INDIAN ROCKS BEACH - For 18 years Father Bob Wagenseil served as pastor of the Calvary Episcopal Church in Indian Rocks Beach. For many of those years he was the chaplain of the Pinellas Suncoast Fire & Rescue Department. In addition to that he headed up a sailing program for young people.
Now he is moving on.
Wagenseil, 63, retired from the church four years ago, but he stayed active. He continued the sailing program and operated out of the Clearwater Yacht Club on Clearwater Beach.
BELLEAIR - A 9-year-old boy has been awarded the key to the town of Belleair for his part in rescuing a family stranded when their boat went aground just offshore from their house on North Pine Circle.
Back on the evening of June 16, Garrett January and his mom, Laura, saw a pontoon boat stranded during low tide. They weren’t concerned with what they saw because such a thing happened frequently in that area.
However, they did get concerned when the doorbell rang; it was a young man in a life jacket looking for help. He had been on that stranded pontoon boat and told them there were still three people on it; a 75-year-old grandfather, his 17-year-old grandson and a 12-year-old friend. One of them couldn’t swim.
BELLEAIR BLUFFS - Plans for a five-year road improvement project costing nearly $2.4 million were announced during a budget discussion at the Aug. 14 workshop meeting.
Priorities are given to roads on the city of Belleair Bluff’s east side, which commission members have agreed are badly in need of repair.
Funding for the project is planned to come from the Penny for Pinellas local option sales tax and a utility tax on residents, which is due to be doubled in October from 5 percent to 10 percent. An ordinance limits the increased portion of the utility tax “to projects within the city related to street improvements, repairs and/or maintenance.”
BELLEAIR BEACH - Ending a public service career spanning nearly three decades, Belleair Beach City Manager Nancy Gonzalez has decided to retire.
Gonzalez said in a telephone interview with the Bee that “the time had come,” and she would be leaving at the end of September after serving 10 years as Belleair Beach city manager.
Community Services Director Lynn Rives was named to become interim city manager by the City Council at its Aug. 7 meeting. The council placed a six-month limit on Rives’ service as interim manager. That can be renewed if no city manager is hired by the end of that time.
INDIAN ROCKS BEACH - The idea of having a full evaluation of the City Clerk’s office with an eye to try to save money has irked one Indian Rocks Beach resident who feels the matter should end with an apology.
Nancy Obarski told city commissioners at their Aug. 8 meeting that she was unhappy when she read the account of a recent budget meeting where the subject was brought up.
At that meeting Commissioner Cookie Kennedy wondered if the Clerk’s Office could be evaluated given the city’s need to economize. She made the suggestion after Mayor R.B. Johnson suggested that the Clerk, Deanne Bulino O’Reilly and City Manager Gregg Mims get a 3 percent raise in the year ahead.
INDIAN ROCKS BEACH - The city is about to become brighter. City Manager Gregg Mims said within months all the streetlights in Indian Rocks Beach will be converted to LED lights and that will mean a brighter, cleaner look.
The idea to switch to Light Emitting Diode lighting from the old standard sodium lights occurred to Mims when he first arrived in town.
“I’ve been here for four years now,” he said. “When I first arrived Clearwater was converting everything they had, and I thought it was a good idea.”
BELLEAIR - City of Belleair commissioners unanimously approved the millage rate for the coming fiscal year at 5.92, unchanged from last year.
Commissioners Karla Rettstatt, Michael Wilkinson and Tom Kurey voted to maintain the current tax rate, which is equivalent to $5.92 for every $1,000 of assessed property value. Mayor Gary Katica and Commissioner Tom Shelly were out of town.
Rettstatt ran the meeting in her capacity as deputy mayor.
The Florida League of Cities recently recognized Debra Sullivan, master Municipal Clerk and FCCMA member, with a 2017 Home Rule Hero Award.
Sullivan earned the award for her tireless efforts to advance the League’s legislative agenda and help protect the home rule powers of Florida’s cities during the 2017 regular legislative session.
“Our Home Rule Heroes are shining examples of local advocacy in action,” said Boca Raton mayor and Florida League of Cities president Susan Haynie. “These dedicated municipal officials take time out of their busy schedules to cultivate relationships with their legislators and help them understand the issues that are most important to their constituents back home. Thank you for all you do to help protect Home Rule and preserve the quality of life in your city.”
BELLEAIR - Kurt Steinmann, who had been fined by a special magistrate for renting a room in his house, is being accused by the town of doing it again.
On May 17, Steinmann, who lives at 330 Roebling Road South, first was called to a special magistrate’s hearing to answer to allegations that he repeatedly illegally rented a room in his house under the Airbnb organization.
In June the special magistrate, attorney Tom Trask, handed down his decision and a $4,000 fine. At the time Steinmann said he would stop renting the room, but wondered where he was going to get the money to pay the fine.
BELLEAIR BLUFFS - A chase through city neighborhoods involving police dogs, a helicopter and 10 sheriff’s deputies in pursuit resulted in the arrest of a known car burglar.
Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. John Waugh described the incident at the July 18 Belleair Bluffs City Commission meeting.
Waugh said the suspect was “dodging through yards and jumping fences” during a pursuit that lasted 45 minutes before he was caught. He admitted to trying to enter vehicles. Burglary tools were found in his possession.
INDIAN ROCKS BEACH - There has been a major change at the top of the Pinellas Suncoast Fire and Rescue Department and more is to come.
Sal D’Angelo resigned as chief of the department June 30 and, soon after, Assistant Chief John Mortellite was appointed interim chief while a search is underway for a new permanent replacement for D’Angelo.
D’Angelo’s resignation was somewhat of a surprise. He was appointed chief just a little under three years ago. Almost immediately he made it clear he was going to find new and better ways to fund the department, which he said needed more money if it was going to do the job properly. Among his initiatives was getting a referendum passed that gave a portion of ad valorem taxes to the Fire District. The result of the referendum is in doubt because of a lawsuit alleging that the wording in the referendum was misleading. Indian Rocks Beach Commissioner Ed Hoofnagle filed the suit, which has yet to be settled.
INDIAN SHORES - The Pinellas Suncoast Fire & Rescue District Board of Fire Commissioners plans to interview four applicants Saturday, Aug. 12, for the position of fire chief.
Board chairman Joseph Bruni said at the commissioners’ meeting July 18 that Finance Director Dave Martin and he reviewed resumes of applicants who applied for the chief's job. They selected the four from about 38 candidates for the position.
The new chief will succeed Sal D’Angelo, who is leaving the district in early August to become director of the North Collier Fire Control and Rescue District.
INDIAN ROCKS BEACH - The sight of the Plein Aire Cottage Artists on the streets of the city is fairly common. The three women have been painting scenes of the old Florida cottages that have lined Indian Rocks Beach’s shores for years.
However, their presence isn’t that well known outside the city.
That may well soon change, especially if a Tampa filmmaker has her way.
Lynn Marvin Dingfelder, a career journalist and now documentarian, is making a documentary of the artists, hoping that they and their cause will become well known all over the country.
INDIAN ROCKS BEACH - For years residents of IRB have been appalled at what they see on the beach after major holidays. Time and time again residents came to commission meetings complaining about the trash and mess left behind after New Year’s Eve, the Fourth of July and so on. City workers have been faced with cleaning it up and they admit it isn’t an easy task.
Now a citizens committee has decided to do something about it.
Led by Cookie Kennedy, the group has a plan to fight the filth and make it easier for the city to get everything back to normal.