about 11:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 29.
Utilities workers were able to stop the flow by about noon Tuesday, but not before more than 1 million gallons of untreated wastewater spilled into ditches and on to Joe’s Creek and beyond from a sewer main at 7780 62nd Ave. N. in St. Petersburg.
CLEARWATER - With little discussion, Pinellas County Commissioners unanimously approved a 10-year lease agreement with the Palm Harbor Historical Society for the Judge Hartley Homestead.
Pinellas County purchased the Hartley Homestead in 1996 as part of a project to widen the Belcher Road corridor. Not all the land was needed for the road project, so the commission designated the Hartley house located on the property as part of Heritage Village. Palm Harbor Museum was established, and the Palm Harbor Historical Society was granted use of the premises.