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Pinellas County
New commission goes about it business
Article published on Monday, Nov. 26, 2012
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[Image]
Photo courtesy PINELLAS COUNTY COMMUNICATIONS
Pinellas County Commissioner Kenneth T. Welch is sworn in by County Judge Myra Scott McNary. Welch will serve as Commission Chair for 2013.
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Photo courtesy of PINELLAS COUNTY COMMUNICATIONS
Pinellas County Commissioner Karen Williams Seel is sworn in by Pinellas County Judge Patrick Caddell.
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Photo courtesy PINELLAS COUNTY COMMUNICATIONS
Pinellas County Commissioner Janet Long is sworn in by Judge of the Circuit Court Pamela A.M. Campbell.
[Image]
Photo courtesy of Pinellas County Communications
Pinellas County Commissioner Charlie Justice is sworn in by Judge of the Circuit Court Pamela A.M. Campbell.
CLEARWATER – Business started an hour earlier than usual Nov. 20 with the swearing in of four Pinellas County Commissioners, including two incumbents and two newcomers to the board.

Newly elected Commissioners Janet Long and Charlie Justice received the oath of office from Circuit Court Judge Pam Campbell. Commissioner Karen Seel was sworn in by Circuit Court Judge Pat Caddell and Circuit Court Judge Myra Scott McNary swore in Commissioner Ken Welch.

After photos and a short break, the commission reconvened to carry on with its business.

Seel questioned an item on the consent agenda about a de-annexation in the city of Pinellas Park. City spokesperson Tim Caddell said it was the second de-annexation done in the city due to creation of an enclave.

“We practice what we preach,” he said.

The easement on the edge of 126th Avenue will return to the county for maintenance, County Attorney Jim Bennett said.

Jail project

Another item on the consent agenda came under scrutiny when the second ranked vendor spoke to the commission asking it to reconsider staff’s recommendation to negotiate with the No. 1 ranked firm on a jail project.

Assistant County Administrator Mark Woodard said the vendor’s request was in violation of the anti-lobbying rules within the county’s Purchasing policy. Joe Lauro, Purchasing director, agreed.

“They should protest to me or to the administrator. His (Bob LaSala) decision is final,” Lauro said.

Woodard explained that the infrastructure improvement project was necessary because the county jail is located in a flood plain. Facilities for power generation, kitchen, laundry and other support services are at risk of being flooded in a tidal surge event from a Category 2 or 3 hurricane, he said.

He said the “antiquated” facilities would be elevated when they were rebuilt to create an “infrastructure spine” that the rest of the jail would plug into. The project will be paid for with already-allocated Penny for Pinellas funding.

Paul Sacco, director of Real Estate Management, said board approval would allow for the start of phase 1 of the project master plan with the development of the design criteria that would be passed on to the build professional.

He said the current master plan is not up-to-date with current needs.

Staff will continue with final negotiations of the estimated $3 million to $3.5 million contract with Dewberry Architects. A final contract will be presented to the board for their approval.

Feather Sound restoration

In regular business, the commission unanimously approved an interlocal agreement with the Tampa Bay Estuary Program for the Channel 5 and Feather Sound Restoration project for a maximum of $500,000. The work aims to reduce nitrogen loading from the Feather Sound area and improve water quality in Tampa Bay. The regional stormwater treatment project, as proposed, includes improvements to Roosevelt Channel 5, the northernmost major drainage channel within the Roosevelt Watershed, as well as improved drainage and tidal habitat for recreationally important fish species, according to a staff report.

Intelligent traffic system expansion

Commissioners unanimously approved the buy of more InSync real time traffic adaptive control software and hardware for the Intelligent Traffic System. Staff tested the system, first purchased Sept. 27, 2011, successfully on State Road 580 and would like to expand to other intersections.

“We had good results on 580,” said Ken Jacobs with Traffic Engineering.

He said the plan was to expand the use of the system to the new section of State Road 60, Tampa Road through Oldsmar and on East Bay Drive.

Potential for new jobs

Commissioners also approved two items that could result in more jobs for the local economy.

