LARGO - Imagine Largo without Central Park, Highland Recreation Complex, the Public Library or Community Center.
Those are all amenities that the Penny for Pinellas has helped fund since it began in 1990. That’s why city and county officials have launched a campaign to inform the public about the 1-cent sales tax and the upcoming countywide referendum that will be held in November. That campaign includes an open house March 29 in Largo, where residents can provide feedback about some of the projects.
For the next Penny, city leaders said they have decided to focus funding on public safety and infrastructure.
LARGO - When city leaders voted to replace longtime Largo City Manager Mac Craig with Henry Schubert in February 2016, some commissioners expressed concern about his ability to reach out to the community and think creatively to solve problems.
After a year on the job, those concerns were replaced with compliments and high scores on his evaluation, which is why commissioners voted 5-0, with Michael Smith and Jamie Robinson absent, to approve a 3 percent salary increase March 21.
LARGO - Brewers in the state of Florida produce more than 1.2 million barrels of craft beer each year, according to brewersassociation.org. About 30 percent of those breweries reside in the Tampa Bay area, and cities are saying the establishments are proven catalysts for redevelopment.
That is why city of Largo officials are looking to amend the code of ordinances in a bid to stay competitive and foster relationships with Largo’s existing breweries.
Economic Development Manager Teresa Brydon told city commissioners during a work session March 14 that several municipalities, including St. Petersburg, Dunedin, Safety Harbor, Clearwater and Pinellas County, have updated their regulations to allow for the sale and consumption of alcohol in industrial properties. She advised Largo to do the same, and commissioners agreed.
LARGO - Officers from the Largo Police Department and other Pinellas County agencies attended ALICE Instructor Training at the Largo Public Library on March 14-15.
The two-day instructor ALICE course, which stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate, teaches proactive survival strategies for violent intruder or active-shooter incidents.
The goal of the program is to provide individuals with survival-enhancing options for those critical moments in the gap between when a violent situation begins and when law enforcement arrives on scene.
LARGO - Since 2010, the city of Largo has battled a nonprofit in a breach of contract case that has implications for local governments across the state.
The Florida Supreme Court ended that battle March 2 when justices ruled 6-0 in favor of the city, validating the contract in question and ordering the nonprofit to pay the city what could end up amounting to nearly $1.5 million.
The case focused on the constitutionality of the city’s PILOT agreement, which allows an entity that is otherwise exempt from property taxes to make “payments in lieu of taxes” to a local government.
LARGO - When the city decided in April 2015 to move ahead with construction of a $13.64 million infrastructure project to cut down on sanitary sewer overflows, it set aside an extra $250,000 just in case.
After several additional costs incurred by the contractor, that amount has proven to be far too low, so city commissioners voted 5-0 on March 7 to add $1.146 million and an extra 180 days to the project.
The purpose of the Wastewater Reclamation Facility Disinfection and Effluent Pumping Improvements Project is to increase the sanitary sewer system capacity, comply with state effluent limits for discharge to Tampa Bay and replace critical infrastructure to prevent infrastructure failures.
LARGO - When George Feaster joined the Largo Lions Club nearly 60 years ago, he never thought he would someday require its services, which include helping the blind and visually impaired.
As the 80-year-old puts it, he is now blind in one eye and can’t see out of the other.
But that hasn’t hindered the longtime funeral director’s passion for the club, which is one reason it has survived long enough for it to celebrate its 60th anniversary this year - the same year Lions Club International will be commemorating 100 years of service.
Craig D. Cameron, 88, of Hudson, Florida, graciously passed into the arms of his Lord, Sunday, Feb. 12, 1017.
He was the beloved husband of the late Winona E. Cameron, for 63 years.
Initially, he taught high school chemistry for seven years. He then had a long, fruitful career as a chemist/bacteriologist; first, for the city of Detroit, Michigan during which he held Fidel Castro's threat to poison the city's water at bay during the Cuban Missile Crisis. In 1968, he became head chemist for the Fairfax County Water Authority in Virginia for 33 years.
