BELLEAIR BLUFFS - The crowd was large and ready to celebrate. They had gathered Oct. 12 for a long-awaited grand opening. After years of planning and months of construction, the hard work was now over. The new Fire Station 43 in Belleair Bluffs was ready to open.
Bluffs Mayor Chris Arbutine drew the most applause of the day when he told the group, “I come here with a sigh of relief. We did it!”
Largo Fire Chief Shelby Willis spoke of Belleair Bluffs’ long history of providing fire services. The department began in the 1960s as an all-volunteer force, she said, locating first in a facility called “the barn” next to the old city hall on Florence Drive. In the late 1960s, Willis said, the fire department moved to a converted gas station on Indian Rocks Road, where it would later be joined by the Belleair Bluffs police and public works departments.
SAND KEY - The Annual Meeting of the Board of Directors of the Sand Key Civic Association (SKCA) will be held on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017, at 7 p.m., at the Clearwater Community Sailing Center on Gulf Blvd.
Two Directors will be elected (3-year terms) to fill Board vacancies, at this meeting.
A candidate for the Board of Directors must meet the following qualifications:
INDIAN ROCKS BEACH - The Board of the Pinellas Suncoast Fire and Rescue District has decided not to appeal a judge’s ruling overturning the referendum that granted the district the authority to levy property taxes to fund their operation.
The board made its decision at its regular meeting on Oct. 11 as numerous speakers from the audience urged it to drop the idea of an appeal.
The discussion on the resolution whether to appeal the ruling began with the board’s attorney Jeff Albinson, who explained that the decision to file a notice of appeal was made so the 30-day time limit would not dictate the board’s decision.
BELLEAIR BLUFFS - People seeking to buy or be treated with medical marijuana will likely have to go other places than Belleair Bluffs. In a close vote, the commission decided at their Oct. 16 meeting to move forward with an ordinance that would ban marijuana-related facilities within the city limits.
A 180-day moratorium imposed on the establishment or operation of medical marijuana dispensing and treatment centers is due to expire in December, City Attorney Thomas Trask said.
Trask asked for direction from the commission on three possible actions. He told the commission they could either extend the moratorium, ban such facilities outright, or do nothing, which he said would allow the facilities to operate in locations where pharmacies are currently permitted.
BELLEAIR - Shelley Greenspan passed away on Saturday, Aug. 26, 2017, at her home in Belleair, Florida.
She was born in Washington, D.C. on April 6, 1954 to Shy and Jean Greenspan.
Shelley is survived by her daughter, Malorey Skidmore of Tampa; her sisters, Marsha Taylor of London, England and Blair Jackson of Clifton, Virginia; her brother, Cary Greenspan of Boynton Beach, Florida, and numerous nieces and nephews who adored her for her warmth and love of family.
INDIAN ROCKS BEACH - Very little good can be said about anything in the wake of a hurricane, especially one as powerful as Irma. Yet an IRB man turned a loss into a gain, one that he hopes will be around for a long time.
Todd Plumlee lost a 100-year-old oak tree, which was one of several in the parking lot of his business, Plumlee Gulf Beach Realty on First Street. It was a big personal loss because Plumlee’s mother dearly loved the oak trees and losing one of them was devastating. Yet there had to be a way to lessen the damage.
INDIAN ROCKS BEACH - Commissioners voted down an ordinance Oct. 10 that would have banned medical marijuana dispensing centers from operating in the city of Indian Rocks Beach.
As a result, IRB could be the only beach community that permits such activity.
The vote came after extensive discussion among the commissioners and the city attorney and an impassioned plea from a local resident. During the debate, it was anything but obvious how the vote would go.
BELLEAIR - Brightly colored chalk images of President Abraham Lincoln’s profile on the penny will soon appear on sidewalks around Belleair as city officials here, and around Pinellas County, begin their push for approval of the next installment of the Penny for Pinellas.
Penny for Pinellas has been in effect since the 1990s and is a 1 percent sales tax that benefits local infrastructure. The temporary chalk stencils in Belleair are being placed at sites or projects financed by the tax to show residents where their tax money has been spent.
INDIAN SHORES - Pinellas County residents who are served by the Pinellas Suncoast Fire and Rescue District won’t be paying ad valorem taxes to support the district after all.
At a special emergency meeting Sept. 29, the district officially gave up its fight to levy property taxes following a referendum in last November’s election. Voters approved the referendum which would have given the Fire District .50 mills of ad valorem taxes to fund its operation.
However, before the vote Indian Rocks Beach Commissioner Ed Hoofnagle challenged the wording of the referendum, saying it was misleading to the voters and contrary to the wording actually represented a tax increase, not a tax reduction.