First was a resolution approving an applicant for a Qualified Target Industry Tax Refund Project. According to Mike Meidel, director of Economic Development, the unidentified business is a process outsourcing company that wishes to expand its national headquarters, perhaps to Pinellas County. The company also is considering sites in Louisiana and Minnesota.

The economic impact of the project's capital investment is $236,400. An estimated 86 employees could be hired with annual pay scales above 115 percent of the average annual wage for Pinellas County. These earnings would result in an economic impact of $6.6 million and 161 direct and indirect new jobs.

Pinellas County would provide 50 percent of the local match for tax refunds per state law with the city of St. Petersburg providing 50 percent. The total support requested is $86,000 and the county would be responsible for $43,000. The tax refund would be paid over several years, as determined by the state.

A second resolution promises $500,000 for a grant to help a local company expand its operations. Meidel said the funding was “a bit different” than QTI projects, but still stipulates that no funds be paid until promised jobs are created and capital investment is made. The money would serve as the local match to secure money from the Florida Governor’s Quick Action Closing Fund. WorkNet Pinellas is providing an additional $500,000 local match.

Meidel said although the defense/homeland security company is local, it could decide to move out-of-state and that Pinellas was competing with eight other locations. The county’s share of funding would be paid over 15 years.

The more the company has in local matches, the better its chances for getting the money, Meidel said. Although the business name remains confidential for now, it is a “defense contractor that’s been in the area for a long time,” Meidel said.

“You’ll know the name before you give out any money,” he said.

The business expansion involves $5 million in construction and $33.4 million in equipment. The economic impact is $13.5 million. An estimated 451 employees are projected to be hired with annual pay scales above 145 percent of the average annual wage. The project will also retain 408 employees with annual pay scales above 145 percent. The earnings will result in an economic impact of $76.4 million and 1,276 new direct and indirect jobs.

Meidel said that if the company left Pinellas, 400-plus jobs would be lost. He said getting money from the governor’s discretionary fund would help the company bid on a new contract. Meidel said the industry was considered “high impact,” due to its need for support industries.

“This is a good project,” Meidel said.

Meidel also reported “things are going well,” for the county’s economic development. He said 2,000 jobs had been added each month this year.

“We lost about 62,000 jobs, and we’re approximately two-thirds of the way back,” he said. “Unemployment is under 8 percent. It’s 7.9 percent for the first time in four years.”

Adopt-a-program agreement

Commissioners unanimously approved an amendment to the agreement for adopt-a-program management services with Keep Pinellas Beautiful Inc. to add an adopt-a-mile program for the Pinellas Trail. Keep Pinellas Beautiful will get an additional $2,000.

Volunteers agreeing to adopt a one-mile segment would clean up litter and debris from the trail and surrounding ditches and drainage areas. A sign will be erected with their name.

Seel asked if other commissioners would consider revisiting funding for the adopt-a-pond program that was budget axed several years ago.

“Our ponds are in deplorable shape, and it’s affecting water quality,” she said.

Commissioner Susan Latvala added that the problem wasn’t just with private ponds, but also county-owned ponds that “citizens have taken care of.”

“I support funding it if we can find the money,” she said.

Justice Center parking garage

With no discussion, commissioners unanimously approved the final agreement with Peter R. Brown Construction Company of Clearwater for professional design build services for the Justice Center parking garage. The contract valued at $905,000 is for Phase 1 of the $12.5 million project and includes programming, schematic design and design development with construction documents to allow subcontractor bidding.

The information will be used to negotiate the lump sum price to be paid for construction. Funding comes from Penny for Pinellas dollars dedicated to courts and jails. The approximately 1000-space garage will be located at 14250 49th St. N.

New chair and vice-chair

Incumbent commissioners just returned to their positions by the electorate will lead the commission in the coming year. Welch was selected by his peers to serve as chair, and Seel will serve as vice chair.

During the swearing in ceremony, current chair John Morroni, who steps down Dec. 31, talked about the trials of the current year.

“It’s been a rough year for me,” he said.

The commissioner was out nearly four months fighting a battle with cancer.

“You just don’t know what will happen in life,” he said.
Article published on Monday, Nov. 26, 2012
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