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Student SWAT team asks city for help
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Students Kal-el Williams and Chelsea Ledlie ask the Indian Rocks Beach Commission to support their opposition to flavored tobacco products.
INDIAN ROCKS BEACH – Saying that the big tobacco companies are finding ways to market new products to teenagers and children, two students from Pinellas Park High School asked Indian Rocks Beach Commissioners to support them in their fight to ban such products.

Tenth graders Chelsea Ledlie and Kal-el Williams are part of a group known as SWAT, Students Working Against Tobacco. At the regular commission meeting on Feb. 26, they told commissioners that the companies have begun marketing flavored products such as snuff flour, twist tobacco, chewing tobacco, cigarillos and cigars. The flavors include green apple, cherry, root beer, French vanilla, grape, mango and peach.

They noted that the FDA for the most part prohibits cigarettes from being flavored; menthol is the only permitted flavor. Yet all the other products can and are flavored and 90 percent of corner stores in Pinellas County carry the products.

Ledlie said the companies are promoting cigars among teens for a variety of reasons.

“Cigars are not taxed in Florida,” she said. “And they can be flavored. Our research shows that there is a 25 percent increase in cigar use among young people. There is actually a decrease in cigarette use.”

The teens asked the IRB Commission to follow the lead of some other communities in passing a resolution supporting SWAT in its endeavors to have flavored tobacco products banned.

Mayor R.B. Johnson said he was interested in what the students had to say.

“That was an enlightening presentation,” he said. “There was a lot that I didn’t know about. It is nice that you are paying attention to what the companies are doing; they are relentless.”

City staff was asked to formulate a resolution to support the teens in their fight to have the products banned.

State crosswalk suggestion nixed

City Manager Chuck Coward told the commission about a recent suggestion by the Florida Department of Transportation that would standardize the crosswalks all along Gulf Boulevard. He said the state wants to install a new flashing light system, using strobe-like lights at every crosswalk from St. Pete Beach to Indian Rocks Beach.

“They say they will remove and replace crosswalk systems that are already in place,” he said. “The wig-wag lights in the Redingtons will be replaced as well.”

Coward said the state would then pass over the responsibility of maintaining the systems to the various communities. Something he didn’t like.

“I can see where the city would be taking on lots of liability,” he said. “We think it is bad policy for a city to get involved in doing anything on State highways.”

Mayor Johnson agreed.

“If the State thinks this is a good thing then let the state look after them,” he said.

Commissioners agreed that Commissioner Terry Hamilton-Wollin should bring that message to the next meeting of the Barrier Islands Governmental Council.

No auto-dialer for IRB

Indian Rocks Beach will not participate in an opportunity to join a co-operative to establish an auto-dial warning system, or a reverse 911 system.

Coward told commissioners that Pinellas County had reached an agreement with an auto-dialer provider, First Call Notification System, which would enable Indian Rocks Beach and other small cities in the county to obtain the auto-dial capability for $5,000 a year, with a three-year, $15,000 commitment. Once the company was guaranteed $165,000 a year in commitments then it would start the surface.

Not a single commissioner spoke in favor of the proposal. Hamilton-Wollin, who had initially inquired about such a system, was not pleased with what she heard.

“That is just too much for us right now,” she said.

Commissioner Phil Hanna agreed, saying the $5,000 would be better spent on the community garden, and Mayor R.B. Johnson commented that he was skeptical because of the cost and that there were a lot of ways to inform citizens about impending emergencies.

“We should pass on the project,” he said.

Action 2000 helps again

The Action 2000 Civic group is donating $10,000 to the city for improvements to the landscaping at the Nature Preserve on Gulf Boulevard.

The project is officially called the Nature Preserve Mini-Park extension project. It entails landscaping the front of the preserve from the sidewalk to the existing landscaping. It also will include a path for golf carts.

Change in dock requirements

Waterfront residents looking to add a dock to their property will no doubt be pleased with a requirement change made by the commission. They have eliminated the requirement that a dock must be located in the center one-third of the property.

Commissioners felt there was no need for that requirement because already a dock must be in a 35 by 50 foot envelope and there must be 12 feet left on either side of the structure. The nature of the requirements is to protect the neighbors on either side of the property.

Commissioners reject house offer

Indian Rocks Beach resident Chris Corral made the city an offer it could refuse. Corral owns the house and property at Fifth Avenue right behind the small “pocket park.” He told Mayor Johnson that he has a developer interested in his property but not with the house on it. He wondered if the city wanted the house. Johnson said not as far as he was concerned.

“That house is one of the oldest in the city,” he said. “It dates back to 1915 or so and it would be a shame to see it torn down.”

However Johnson said there is nothing the city can do with the house and Hamilton-Wollin suggested it would probably cost in excess of $100,000 to move it.

All Commissioners agreed and said to Corral, “thanks but no thanks.”
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