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CLEARWATER - Pinellas County Administrator Mark Woodard’s preliminary budget contains no real surprises and, best of all, no millage rate increases.

That’s primarily due to participation by commissioners, constitutional officers and other stakeholders during the preparation process, Woodard said, after he presented his budget at the July 21 commission meeting.

“Developing a $2 billion budget requires a village,” he said, adding that while not all “needs and wants” were included, he had done his best to provide for all within the available revenue.
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Tuesday, July 28
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CLEARWATER - Although some Pinellas County Commissioners expressed concerns July 21 about increasing the tourist development tax without knowing how the money could be spent, they still voted 6-1 to schedule an Aug. 4 public hearing on the matter.

Commissioner Karen Seel cast the lone no vote.

Seel questioned why the commission would approve the levy of an additional percent without first approving a spending plan. Commissioners agreed unanimously May 19, after much debate, to defer a decision about proposed changes to the Tourist Development Plan and future allocations of the county’s bed tax proceeds until a decision was made on the levy of a sixth cent.
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Monday, July 27
CLEARWATER - Allegiant Air announced an expansion of its ultra-low-cost flights July 21 with the addition of nonstop service from Memphis to the St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport beginning Oct. 1. Nonstop service from Memphis International Airport (MEM) to St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport (PIE) will operate twice weekly.

Allegiant current offers non-stop flights to 43 destinations from Pinellas County’s airport, accounting for 94 percent of all flights from St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport.

For more information, visit Allegiant.com.
 ... Read More 
ST. PETERSBURG - Rigorous compliance reviews of the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority by the Federal Transit Administration show that the agency is a successful manager of federal transportation funds. 

FTA released its draft report of PSTA July 16, which showed accordance in hundreds of specific areas from financial management to Title VI, according to a press release from PSTA.  The only finding, in procurement documentation, was corrected prior to the audit and will be marked as closed in the final report.

The Triennial Review is required by law for any transit agency receiving grants from the federal government. Each year, PSTA relies on nearly $14 million of those funds. Most recently, PSTA used federal grants to purchase 13 brand new Gillig 40-foot hybrid-electric buses, set to arrive later this month.
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ST. PETERSBURG - Pinellas County Air Quality recently investigated a St. Petersburg resident’s complaint about an alleged objectionable amount of smoke and odor coming from a neighboring property.

The complaint was filed on July 22. There have been 15 smoke and odor complaints received since September 2014 related to this property

The owner was cited by the city of St. Petersburg for the possession of commercial grilling equipment in a residential neighborhood. 
 ... Read More 
Thursday, July 23
ST. PETERSBURG - Thirteen of the oldest diesel buses at the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority will be replaced with brand new hybrid electric ones set to arrive soon. Nine have already arrived at PSTA headquarters.

Despite a significant decrease in federal grant funds in recent years as Congressional earmarks were eliminated and bus-specific funding sources were reduced, PSTA continues to prioritize federal dollars on its bus replacement plan, according to a press release.

“This is the healthiest fleet we have ever had,” said Director of Maintenance Henry Lukasik. “We are really focused on our customers and making sure that they always have a reliable, safe, and environmentally-friendly bus at their disposal.”
 ... Read More 
Tuesday, July 21
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CLEARWATER - It’s been a long time coming, but groundbreaking for the new Bayside Health Clinic has been scheduled for Tuesday, July 28, 10 a.m. Elected officials and local healthcare professionals will gather in the parking lot adjacent to Pinellas Safe Harbor, 14840 49th St N, Clearwater.

The groundbreaking kicks off construction of a 3,078 square-foot clinic at 14808 49th St. N., which is adjacent to the Safe Harbor homeless shelter. The new clinic will provide medical, dental and behavioral health services for the county’s homeless.
 ... Read More 
CLEARWATER - St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport reported record passenger travel in June. It is the fifth consecutive month a record has been set at Pinellas County’s airport.

According to a media release, 157,200 passengers were served, a 29 percent increase over June 2014. PIE reports a 27 percent increase is passenger travel for the first six months of this year. Domestic travel increased by 28 percent and international travel by 22 percent.

The majority of travelers took an Allegiant Air flight. Allegiant serves 43 non-stop destinations, the most non-stop destinations of any airline in Tampa Bay, airport officials said.
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ST. PETERSBURG - Ridership has continued to soar at the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority and now a new record has been set for the highest ridership ever in June.

According to a press release, riders boarded PSTA buses 1,227,612 times, a 3.4 percent increase from the same month in 2014, and an all-time record for the month overall. The nearly 40,000 additional trips made last month could be attributed to increased tourism seen throughout the county, officials said.

Last month, an estimated 250,000 people were drawn to St. Petersburg’s Grand Central District to celebrate the annual St. Pete Pride Parade and Street Festival. PSTA offered several routes throughout the weekend to better transport people across the city during the festivities.
 ... Read More 
Monday, July 20
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CLEARWATER - After a 90-minute closed-door session, Pinellas County Commissioners unanimously approved a settlement July 13 with BP for damages associated with the 2010 Deep Horizon oil spill.

Per instructions by County Attorney Jim Bennett, no information about the settlement was disclosed at the Monday afternoon special meeting.

“Because we are subject to a federal court confidentiality order, we are having to follow a process that is different from the level of transparency we usually follow on matters of public interest,” Bennett said.
 ... Read More 
CLEARWATER - With a vote of 7-0, Tampa Bay Water’s board of directors accepted $1.25 million July 13 in a settlement and release of claims against BP Oil and related entities for economic damages incurred by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Once approved by a federal judge in Louisiana, who is handling all BP oil spill claims, the $1.25 million settlement will be paid to Tampa Bay Water within 30 days, minus 20 percent for fees and payment of litigation costs.

“It’s difficult to assign a dollar amount to the economic damage caused by the spill,” said Donald Conn, counsel for Tampa Bay Water. “Our claim was based on the agency’s loss of revenue. Tourism decreased in the months following the spill. As result, there was less demand for potable water, and Tampa Bay Water’s sales declined. The justice system has held BP accountable.”
 ... Read More 
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