CLEARWATER - Once upon a time, Pinellas County had a robust Cultural Affairs department with its own staff and an annual budget of $2.9 million.
Its mission was to act as an advocate for the arts by promoting the development and appreciation of the arts throughout the county via programs and services. County grants were available to artists, teachers and art organizations to help fund their needs.
The county began funding art and culture in 1976, providing money to a non-governmental Arts Council, which acted as the official local arts agency. In 2006, Cultural Affairs became a part of county government and that department took over as the local arts agency.
Then came the Great Recession. Most county departments that did not provide essential services suffered massive budget cuts. The commission decided to disband Cultural Affairs in 2010, but they set aside $300,000 in seed money in hopes that a private organization would be interested in taking the job.
A task force formed to look for a way to create a private local arts authority. During the process, a local group did come together. The commission voted unanimously on June 14, 2011 to pass the seed money to Creative Pinellas. As the new local arts authority, Creative Pinellas also would receive revenue from the sale of specialty license plates to help fund its operations.
Two new faces will join Pinellas County Commissioners in November.
One of the two will be decided in the race for the at-large District 2 seat currently held by Commissioner Norm Roche, who was defeated in the primary. The second will be the winner of the single-member District 4 seat of longtime Commissioner Susan Latvala, who is retiring.
Four candidates are running in the Nov. 4 election for a chance to represent District 4 on the Pinellas County Commission. Commissioner Susan Latvala, who has served the district since 2000, is retiring.
The winner of the race will be one of two new faces joining the commission in November. The second will be decided in the race for the at-large District 2 seat currently held by Commissioner Norm Roche, who was defeated in the primary.
LARGO - The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office School Resource Officers Unit received a $47,960 grant from the State Farm Youth Advisory Board to target distracted teen drivers.
The program called Targeted Response Against Distracted Drivers or #TRADD is being developed to educate teens on the fatal realities of distracted and impaired driving, while providing a service-learning opportunity for SADD members, who will - through the standard outline of the #TRADD program and the guidance of SROs - assist in the development of a school specific program for their peers.
ST. PETERSBURG - Precautionary signs to avoid contact with the water were removed from Cross Bayou Oct. 17. Testing continues in Joe’s Creek.
Mary Burrell, public information manager for Pinellas County Communications, said in an email Saturday afternoon that county staff had been informed just after 5 p.m. Friday that all areas had been cleared, except Joe’s Creek, which has two spots that have not yet tested clean.
“Testing will be ongoing on a regular basis,” Burrell said.
Pinellas County’s not seasonally adjusted unemployment fell 0.6 percent in September, going from 6.4 percent in August to 5.8 percent in September, according to the Oct. 17 report from Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.
Unemployment in September 2013 was 6.8 percent.
The state’s not seasonally adjusted unemployment rate also declined from 6.7 percent in August to 6.1 percent in September. The state reported an unemployment rate of 7 percent in September 2013.
CLEARWATER - Pinellas County Commissioners voted unanimously to honor county veterans by waiving parking fees at beach-access parks and boating ramps on Veteran’s Day, Nov. 11.
Commissioner Norm Roche championed the idea just before the Fourth of July holiday this year, and commissioners went along, waiving fees in honor of veterans for that one-day only. They asked staff to research the practice and its impact for future discussion.
Staff brought the matter back to the commission Oct. 7. Three patriotic holidays were considered - July 4 (Independence Day), which is celebrated to mark the adoption date of the Declaration of Independence in 1776; Memorial Day, celebrated the last Monday in May in honor of armed services personnel who died while in military service; and Veterans Day, Nov. 11, a time to honor all those who have served in the U.S. military.
Residents in north and south Pinellas County can safely dispose of many household electronics and chemicals at two upcoming free household mobile collection events in October.
The events are offered by Pinellas County Solid Waste. Upcoming collections take place Saturday, Oct. 18, at the Palm Harbor/Countryside Home Depot, 30144 U.S. Highway 19 N., Clearwater, and Saturday, Oct. 25, at the St. Petersburg Allstate Center, 3200 34th St. S., St. Petersburg.
The collections run from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. For everyone’s safety, participants must be in a vehicle. The events are subject to change due to severe weather.
CLEARWATER - Pinellas County received a gift of a 1915 family home and all its contents after the death of a local resident in 2013.
Geraldine Clark Turner bequeathed the home along with $100,000 to move it from Clearwater to Heritage Village in Largo. On Jan. 22, the home took a six-mile journey from where it had sat for nearly 100 years at the corner of South Fort Harrison and Druid Road to a site on the northwest edge of Heritage Village next door to the Walsingham House.