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CLEARWATER - In November, Pinellas County voters will be asked to approve renewal of Penny for Pinellas sales tax for a fourth 10-year cycle.

But before the voting begins, local government officials have to decide how to spend the money and interlocal agreements between the county and municipalities have to be signed that determine how the money will be shared.

County Commissioners began preliminary work Feb. 14 to prioritize the best use for its share. Staff estimates that $2 billion in tax revenue will be generated between 2020 and 2030.
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LARGO - Of the people deemed eligible to participate in Pinellas County’s Adult Pre-Arrest Diversion Program during the last quarter of 2016, 179 completed it successfully, and 105 didn’t make it.

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri released a report Feb. 17 of activity that occurred from Oct. 17-Dec. 31, 2016.

The diversion program began Oct. 17, 2016 as a means to help county residents avoid having a criminal arrest record for minor offenses and give law enforcement an alternative to making an arrest under certain conditions. All cities in the county participate in the program, which has the support of the state attorney, public defender, chief judge and clerk of the court.
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The latest scam may sound like a commercial, but it’s not. Pinellas County Consumer Protection is advising residents who receive a phone call asking “Can you hear me?” to hang up and not say yes.

The objective is to get the victim to respond to the question by saying “yes.” That affirmative response is recorded and then used to authorize unwanted charges on a phone bill, utility bill or with a stolen credit card.

To add legitimacy to the transaction, the scammer may have already collected some personal information about the victim. When the victim disputes the charge, the scammer will validate the charge with the recording of the victim saying “yes,” therefore approving the charge.
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The offices of Pinellas County Code Enforcement will be closed Friday, Feb. 24, and Monday, Feb. 27, as staff moves to a new location at 631 Chestnut St., Clearwater.

Code Enforcement will re-open at the new location on Tuesday, Feb. 28. Hours of operation will remain the same from 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m.

Code Enforcement is responsible for partnering with the public in education and enforcement of codes in the unincorporated areas of the county to ensure health, safety and welfare for residents.
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Pinellas County Regional 911 Center is hiring individuals who desire a professional career in public service answering calls involving life-threatening crises and other public safety situations. Applications for law enforcement telecommunicators must be submitted by Sunday, Feb. 26.

Applicants must have six months or more of emergency, tactical, or customer/public contact and complaint experience using telephone communications that includes typing at a reasonable rate of speed.

Incumbents in this class must maintain a calm, compassionate, customer service-oriented demeanor while handling a variety of emergency and non-emergency public safety calls.
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Friday, February 17
Many Pinellas County government offices will be closed Monday, Feb. 20, for employees to attend in-service training.

The Solid Waste Administration Building and HEC3 facility will be closed. The scalehouse/landfill will be open from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The Property Appraiser’s offices and Tax Collector’s offices will be closed. All three Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections offices will be closed.
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ST. PETERSBURG - Red T-shirts, clipboards, surveys and bus passes were among the tools given to hundreds of volunteers participating in the annual homeless Point-in-Time Count in Pinellas County on Jan. 24.

Among the volunteers were dozens of employees from the Bay Pines VA Healthcare System including members of the executive leadership team.

This mission was to survey and count as many homeless persons as possible to better understand the prevalence of homelessness in the community, assess needs of the population, and plan for future resources and strategies to assist those in need.
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CLEARWATER - The recently approved Pinellas County Shore Protection Project will repair damages sustained from Hurricane Hermine to the Sand Key shoreline.

A recent study by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers showed nearly 360,000 cubic yards of material eroded from the project’s design berm as a result of the storm.

The Sand Key project is approved under the Flood Control and Coastal Emergency Act, which authorizes activities for repair of federally authorized shore protection projects threatened or damaged by coastal storms. The project is set to begin this September and could last four months.
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Thursday, February 16
Pinellas County Utilities’ crews are currently installing a bypass of a blocked sewer gravity line at the intersection of Lansbrook Parkway and Tarpon Lake Boulevard in the Lansbrook neighborhood, east of East Lake Road South, in North County.

Residents and drivers in the area are advised to enter and exit the Lansbrook neighborhood and other adjacent neighborhoods by way of Village Center Drive or the southern end of Tarpon Lake Boulevard, both which intersect East Lake Road South.