BELLEAIR BEACH - Residents crowded city hall at the Oct. 2 City Council meeting to voice their opposition to a proposed electronic digital message sign with animated features that would be located in city-owned Crossman Park at the corner of Gulf Boulevard and the Causeway. Protests were also seen through social media and emails received at city hall.
Some who voiced concerns were OK with a digital sign if placed outside of city hall, where the current city sign is located. Others did not like either the sign or its location.
Many said a digital message board on Gulf Boulevard does not fit the residential, noncommercial character of Belleair Beach.
BELLEAIR SHORE - This tiny upscale beach community, population 111, has had the lowest millage tax rate in the county for years.
With nearly half of the county’s municipalities having rates of 4.0 or higher, ranging up to St. Petersburg’s 6.75 mills, Belleair Shore’s current rate of 0.7294 stands out. Only North Redington Beach’s rate of 0.7511 comes close. Then, the millage rates jump to 1.8 in Redington Shores and upwards from there.
This year, Belleair Shore is lowering its rate to 0.6594, a decision reaffirmed at the town commission’s Sept. 25 meeting.
INDIAN ROCKS BEACH - A drive along Gulf Boulevard 10 days after Hurricane Irma came through tells the story. On both sides of the boulevard piles and piles of broken trees and branches and limbs were piled high, town after town. Then came Indian Rocks Beach, hardly any debris in sight, it had been cleaned up.
The reason was simple, Indian Rocks Beach officials decided to go it alone, to arrange with contractors on their own so they wouldn’t be waiting in line for debris collectors who had a contract with Pinellas County and who worked each community on a first-come first-served basis.
BELLEAIR - Town Manager J.P. Murphy couldn’t say enough about his staff in the wake of Hurricane Irma.
At the Commission meeting Sept. 19, Murphy paid tribute to the men and women who work for the city and literally moved into the town hall with their families while working to keep the town functioning and the streets safe.
Murphy said so far over 8,200 cubic yards of debris have been picked up in the town and much of it has been stored on the site of the under-construction Pelican golf club. The debris will be reduced to mulch on the site and eventually trucked away.
BELLEAIR BLUFFS - Having gone nearly a year without a public works director, city officials have decided they need help.
Following the retirement of Public Works Director Robert David last October, the City Commission looked at options for replacing him. A decision was made not to fill his Public Works job for a while, and see how things worked out with City Clerk Debra Sullivan running the city along with her assistant Deputy Clerk Mary Ellen Lasner. The current Public Works staff would share some of David’s duties.
A possible arrangement with the city of Largo to provide some help with public works was discussed.
BELLEAIR BEACH - This mostly residential community’s current signage consists of two small monument signs at the city entryways, 1960s era signage at three small motels and a sign with changeable letters fronting City Hall.
A larger electronic message board is being proposed, which city officials say is similar to one at the City of Seminole recreation center. The City Council gave an approval at its Sept. 6 meeting to advertise for bids for a digital monument sign in Crossman Park, at the corner of Gulf Boulevard and the Belleair Beach Causeway.
BELLEAIR BLUFFS - The city of Belleair Bluff’s new fire station, due to open next month, is full of technological innovations and will be “the standard for the industry in firehouse construction,” says Fire Commissioner Joseph Barkley.
The station will serve Belleair Bluffs, Belleair, and the county unincorporated areas of Harbor Bluffs, Harbor Hills, and Oakdale Manor.
Barkley, along with City Clerk Debra Sullivan, attended a recent pre-opening tour of the station Aug. 29 along with other local officials and fire chiefs from around the county. Among the attendees was Pinellas Park Fire Chief Dave Mixon, who Sullivan said is looking to build a new station in that community.
INDIAN ROCKS BEACH - A circuit court judge has found that the wording of the Nov. 8 Pinellas Suncoast Fire and Rescue District referendum was misleading and not valid.
The referendum, which was approved by voters, granted the district the ability to use ad valorem taxes to fund its operation.
Leading up to the referendum then Chief Sal D’Angelo said the current funding of a flat rate per household was not enough to continue operations at the level people had become used to. He argued that tying the funding to the property taxes would guarantee an adequate level of income. Without it, services would have to be cut and lay-offs could occur.
INDIAN ROCKS BEACH - The Beach Community Food Pantry is seeking food donations and is facing inventory challenges as a result of Hurricane Irma.
The food pantry experienced a power outage for almost three days and is seeking excess food products, said David Kline, interim pantry director.
“Irma’s lessened impact may have provided an opportunity for the community and BCFP to continue to assist those in need. Much of the community heeded the warning to ‘be prepared’ and stocked up for the worst. Many of us now may have excess non-perishable food that can be donated to BCFP for the benefit of our clients,” Kline said.