CLEARWATER - State Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, made it official Aug. 16, traveling to three different locations, including the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, to announce he is running for governor in 2018.
Latvala, 65, has been a local powerhouse in state politics for years. He first served in the senate, representing Pinellas, from 1994 to 2002. He returned to the senate in 2010 where he continues to represent portions of Pinellas and Pasco counties.
Tampa Bay Newspapers won 17 awards in the Florida Press Association’s Better Weekly Newspaper Contest, including four first-place awards.
“We are pleased to be recognized for our work in many categories in this contest against tough competition,” said TBN Executive Editor Tom Germond. “Our awards, as in years past, are a reflection of our employees’ hard work, creative talents and teamwork.”
Fifty-six newspapers participated in the contest and submitted 1,154 entries in writing, photography and design categories.
SEMINOLE - As North America geared up for a total solar eclipse on Aug. 21, Sara Madden of Seminole knew she wanted to find a unique way to experience the historic event with her elementary school-aged children.
This was the first total solar eclipse to take place in the continental United States in nearly 40 years, after all.
Even though only a partial eclipse could be viewed from Florida, it was still “a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Madden said. So she took advantage of Pinellas County Schools offering students an excused absence for the day if they partook in eclipse activities, picked up her children after a half-day to take them to lunch and brought them to the library to view the eclipse and for associated programming
CLEARWATER - Six cents of every dollar spent on rooms at local motels, hotels and other lodging accommodations goes to help pay for the county’s tourism industry. The Tourist Development Tax brings in millions of dollars annually.
At the Aug. 15 Pinellas County Commission meeting, staff presented five agreements totaling nearly $40 million in funding for capital improvement projects to be paid for with proceeds from the Tourist Development Tax, better known as the bed tax.
PINELLAS PARK - Pinellas Park police arrested two 17-year-old males after a search revealed they were in possession of a .45 caliber semi-automatic handgun while attending a football game about 9: 20 p.m. Aug. 18 at Pinellas Park High School, 6305 118th Ave.
Gary R. Ponder and Altrevion R. Isaac both of St. Petersburg are students at Boca Ciega High School in Gulfport.
Police say a spectator at the game saw Isaac and Ponder displaying the gun, which was inside a backpack. The spectator informed police.
INDIAN ROCKS BEACH - For 18 years Father Bob Wagenseil served as pastor of the Calvary Episcopal Church in Indian Rocks Beach. For many of those years he was the chaplain of the Pinellas Suncoast Fire & Rescue Department. In addition to that he headed up a sailing program for young people.
Now he is moving on.
Wagenseil, 63, retired from the church four years ago, but he stayed active. He continued the sailing program and operated out of the Clearwater Yacht Club on Clearwater Beach.
LARGO - The Central Pinellas Chamber of Commerce shined the spotlight on five exceptional people at its ninth annual Inspire Awards Luncheon, with Jenn Holloway of News Channel 8 and Great 38 serving as master of ceremonies.
The Inspire Awards celebrate individuals in Central Pinellas who have had a positive impact on the lives of others through their leadership in the workplace and/or involvement in the community.
Multiple nominations were submitted in honor of those who make a difference in our region, five of whom received this year’s awards. They are Melissa Boss Enos of SearchFirst Information Services, Marci Sadorf of the Palms of Largo, Jim Conlin of Raymond James and the Suncoast Performing Arts Foundation, Stephanie Joyner of Largo Middle School and Ellen Petracco of Value Properties of Central Florida and Wealth Builders.
CLEARWATER - The Clearwater Threshers and their fans got a taste of the phenomenon known as Tebowmania on Monday night, as former Florida Gators quarterback and current St. Lucie Mets outfielder Tim Tebow came to town for a four-game series at Spectrum Field.
The 30-year-old Jacksonville native is attempting to make it to the Major Leagues following the conclusion of his professional football career, and his promotion to high Single-A St. Lucie has led to record-setting attendance numbers and fan frenzies at every stop.
INDIAN SHORES - A final site plan review request was unanimously approved to construct a single-family home with two floors over parking at the Aug. 8 Indian Shores Town Council meeting.
At the meeting, Freddy Socias represented Alvarez New Concepts of Tampa, a custom home builder that is the contractor for the project at 20230 Gulf Blvd. Socias presented a rendering of the residence at both the Town Council and Planning, Zoning and Building Committee meetings.
The property owners are Shylendra and Madhu Kumar.