LARGO - In 2009, the clock tower at the corner of East Bay Drive and Seminole Boulevard was demolished. Replacing the tower as the face of Largo hasn’t been easy, though.
For example, visitstpeteclearwater.com calls Largo Central Park a “beautiful, 70-acre park located in the heart of Largo. Its rolling grounds, fountains and landmark clock tower have set it apart as one of the finest parks in the county.”
LARGO - On Feb. 6-17, code enforcement officers, in conjunction with the Largo Police Department, carried out an outreach effort to provide information to commercial businesses and property owners on the city’s window sign standards. Sites throughout the city were visited, including along major transportation corridors such as Missouri Avenue, Ulmerton Road, West Bay Drive and East Bay Drive.
After visiting with businesses, approximately 40 businesses were found not in compliance with sign standards, according to Carol Stricklin, community development director.
The outreach effort used the standards contained in the Comprehensive Development Code, focusing on reducing the amount of visual clutter, confusion for motorists and pedestrians and difficulty for public safety officers to see into establishments, which are caused by excessive amounts of signage.
LARGO - With construction nearly finished, the first Zaxby’s location in Largo is coming soon at 8585 Ulmerton Road.
Largo licensees Tony and Bruce Gunthrop have been humbled by the loyalty residents have shown to the Zaxby’s brand.
“I first started working at Zaxby’s in high school and am looking forward to opening my fourth store,” said Bruce Gunthrop in a press release. “The excitement and social media response from the residents has been incredible. Everyone has been extremely supportive, and we cannot wait to open our doors and have them come dine with us.”
LARGO - The road to home ownership can be a long and arduous journey. For the family of Miguel DeJesus and Ivelisse Marcano, that road ended Feb. 18 on 11th Avenue Northwest when the couple received the keys to their new home from Habitat for Humanity.
Before long, 11th Avenue Northwest also might become the most inspiring street in all of Largo because the family’s next three neighbors also will receive homes through Habitat.
“Just a few short weeks ago, we were able to purchase the next three lots,” said Mike Sutton, CEO of Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas County. “The city of Largo made a $180,000 donation to Habitat in order to buy these lots and we could not be more thankful for that. It’s going to help serve four families that will realize the dream of homeownership.”
LARGO - If anyone needed evidence about the demand for affordable housing in Pinellas County, all they would have to do is look at the capacity and waiting lists of some Largo developments.
Pinellas Heights: full. Whispering Palms: full. Belleair Place Apartments: full with a four- to six-month waiting list. Bayside Court: full with a six- to nine-month waiting list.
As rent prices rise, the demand for affordable housing has risen with it. That is why Largo housing officials are looking for a way to help those in need by changing the city’s code to improve the chances of securing state funding. But, as some city leaders said during a work session Feb. 14, what is best for the residents of Pinellas County isn’t always what’s best for the residents and reputation of Largo.
LARGO - Before construction on the tree adventure course behind Highland Recreation Complex can begin, city officials must await a parking and restroom analysis.
That report should be arriving soon, said City Manager Henry Schubert during a City Commission meeting Feb. 21.
“Hopefully we should be able to resolve these issues fairly quickly so we can proceed with the development process,” he said. “We don’t have any final answers at this point. I would say parking does not appear to be a problem, but we need to evaluate that a little bit more. The toilet fixtures are something we are paying a little more attention to make sure that they meet the development code.”
LARGO - When Largo commissioners approved construction of a tree adventure course behind Highland Recreation Complex in September, the course’s owners hoped to hold its grand opening before the end of 2016.
A parking and restroom analysis by the city, however, has kept the project on the ground and construction has yet to begin, leaving a timetable for opening up in the air.
LARGO - City Hall, Largo Public Library, Central Park Performing Arts Center, Community Center, and Highland Recreation and Southwest Recreation complexes will be closed Monday, Feb. 20, in observance of Presidents Day.
Also, Largo Solid Waste will not be collecting residential garbage, recycling or bulky items. Monday residential collection will move to Tuesday, and Tuesday collection will move to Wednesday. There will be no change to commercial collections.