INDIAN ROCKS BEACH - New manatee-protections zones for western Pinellas County, which continue to spark criticism from boaters, are expected to take effect in six to 12 months.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission approved the zones after its final public hearing on the rules June 24 in Sarasota. The total area in Pinellas affected by the zones is about 11.6 percent of inshore waters, including most of Indian Rocks Beach, except the Intracoastal Waterway. Regulations will be in effect April through October.
The agency’s decision has prompted Indian Rocks Beach boaters and others to threaten legal action to overturn the decision. That includes hiring an attorney to file an injunction against the state’s action and distributing a petition to local state and federal representatives to relieve IRB citizens from “undue interference” with the rights of fishers, boaters and water skiers.
BELLEAIR SHORE - The town’s budget will take a major hit this year, due to the cost of replacing entry gates at the beach accesses. The $20,000 expense would not be a cause for concern in most communities. But for Belleair Shore, with a population of 87 and a proposed budget of $124,000 for the upcoming fiscal year, the gates’ cost will have a big impact, making up the major part of an estimated $33,000 deficit at the current tax rate of 0.61 mills.
Fortunately, the town has cash reserves, and the county’s lowest millage rate. So the looming financial crisis had a relatively easy solution, agreed to by the town commission at their July 21 meeting.
The millage rate would be raised to 0.72, the highest rate allowable, which would still be lowest in the county. That would reduce the deficit by around $10,000. The difference, about $22,000, would be taken from the reserves to balance the budget for 2015-16.
BELLEAIR BLUFFS - Jeannine Paulette Yudis, of Belleair Bluffs, Florida, passed away on June 30, 2015 at the age of 92. Born, Jeannine Paulette Cailleaux, in Paris, France, on June 13, 1923. Jeannine lived in Paris through World War II during which she met and married an American soldier, Alex Yudis.
Following the war, Jeannine joined her new husband and lived in the Chicago suburbs. After a few years, she became a United States citizen. She worked for Spiegel Catalog for many years, and then for a subsidiary of Enron, as the manager of computer operations.
Tired of the Chicago winters, Jeannine and her husband, Alex, retired to the Saint Petersburg, Florida area, where they lived out the remainder of their years.
CLEARWATER - Arlene Musselwhite worked for more than two years to get pedestrian traffic safety flashing lights installed along Gulf Boulevard in Sand Key - taking one step at a time.
Mission accomplished. Now eight of the devices, she said, called Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacons, are in operation.
“There has been a critical need for greater safety for our residents,” said Musselwhite, the former president of the Sand Key Civic Association. “We live in a lovely setting, but even with our numerous pedestrian crosswalks, I knew we needed to do more to make our island safer for our residents and tourists alike.”
BELLEAIR - Town officials plan to address complaints from residents about noise, inappropriate behavior, boat launching, parking problems and other activities in or near the park at the north end of Bayview Drive.
“We have to tighten the screws up one step at a time. That’s the way you get rid of these things,” said Mayor Gary Katica, after hearing from some residents at the commission’s meeting July 21.
However, some suggestions to restrict activities would be inconsistent with the town’s comprehensive plan or laws, such as prohibiting nonresidents to use the park. State law also restricts the town’s ability to halt fishing.
BELLEAIR BLUFFS - The city commission voted unanimously at their July 20 meeting to leave the tax rate unchanged at 5.35 for the upcoming fiscal year. Based on current rates, the rate is the fifth highest among the county’s 24 municipalities, and third highest of comparable sized communities. Locally, only neighboring Belleair at 5.92 has a higher millage rate. The rate has been the same for the past four years.
The commission can lower the millage rate at upcoming budget meetings later this year, but cannot raise it once the tentative rate is set.
The rate was raised to 5.35 in 2012, in anticipation of a $1.5 million pension payment due to the city’s former firefighters. That payout, which occurred the following year, drastically reduced the city’s reserves. Prior to that time, a tax rate of 4.35 mills had been in effect since 1998, with the exception of 2008 and 2009 when it was lowered to 3.99 mills.
INDIAN ROCKS BEACH - On July 8 the Rotary Club of Indian Rocks Beach welcomed Sal D’Angelo, chief of the Pinellas Suncoast Fire & Rescue District, for the second time to their club.
Prior to taking over as chief on Oct. 1, D’Angelo worked as a deputy chief from the North Naples Fire Control and Rescue District, as a safety, health and environmental officer for the city of Cape Coral, as a management budget analyst for Cape Coral, and as a firefighter/EMT for the cities of Cape Coral and for Franklin, Tennessee. This community is fortunate to have a fire chief who possesses an extensive work background coupled with genuine enthusiasm regarding his position and vision for growth and improvement of the district and community.
BELLEAIR BEACH - Despite the disbanding of a committee set up to investigate the feasibility of undergrounding utilities throughout the city, Belleair Beach Mayor Rob Baldwin said the issue is still very much alive.
The undergrounding committee was a subcommittee of a Gulf Boulevard Beautification Committee, which has completed its work. Both were eliminated by the City Council at their July 6 meeting.
A beautification plan for Gulf Boulevard is done, Baldwin said, and funds have been set aside for burying some of the utility wires there. But the issue of undergrounding the entire city, either as a whole or in parts, still needs to be addressed, he said.