04/25/17 Local Government
CLEARWATER –– The Pinellas County Commission is slated to vote Tuesday on an ordinance to establish rules for growing, processing and selling medical pot in unincorporated areas of the county.
But before the vote, commissioners could hear passionate pleas from critics and supporters of medical marijuana during a 6 p.m. public hearing.
Under the current proposal, medical marijuana dispensaries would not be able to operate within 500 feet of schools, parks, libraries and religious facilities, but they could operate within 1,000 feet of another marijuana facility....
While the Florida Legislature is still in session, one Pinellas lawmaker is already eyeing another job.
State Rep. Larry Ahern, R-Seminole, filed paperwork this week to run for the Pinellas County Commission District 6 being vacated next year by commissioner John Morroni.
Ahern won reelection for the third time in November to the Florida House in a rematch against Democratic opponent Lorena Grizzle. This will be his fourth and final term in the House....
CLEARWATER — A diversion program launched in October across Pinellas County has helped more than 450 people avoid criminal records for low-level offenses, Sheriff Bob Gualtieri reported to the County Commission on Tuesday.
The Adult Pre-Arrest Diversion Program, an ambitious criminal justice reform that Gualtieri set up last year, allows adults arrested for low-level crimes to avoid jail by completing community service, counseling or drug treatment. The program is aimed at eliminating arrest records for minor offenses, which make it difficult for people to find jobs and housing....
04/08/17 Local Government
CLEARWATER — The anti-tax foes that helped defeat the Greenlight Pinellas transportation sales tax in 2014 don't believe they can thwart the coming renewal of the Penny for Pinellas sales tax. The 30-year tax is coming up for another vote in November.
But critics of the penny tax can still complain about it.
Their latest complaint is that they don't stand a chance against the coordinated campaign under way from elected officials across Pinellas County who are using public funds to highlight to residents what the tax has paid for over past decades....
The warning signs were all there: a persistent drought, a huge drop in rainfall going back to last year and heavy winds. The bay area started Friday under a "red flag warning" for wildfires. All that was needed was a spark.
It came when a commercial lawn mower overheated and ignited the dry grass on Jabil Circuit's property in the Gateway area. The dry ground and strong winds caused the fire and smoke to quickly spread to the Interstate 275 interchange at Gandy Boulevard just as rush hour started....
Pinellas sheriff: Fugitive, 48, killed after firing on deputies on Ulmerton Road; no deputies injured (w/video)04/06/17Crime
LARGO — About 13 hours after learning of an armed fugitive, six sheriff's deputies shot and killed a 48-year-old man Thursday when he opened fire on detectives during a traffic stop, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office.
The shooting occurred about 3:30 p.m. outside the WingHouse at 7369 Ulmerton Road. No deputies or bystanders were injured.
Richard Xavier Summers, who the Sheriff's Office said has a long and violent criminally history, missed a recent court appearance for a fraud charge. Deputies got a tip from a bailbondsman that Summers was armed, said Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri....
ST. PETERSBURG — Shortly before throwing out the first pitch at Tropicana Field on Wednesday evening, Mayor Rick Kriseman made a much more important pitch to the Tampa Bay Rays: Stay put.
Kriseman and other officials gathered across the street at Ferg's Sports Bar & Grill to tout a glossy 43-page report the city prepared for the team outlining why the 85-acre Trop site is the best place in the Tampa Bay region to build a new baseball stadium. Most of the city's talking points have been discussed before....
03/30/17 Local Government
The Texas company that provides ambulances across Pinellas County announced Thursday that it will sell the service.
The move comes less than two years after Paramedics Plus, the parent company of Sunstar Paramedics, renewed a contract with Pinellas County in 2015. The firm has provided ambulance services in Pinellas County since at least 2004.
Paramedics Plus announced they are seeking a "strategic" buyer and have engaged an investment banking firm to assist in the process, according to an email sent to the Pinellas County's Emergency Medical Services Authority. That group consists of 24 citizens, elected officials, administrators and first responders....
03/30/17 Local Government
LARGO — For years, a Pinellas County committee judged complaints against contractors without legal guidance, or transparency, or even rules.
Mayor Rick Kriseman: Ridership numbers show a need for ferry service between Tampa and St. Petersburg03/28/17Transportation
CLEARWATER — With the ferry service between St. Petersburg and Tampa ending in April, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman vowed in front of the Pinellas County Commission to find money to help bring it back in November.
During a 30-minute presentation Tuesday, Kriseman told the commission that his staff is contacting federal and state officials to see what is required for those governments to possibly contribute money for the temporary service. ...
CLEARWATER — After representing residents for 25 years, Pinellas County Commissioner John Morroni announced Tuesday that he will not seek re-election to a fifth term in 2018.
His political retirement ends a career that started when he served in the Florida House of Representatives from 1992 to 2000. The Treasure Island Republican was elected to the County Commission's District 6 seat in 2000 and chaired the board in 2005, 2012 and 2015....
03/21/17 Local Government
CLEARWATER –– After agreeing to pay $92,700 toward a federal lawsuit involving ambulance-service kickbacks in Texas, Pinellas County commissioners on Tuesday delivered a message to residents: No kickbacks took place in their county.
"It's an incendiary word," County Commissioner Ken Welch said. "None of that money went into any employees' pockets."
The comments came in response to a 2014 federal whistleblower lawsuit that alleged Pinellas County's Emergency Medical Services Authority received improper payments from the Paramedics Plus, the parent company of Sunstar Paramedics, in return for awarding contracts to provide the county's ambulance service....
03/16/17 Local Government
CLEARWATER — The government authority that oversees ambulance service in Pinellas County has agreed to pay $163,800 to settle its part of a lawsuit that claims it took kickbacks.
The federal whistle-blower lawsuit alleges Pinellas County's Emergency Medical Services Authority received improper payments from the Paramedics Plus, the parent company of Sunstar Paramedics, in return for awarding contracts to provide the county's ambulance service....
TAMPA — A 45-year-old Pasco County man on Friday pleaded guilty to a hate crime in U.S. District Court for his role in a burning a cross in a black neighbor's yard on Halloween night in 2012.
The U.S. Attorney's Office announced that Thomas Herris Sigler III pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring with others to threaten, intimidate and interfere with an interracial couple's enjoyment of their housing rights. No sentencing details were released....
03/09/17 Local Government
When a controversy erupted in November over possibly faked nominations to serve on the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board, state lawmakers vowed to craft new legislation that would make the nomination process more transparent....