The bypass of the gravity line will enable crews to inspect the line to determine the appropriate repair. The bypass--a temporary pipe--will be installed over the roadway and will require that the four-lane Lansbrook Parkway be reduced down to two lanes at the intersection of Lansbrook Parkway and Tarpon Lake Boulevard. Residents and travelers should expect traffic in the area to be impacted over the weekend.
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Wednesday, February 15
Pinellas County Utilities will commence the replacement of two 16-inch water transmission lines -- one for potable, the other for reclaimed -- overnight Wednesday that will require the temporary interruption and/or reduced pressure of potable water service and the total shutdown of reclaimed water service to customers in the Pass-A-Grille area of St. Pete Beach, from Cabrillo Avenue to 24th Avenue, Vina Del Mar and all of Tierra Verde.

The potable water project is scheduled to begin on Wednesday, Feb. 15, at 10 p.m. and is scheduled to be completed by 5 a.m. on Thursday, Feb. 16. Customers in Pass-A-Grille will experience a complete shutdown of potable water. Customers in Vina Del Mar and Tierra Verde will experience low pressure in their potable water service, but water will be available for drinking and other household uses.

The reclaimed water project is scheduled to begin on Wednesday, Feb. 15 at 8 p.m. and is scheduled to be completed by 8 a.m. on Thursday, Feb. 16. The reclaimed water project will require the complete shutdown of the supply to Pass-A-Grille, Vina Del Mar and Tierra Verde.
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Monday, February 13
CLEARWATER - Pinellas County staff presented the budget forecast for fiscal years 2018-2023 Feb. 7 as a preface to beginning work on next year’s budget.

This is the eighth year that staff has undergone this exercise to allow the commission to make decisions based on information about long-term financial sustainability and have an understanding of the impact today’s decisions have on the future.

Thus far, staff has given no indication that a millage rate increase will be needed to balance next year’s budget.
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CLEARWATER - Pinellas County commissioners agreed unanimously Feb. 7 to remove the chairman of the Housing Finance Authority without cause. The tenure of Rodney Fischer of Palm Harbor, one of the original board members, has ended.

The HFA is a dependent special district created by the state under the authority of the County Commission. Its purpose is to help alleviate the shortage of housing available at prices or rentals, which many persons and families can afford, and provide capital for investment in such housing. Pinellas County approved an ordinance governing its HFA on Oct. 12, 1982. Fischer was appointed to the board in 1983.

Attorney Mike Cronin, who provides counsel for the HFA, told commissioners during a discussion on who should replace Fischer that the board would still have four members and there was no need to appoint a new chair right away.
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CLEARWATER - Pinellas County Commissioners will take public comment on proposed amendments to the animal services ordinance during a Feb. 21 hearing scheduled at 6 p.m. in the Fifth Floor Assembly Room of the county Courthouse, 315 Court St., Clearwater.

A number of changes are proposed to the definitions section, including referring to the state statute to define baiting, cruelty, dangerous dog, proper enclosure for a dangerous dog, severe injury, unprovoked and veterinarian.

The amendment defines a hobby breeder as a person or entity that is a current member of a dog, cat or kennel club at the national, state or local level or affiliated with a nationally recognized organization and houses or breeds dogs or cats in or on the property of a private residence.
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CLEARWATER - The Pinellas County Tax Collector's office shares the county's long-term vision of providing one-stop shops for the residents.

"Through research, we have learned that what's most important to residents in regards to the service we provide is that they can complete their transactions on their first interaction with us and promptly," said Tax Collector Charles W. Thomas in a press release. "We also understand that more and more people want service choices, especially online options.

"Using Google Analytics, we realized that more than 30 percent of customers visiting our website are doing so from mobile devices. To help residents get the information they need, no matter where they access it from, our office recently launched a new mobile-friendly website that provides easy access to our vast array of online services. Why wait in our office when you can complete most transactions from the comfort of your home?"
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CLEARWATER - St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport marked the 23rd consecutive month of growth in passenger travel in January.

Domestic passengers at the airport, call letters PIE, increased by 20 percent and international passengers by 49 percent compared to January 2016, an overall increase of 20 percent, according to a press release.

Officials say that 2016 was the airport’s biggest year in history with 1,837,035 passengers. The current year begins PIE’s fifth consecutive year of double-digit increases.
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