CLEARWATER - Gov. Rick Scott vetoed a record $461 million in budget requests June 23, including nearly $7 million from Pinellas County.
But the news wasn’t all bad, Mary Scott Hardwick, the county’s intergovernmental liaison, reported at a June 23 commission meeting, with money in the budget for an Upham Beach project, prescription drug monitoring and homeless services.
“There are a lot of good things,” she said.
But, funding for local nonprofits wasn’t one of them. The governor vetoed a funding request for $250,000 from Vincent House in Pinellas Park, which assists people recovering from mental illness and other disabilities. Scott also said no to $400,000 for Directions for Living in Clearwater, which provides behavioral health services. The Pinellas Education Foundation also won’t get the $500,000 it requested for career path planning to help the county’s school students. In addition, Scott vetoed $400,000 for the Clearwater Homeless Empowerment Program, formerly Homeless Emergency Project.
Clearwater Historical Society Museum did not get the $204,340 it requested. Bill Wallace sent out an email to members of CHS and others June 23 informing them of the veto.
BELLEAIR BLUFFS - Instead of a football, Shelton Quarles picked up a hammer and a pair of gloves. The former NFL player helped to demolish the interior of an existing housing unit at Shepherd’s Village on June 19.
Over the next month and a half, the unit will undergo renovations before becoming the home for a single mother and her children.
In the past 23 years, Shepherd’s Village has been able to help 250 families and nearly 500 children. The housing facilities in Belleair Bluffs offer a safe, steady home for up to 15 families annually.
These temporary homes have helped many women in crisis get back on their feet. But while the existing units are clean, they also date back to the 1970s and are in need of repair.
Thanks to the Shelton Quarles IMPACT Foundation, one of the units was renovated last year. At a Shepherd’s Village gala last winter, Quarles pledged to renovate another. With this second donation, however, Quarles wanted to give more than just money.
For three hours, Quarles and his two sons Shelton Jr. and Carlos worked alongside contractor Jerry to demolish the inside of the unit. Moving from the kitchen to the bathroom to the living room, the team pulled apart fixtures, removed tiles, and tore up the carpet.
DUNEDIN - City officials are leaning toward plans to charge people to park in some areas in downtown Dunedin, but they want to analyze options more before making any decisions.
At a three-hour workshop June 23, commissioners heard the pros and cons from many residents on regulating parking before agreeing by consensus on the two options they want staff to study further.
One option calls for paid and free parking to the public. The other calls for enforced three-hour parking with a transition to paid parking in six months. Commissioners asked for more information from staff and their advisers, Walker Parking Consultants of Tampa.
Commissioner Heather Gracy said she wanted to hear more from Walker regarding case studies.
“When you look at Dunedin what other comparable cities size-wise, population-wise have tried paid parking and perhaps failed,” she said.
In addition she asked that city officials evaluate the suggestion that residents be given a discount in parking fees.
“Any benefit we can add to the taxpayers of the city to underwrite the current parking, I want to know as much as possible on how we can accommodate that,” she said.
Mayor Julie Ward Bujalski said she wants to further investigate funding options besides paid parking to increase spaces while maintaining the downtown’s ambiance, such as future Penny for Pinellas revenue.
TARPON SPRINGS - “You’re American by birth but a Sponger by the grace of God,” Cpl. Taurean Mathis calls out to a group of students huddled in the corner of the Tarpon Springs High School gym.
It’s the last Friday before school lets out for summer and Mathis, the school student resource officer, is wrapping up his responsibilities for the year, but he still stops to talk to the students. He always finds time for his students.
A member of the TSHS senior class of 2002, Mathis grew up in Tarpon Springs with a single mother and two siblings, plus his cousin who moved in with them when she was 3 months old. After high school, he joined the United States Army and served two tours in Iraq, including being a part of the initial invasion of Operation Iraqi Freedom. When he returned in 2007, he said he wanted to continue helping.