TARPON SPRINGS - The Pinellas County government hosted a valve-turning ceremony on Thursday, July 20, at 11 a.m., at the S.K. Keller Water Treatment Plant, 3655 Keller Circle, in the East Lake area of Tarpon Springs.
Commissioner Janet Long from the Pinellas County Board of Commissioners spoke during the event, informing audience members of the facility having the latest in energy-saving technology, centralized operations, new booster pumps, maintenance, warehousing, and training facilities in the Category 3 hurricane-rated building. The new electrical building can withstand a Category 5 storm.
OLDSMAR - The city of Oldsmar’s new Volunteer Program has started to pay dividends, as collaborations with local companies looking to provide volunteer manpower has already saved the city thousands of dollars in offset labor costs.
“We just started a formalized City volunteer program for individuals, groups or corporations, and last month, we had 270 volunteer hours and calculated we saved $6,200 in offset labor costs,” Leisure Services Director Felicia Donnelly, who started the program two months ago, said.
LARGO - Largo Medical Center is the first hospital in the Tampa Bay area to implant a new miniaturized, wireless monitoring sensor to manage heart failure while a patient is at home.
The CardioMEMS Heart Failure System is the first and only FDA approved monitoring device proven to significantly reduce hospital admissions when used by physicians to manage heart failure. This technologically advanced system features a sensor that is implanted into the pulmonary artery during a non-surgical procedure to directly measure pulmonary artery pressure.
LARGO - In 1964, Largo High School sweethearts Audrey Venezia and Ken Bray were voted by their peers to have the most school spirit after they helped spearhead a project to install an 8 1/2-foot crest on the side of the auditorium.
That crest was taken down when the school was renovated in 2014, and Audrey would pass away two years later in July 2016.
So, when Bray watched a crew mount a new crest that was paid for by fellow members of the Class of 1964 almost exactly one year after his longtime wife’s death, he felt more than school spirit. He felt Audrey’s as well.
PINELLAS PARK - Following a jam-packed summer, staff at Girls Inc. of Pinellas won’t get much of a chance to catch its breath as the school year starts Aug. 10.
That’s when the organization’s after-school program, “Discovering Women of Invention,” kicks off. The program runs through May 24, the end of the 2017-2018 school year.
The organization, designed to empower girls through academic enrichment including STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), literacy, creative arts, healthy living and other curriculum, provides programming to young women in Pinellas Park and surrounding areas year-round.
DUNEDIN - At the end of the month city officials will get views from residents on certain main corridors in their community - the good, the bad and the ugly.
And that’s what city commissioners want.
The city will hold visioning workshops Aug. 27-31 at the Hale Center, 330 Douglas Ave.
The sessions, hosted by Jacobs Planning Group, are open to the public and residents are encouraged to participate.
The sessions start with a meet and greet gathering Sunday, Aug. 27, at 2 p.m. followed by a preference overview. Included over the ensuing few days through Thursday, Aug. 31, will be small group discussions, questions and answers with consultants, map exercises, analyses of strengths and weaknesses and more preference surveys focusing on downtown, the State Road 580 corridor and Patricia Avenue corridor.
LARGO - Pinellas County’s Emergency Operations Center kicked off the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season June 1 by hosting a media day to unveil new preparedness tools and urge residents to check to see if their evacuation zones have changed.
One big announcement was the launch of a new tool, the “Ready Pinellas” mobile app. Sally Bishop, Emergency Management director, described the new technology as a “plan in your pocket.”
Ready Pinellas connects to Alert Pinellas, the National Hurricane Center, social media and more. It provides information needed to assess risks, check evacuation levels and storm surge. Residents and visitors can enter information to create a personal emergency plan. The app also has checklists and up-to-date evacuation information based on your location.
NOAA’s climate experts say that the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season will most likely have above-normal activity.
Ben Friedman, acting NOAA administrator, revealed this year’s seasonal outlook during a press conference May 25. Forecasters with the Climate Prediction Center give odds of 45 percent that the season, which runs June 1-Nov. 30, will have above-normal activity, a 35 percent chance of near-normal activity and a 20 percent chance of a below-normal season.
TALLAHASSEE - As the 2017 hurricane season begins, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles urges every citizen to be prepared for potential emergencies by making a disaster preparedness plan that includes registering or updating their Emergency Contact Information.
Residents with a valid driver license or identification card may enter up to two emergency contacts into the department’s secure ECI database. ECI can only be accessed by law enforcement and only during emergencies such as a hurricane or crash.
Citizens can register or update their ECI free of charge on the DHSMV website and in local driver license and tax collector offices to ensure their designated family or friends will be contacted in the event of an emergency.