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.
The Florida Association of Counties presented Pinellas County Commissioner Janet C. Long with the Certified County Commissioner (CCC) designation following Long’s completion of a comprehensive study program developed by the association.
Commissioner Long received the designation with 12 other county commissioners during an awards ceremony June 17 at the FAC Annual Conference in St. Johns County.
“The FAC curriculum was one more opportunity for me to enhance my leadership and governance skills to better assist the citizens of Pinellas County. I look forward to using these skills to help improve our great County,” Long said in a press release.
ST. PETERSBURG - A first look at the fiscal year 2016 draft budget shows financial stability for the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority over the next six years.
“It’s really important that we have a solid multi-year sustainable plan,” said PSTA Board Chair Bill Jonson in a press release. “It’s the first step of many on our path forward.”
A decision was made last month by the PSTA board to approve a five-year budget for a capital improvement plan that included using local revenue rather than federal funds for the first time ever to shore up needed bus replacement plans, PSTA officials said. The FY 2016 draft budget outlines several cost cuts and strategic plans that will set PSTA on solid financial ground.
The Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections conducted address voter list maintenance June 24, which resulted in 7,789 voters changing from active to inactive status.
According to the state statutes, "The Supervisor must designate as inactive all voters who have been sent an address confirmation final notice and who have not returned the postage prepaid, preaddressed return form within 30 days or for which the final notice has been returned as undeliverable.”
The Statute continues: "If the voter does not update his or her voter registration information, request an absentee ballot, or vote by the second general election after being placed on the inactive list, the voter’s name shall be removed from the statewide voter registration system and the voter shall be required to reregister to have his or her name restored to the statewide voter registration system.”
CLEARWATER - Pinellas County Commissioners unanimously approved 13 appointments to the Charter Review Commission June 23. The CRC is scheduled to convene in August.
The 13-member commission consists of four elected officials and nine members from the public.
The commission separated the approvals into three votes. The first was unanimous approval of the nominees to fill the four slots for elected officials. State Rep. Larry Ahern, R-Seminole, was nominated by the Pinellas County Legislative Delegation. The Mayors’ Council of Pinellas County nominated Pinellas Park Mayor Sandra Lee Bradbury. Clerk of the Court Ken Burke was nominated by the county’s constitutional officers, and Commissioner Janet Long was the county commission’s nominee.
ST. PETE BEACH - Indian Shores Town Councilor Bill Smith delivered both good and bad news June 23 to members of the Barrier Islands Government Council concerning beach nourishment funding.
The good news? The Florida Legislature appropriated $32 million statewide for beach projects but the amount was about $18 million shy of the targeted amount.
“It’s not the $50 million we had hoped for but it accomplished some significant things,” said Smith, who is the BIG-C’s beach nourishment expert and rep to the Florida Shore and Beach Preservation Association. “The main point, I think, of the $32 million, $25 million came from the Amendment 1 trust fund.”
A small section of the Fred Marquis Pinellas Trail will close for maintenance beginning Monday, June 29. The 528-foot section is located between Michigan Boulevard and Cedar Creek Bridge in Dunedin.
The Fred Marquis Pinellas Trail is maintained by Pinellas County Parks and Conservation Resources. Signs are being posted to alert trail users to the temporary closure, which will last for approximately four days.
CLEARWATER - On Tuesday, June 23, an Honor Flight with 80 Veterans (World War II, Korean War, and Vietnam War) departed St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport on an Allegiant charter for a day long visit to Washington D.C. and the war memorials. This is the 18th Honor Flight hosted at PIE.
The Veterans return to St. Pete-Clearwater at approximately 8:30 p.m. The Welcome Home celebration is open to the public and various groups, military, and government leaders will be at the airport to greet the veterans. First Class Concessions will sell drinks, snacks, and sandwiches in Bag Claim Info Booth beginning at 7 p.m. for the Honor Flights at PIE. Free parking will be available to attend the welcome home event sponsored by Honor Flight of West Central Florida along with courtesy parking provided by the airport for the Honor Flight Veterans.
“Honor Flight is so grateful to all our veterans and we honor their service to our country through each of our Honor Flight missions. Our efforts would not be possible without the wonderful support of St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport (PIE) and Allegiant Air who help to make each flight a success,” said Honor Flight of West Central Florida President Beverly Frey. “Please join us Tuesday evening as we welcome home our veterans and their volunteer guardians. Put on your red, white and blue, join in the fun and help make their homecoming a rousing success!”
ST. PETERSBURG - With four months left in the fiscal year, the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority has already provided more than 10 million rides to its passengers.
PSTA has not had a month with less than 1 million in ridership in more than five years, and topped out last fiscal year with over 14 million rides. With more than 1.2 total passenger boardings in May, ridership is now up 4.4 percent over last fiscal year-to-date.
“Transit can be a verb. it’s about constantly moving and growing,” said PSTA CEO Brad Miller. “But it’s mostly about helping our community improve by providing freedom for more and more people to get around.”
Many seniors in Pinellas and Pasco counties are unfortunate victims of abuse, neglect and/or exploitation. June’s Aging on the Suncoast show examines the truth behind these often overlooked criminal behaviors.
Guests Sherry Clester, the victim advocate with the Area Agency on Aging of Pasco-Pinellas, Inc., and John Palumbo, operations program administrator with the Florida Department of Children and Families, go over the different ways elder abuse, neglect and/or exploitation occur. Clester and Palumbo also discuss the prevalence of these harmful actions and the importance of citizens reporting crimes against seniors.
Aging on the Suncoast is a half-hour monthly show featuring subjects of interest to those ages 60 and older. It is produced by Pinellas County Communications and the Area Agency on Aging of Pasco-Pinellas, Inc.
CLEARWATER - It’s been 10 years since Pinellas County Commissioners raised the tourist development (bed) tax. The Tourist Development Council voted June 17 to recommend the levy of an additional cent, starting Jan. 1, 2016.
On Dec. 31, 2005, the tax rate charged on accommodations rented for less than six months went up from 4 percent to 5 percent. In 2013, the county collected a record-breaking $31.1 million, qualifying Pinellas as a high impact tourism designation. The designation, which was certified by the Florida Department of Revenue in 2014, allows the county to levy a sixth cent in tourism taxes.
CLEARWATER - A half-mile stretch of the Fred Marquis Pinellas Trail in Clearwater has reopened following a seven-month project to repair erosion problems in the surrounding area. The segment of the trail from Woodlawn Street/Woodlawn Avenue south to Ponce De Leon Boulevard had been closed since November.
Runoff from the trail was causing erosion along a steep embankment down to the Belleair Creek drainage ditch. Pinellas County crews shifted a portion of the trail a few feet to the east to redirect the runoff. They also re-graded the west side that drops down to the creek.
Users returning to this portion of the trail may also notice that lanes previously separated for cyclists and pedestrians are now combined into a single path.