“My passion has always been to serve others. I don’t see myself as a role model, but I want to serve others. I may not always do something the right way and I might not do it immediately, but I do the right thing,” Mathis said. “When you do what’s right by people, the rest falls into place.”
INDIAN ROCKS BEACH - It began as just a routine day at the beach but ended in near-tragedy and a woman looking for the person who saved her life.
Dorothy Rodriguez, 75, of The Villages was with her beach-going group on April 27. It was a dull day and the water was a bit rough. Most of her group stayed on the beach, but Rodriguez liked what she saw and went into the water.
“I went in by myself, I think there were only five other people in the water at the time,” she said. “It was pretty rough, but to me it was delightful. There were wonderful swells that you could jump in and enjoy. I’ve been in the water half my life; I’m very familiar with the water.”
But the water that day, even for an experienced swimmer, proved to be too much. Rodriguez remembers suddenly being in deep and in a situation out of her control.
“I was in deep water, I can’t tell you how I got there, I don’t know,” she said. “I tried to swim out of it and I couldn’t, I tried to swim sideways but every time I went a little bit a wave would come to take me away. I only weigh 102 pounds and it was sucking me down, I couldn’t fight it. My arms were getting sore.”
LARGO - Sixteen churches are helping build a new home for Julio and Billie Acevedo and their four children.
Members of the congregations signed the two-by-four studs that are being built into the frames of the house at 523 11th Ave. NW. in Largo. Julio Acevedo placed a Bible that had been blessed into the foundation before the concrete was poured. About 180 church members volunteered about 1,200 hours of their time to make the Acevedo’s dream of home ownership a reality.
The effort is part of what Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas County is calling a Faith Build, a house entirely funded and built through partnerships with the 16 churches. Julio and Billie Acevedo joined in the work June 4 with volunteers from three churches - Gulf Coast Church, Palm Harbor United Methodist Church and their own congregation, Anona United Methodist Church in Largo.
The day marked Anona’s 36th time it’s sent volunteers to work on site of a new house. Its members have helped about 25 families earn their own home, said Dave Gerald, who has organized much of those volunteer days over the last three years.
CLEARWATER - Pinellas County Administrator Mark Woodard asked Commissioners for input at a June 4 budget work session on 41 funding requests that collectively exceed the target budget set for fiscal year 2016 by $45.9 million.
Woodard presented his recommendations for funding for commissioners to review ahead of final preparations of his proposed budget, which he will present July 21. He said this year’s requests for extra money far-exceed last year’s total.
He split his recommendations into four groups - funded, partially funded, alternate solutions and unfunded. Some of the funding comes from sources other than the General Fund, which is primarily fueled by ad valorem taxes and pays for most operating costs. Woodard’s suggestions maintain a 15 percent reserve fund, per the commission’s policy, and a “consistent millage rate.”
The decision packages were divided into categories, starting with the top priorities - public safety, health and welfare. Next in line was maintenance of county assets and infrastructure. Third was service level enhancement or restoration, and finally, quality of life.
Woodard said his approach was to make “forward progress” even when requests could not be fully funded by looking for “another way to go.”
PINELLAS PARK - When Chief Dorene Thomas retired after 35 years of service with the Pinellas Park Police Department in April, she handed the reins over to Chief Michael Haworth, a longtime officer in the department who most recently served as assistant chief.
Haworth didn’t waste any time getting to work. In the weeks before Thomas officially left the department, he worked with her, as well as a focus group that included police officers and community representatives, to create a three-year strategic plan for the policing agency. The last time the PPPD implemented a strategic plan was in 2000, when Thomas was permanently named chief of the department.
“It was important that the strategic plan coincide with the change in command,” Haworth said. “Being a new chief and a new administration, I thought it was really important. What we created is a road map for how we plan to address the needs of the community and the needs of our organization, and how we’re going to use technology coming out to keep our neighborhoods safe and drive crime rate down.”
There are three main components to the plan, he said: driving crime down in neighborhoods, personnel recruitment and better utilizing new technology to assist in policing efforts.
