Tourism is up for the first half of 2014, according to a report from Research Data Services, presented by President and CEO Walter Klages to the Pinellas County Tourist Development Council Aug. 20.
The report shows that 589,300 visitors stayed overnight during the month of June - up from 562,800 in 2013. The economic impact was more than $720.5 million, an 8 percent increase.
Occupancy at the county’s lodging accommodations was 80.4 percent in June compared to 76.6 percent in 2013. The average daily rate was $123.15 up from $114.87 last year. Revenue per room was $99.01 compared to $87.99 in 2013.
June continues the upward trend enjoyed by the county’s tourism industry. From January through June, more than 3.2 million visited Pinellas, compared to just over 3 million for the same period in 2013. They spent more than $2.4 billion, up from in excess of $2.2 billion last year - an increase of 8.8 percent.
Occupancy rates - often referred to as heads in beds by local officials - have outpaced 2013 every month for the first six months of 2014.
More families are visiting this year, 48.8 percent of visitors compared to 44.2 percent last year. Declines were recorded for couples traveling without children and singles. More than 60 percent took a plane with the majority flying in to Tampa International, 56.8 percent. Just over 8 percent arrived at the St. Petersburg-Clearwater Airport, which also is enjoying a record season.
Pinellas County voters made their choices in primary and nonpartisan elections Aug. 26. And they participated in a countywide referendum.
Mail ballots were the most popular method of voting, with 114,365 returned as of 9:10 p.m. Election Day, according to new real-time voter-turnout statistics posted on the Supervisor of Elections website. Another 32,880 had voted at one of 224 polling places. Only 1,856 participated in the nine-day early voting period, which ended Aug. 24.
According to statistics from the Elections Office, there were 617,925 voters registered to participate in the Aug. 26 elections, including 219,538 registered Republicans in Pinellas, 223,751 Democrats and 174,636 registered as other than one of the two major political parties.
Getting rid of the garbage is a challenge, especially in Florida’s most densely populated county.
Pinellas County residents and visitors generate about 1.3 million tons of municipal solid waste - garbage - every year. That’s a lot for a county with only one landfill.
But, effective management of the waste stream coupled with continuing advances in technology, a dose of creativity and assistance from the public may extend the life of that landfill a little bit longer.
CLEARWATER - Good news for Pinellas County residents, the war over funding of first responder service may be over.
Pinellas County Commissioners, sitting as the Emergency Medical Services Authority, unanimously approved a master agreement Aug. 19 with 17 municipalities and fire districts to provide advanced life support first responder service in the next fiscal year.
They also unanimously approved a resolution with revised criteria for figuring out “reasonable and customary cost” of EMS providers. The providers rejected a previous plan to change how costs were distributed.
ST. PETERSBURG - Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority launched a new transparency initiative Aug. 7 that puts all public records requests online for the public to view.
The action makes PSTA the first public transit agency in Florida and one of Tampa Bay's first governmental agencies to puts its public records requests online.
Users can visit psta.net/publicrecords.php and see all public records requests dating back to Jan. 1, 2014. The requests can be searched in real time, and details include the record requestor's name, date of requests, topic of requests and completion status for all requests.
Pinellas County beaches remain free of red tide, according to the latest report from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission.
In a report released Aug. 22, two samples collected in the county contained background concentrations of Karenia Brevis, the scientific name for Florida red tide. One sample was collected offshore, 25 miles west of Madeira Beach. The second sample was collected alongshore at Mullet Key, Bay Pier. Red tide was not detected in any other samples collected in Pinellas.
Pinellas County Property Appraiser Pam Dubov mail annual Notice of Proposed Property Taxes, or Truth In Millage (TRIM) Notices, to Pinellas property owners Friday, Aug. 22.
The notice is not a bill. The tax collector mails the bills Oct. 31.
The TRIM notice is a notification to property owners of the proposed value of their property, the proposed millage rates set by taxing authorities, whether an exemption is in place, and the proposed property taxes they will see on their property tax bill this year.
ST. PETERSBURG - A Palmetto man died Thursday afternoon in a construction accident at the Sky Trap and Skeet Club, 3200 74th Avenue North, St. Petersburg.
Pinellas County deputies are investigating the accident that occurred at approximately 3:44 p.m. According to the sheriff’s report, John J. Winchester, 53, an employee of Woodruff and Sons Construction in Bradenton, was operating a vibratory roller, which is a steamroller that vibrates to pack the sand. While backing up, southbound, on an embankment, the roller flipped west. Winchester was pinned under the metal roof.
Construction crews were eventually able to remove the roller. Winchester was pronounced dead on the scene.
REDINGTON SHORES - The Redington Shores Town Commission voted unanimously to endorse the Greenlight Pinellas plan at its monthly meeting on Aug. 13.
With the vote, Greenlight Pinellas is backed by a growing majority of cities in Pinellas County.
Of 24 cities in Pinellas County, the 15 cities and counting that have joined together behind the Greenlight Pinellas plan include: St. Petersburg, Largo, Clearwater, Belleair, Treasure Island, Redington Beach, Dunedin, Indian Rocks Beach, Belleair Bluffs, St. Pete Beach, South Pasadena, Madeira Beach, Tarpon Springs, Safety Harbor and Redington Shores.
ST. PETERSBURG - Pinellas County Sheriff’s detectives arrested a former teacher Monday, Aug. 18, for unlawful sexual activity with a minor.
According to the sheriff’s report, detectives began their investigation on July 22, after it was discovered that the suspect and a 16-year-old student were having an inappropriate relationship.
Detectives say that Elisha Joy Kingsley, 39, of St. Petersburg befriended the victim while she was a teacher at a private school in St. Petersburg. The suspect and the victim began texting each other via a phone application in mid-June.