CLEARWATER - During budget meetings in 2014, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri made a strong case for a two-part plan to balance his agency’s pay scale.
County Commissioners agreed and added money to the fiscal year 2015 budget to start the process. During a budget meeting May 21, Gualtieri requested the additional funds to finish the job of implementing a balanced pay structure.
Pay problems over the past few years have made it a challenge for the Sheriff’s Office to “keep the best of the best,” Gualtieri said. He explained that “severe pay compression at the bottom of the pay range” had created a situation where new deputies earned the same as a deputy with five years of experience. Experienced deputies earned less than those they supervised.
Gualtieri talked at length about the “brain drain” caused by the inability to offer competitive pay. He presented a number of pages of information detailing the problems.
Right now, the most senior law enforcement deputy with the rank of captain at the sheriff’s office has only five years in that position. Eight of 11 law enforcement captains, or 73 percent, have less than two years in their positions. All four corrections captains at the jail have less than one year in their position.
SEMINOLE - Tampa Bay Newspapers office will be closed Friday, July 3, in observance of Independence Day. Early deadlines are as follows.
Deadline for retail and display classified ads is by 5 p.m. Thursday, July 2. Deadline for classified line ads is noon Monday, July 6. Editorial press releases must be received by noon Thursday, July 2.
The office is located at 9911 Seminole Blvd., Seminole. Call 397-5563 for more information.
As Americans make plans for the long holiday weekend, officials are urging everyone to make safety a part of the mix. Drunk-driving fatalities, boating accidents, drownings and fireworks mishaps combine to make the Fourth of July the deadliest holiday of the year, according to some sources.
AAA Motor Club predicts that a record number of people will travel over Independence Day holiday - the most since 2007. From Wednesday, July 1, to Sunday, July 5, nearly 42 million people are expected to take a trip to a destination at least 50 miles from their home. Nearly 85 percent plan to travel by automobile.
Fireworks - check. Patriotic music - check. Picnic opportunities - check. Parades and festivals - check. Pinellas County will mark Independence Day 2015 with a variety of celebrations. Even before the sun goes down and fireworks light up the twilight skies, festivities will be underway.
The Fourth of July commemorates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, the document in which American colonies effectively declared independence from Great Britain. Each year, Americans celebrate Independence Day with festivities ranging from fireworks and parades to picnics and concerts - as well as more casual family gatherings and barbecues. Following is a summary of some planned Pinellas events:
LARGO - Pinellas County Sheriff Gualtieri announced a partnership June 23 with local law enforcement agencies, Congressman David Jolly and Project ChildSafe to provide free gunlocks and materials to citizens in an effort to promote gun safety.
The Sheriff’s Office encourages citizens to keep their lawfully owned guns locked and stored in a safe place. With proper storage and security, incidents such as the accidental self-inflicted gunshot death of 2- ½-year-old Kaleb Ahles in Tarpon Springs earlier this year are preventable. Prevention is key to keeping the public safe and preventing serious injury and/or death from the accidental discharge of a firearm.
DUNEDIN - City officials propose a 0.6 mill increase in their proposed budget for the next fiscal year, stemming from a projected shortfall in funds.
The proposed tax rate of 4.33 mills, equivalent to $4.33 for every $1,000 of assessed property value, is needed to assure that the unassigned fund balance in Dunedin’s operating budget is closer to being in full compliance with the city’s current reserve policy of 15 percent of annual operating expenses, city officials say.
LARGO - The Barley Mow Brewing Company recently finished the first phase of a new production facility in Largo, allowing it to make 3,000 barrels of beer a year shipped to 150 breweries across the state - from Jacksonville to the Keys.
But that’s just the beginning. Next week, the brewery will start canning its beer, to be sold as six-packs at the Barley Mow tavern, at 518 W. Bay Drive. By the end of August, owner Jay Dingman hopes the cans will be fully vetted and ready to be sold in grocery stores across the state.