09/26/17 Local Government
CLEARWATER –– The Pinellas County Commission will be busy on Tuesday.
The end of the current fiscal year is approaching, so the commission's agenda includes setting the final millage rates for the 2017-2018 budget.
The commission could also address the situation with the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board, which was the subject of two reports Sept. 20. An inspector general's report outlined 93 problems with the agency while a grand jury outlined how to reform it....
09/25/17 Local Government
CLEARWATER –– The Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board on Monday lost its strongest supporter for staying independent.
State Sen. Jack Latvala, the Clearwater Republican running for governor, told the Pinellas legislative delegation that he would not sponsor any new legislation reforming the agency. Those reforms were suggested by a grand jury report released Sept. 20, the same day that an inspector general's report lashed the agency and its former leadership....
09/25/17 Local Government
LARGO –– The grand jury that said Pinellas County should not take over the troubled construction licensing board also said the county should bail out the agency before it goes broke in 2018.
09/23/17 Local Government
LARGO –– Everyone agrees that the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board needs to be reformed. But no one agrees on how to do it.
The 10 members of the Pinellas legislative delegation are set to meet Monday to discuss a law that would overhaul the troubled agency but some officials have questioned whether they'll be able to agree on what that law should say....
The Tampa Bay area has an estimated 2 million cubic yards of debris from Hurricane Irma waiting at the curb — enough to fill a line of dump trucks stretching 735 miles, or from Tampa to Tupelo, Miss.
But many trucks that could help make those tree limbs disappear are instead heading to South Florida, where hauling fees have shot up since the hurricane.
That has left several bay area communities and their private storm debris contractors scrambling....
09/20/17 Local Government
LARGO — The Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board mismanaged its finances, lacked accountability and disregarded its own rules, according to a scathing report released Wednesday by the county's inspector general.
The report outlined 93 problems at the agency responsible for protecting residents from shoddy contractors, including that former executive director Rodney Fischer "violated county rules and ethics requirements" and that a member of the agency's governing board "misused his position."...
09/15/17 Local Government
LARGO — As Election Day approaches, Pinellas County's elected officials will point to Hurricane Irma as a big reason why voters should renew the next round of the Penny for Pinellas 1-cent sales tax.
The last round of the penny tax helped pay for an important asset the county utilized during the storm, the Pinellas County Public Safety Complex, an $81 million fortress built to withstand a Category 5 hurricane....
Now that Hurricane Irma has staggered through Florida like a drunken tourist, it is telling that the early lessons from the storm's impact around Tampa Bay are less about life-and-death and more about quality of life.
We learned the value of having generators on stand-by. Of knowing the rules of the road at intersections without signals. Of knowing your neighbors. And of pre-brewing some good coffee for the morning after the storm....
09/14/17 Local Government
CLEARWATER — As parts of Pinellas County continue waiting for electricity after Hurricane Irma, the County Commission voted unanimously Thursday to extend an emergency declaration until Sept. 21.
"We're just very thankful that we're all here," commission Chairwoman Janet Long said.
The commission issued the declaration last week as the first step to ordering the evacuation of residents from mobile homes and low-lying areas. It will expire next week....
THONOTOSASSA –– An assisted living facility full of elderly patients has been without power since Sunday, despite repeated calls for assistance, its executive director said late Wednesday.
The Stone Ledge Manor Assisted Living & Memory Care center houses 58 residents and has had difficulty keeping them cool, said executive director Sue Garcia.
"We have no power. We have no air conditioner" Garcia said. "We have dark hallways. I have families bringing us generators."...
09/12/17 Public Safety
As Tampa Bay residents start to repair homes in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, officials have a message for homeowners: Don't allow unlicensed contractors to scam you.
The thousands of homes with missing shingles, holes in roofs and broken windows provide opportunities for unlicensed contractors and criminals to land on your doorstep with lofty promises. They will pose as window installers, tree cutters, roofers and offer the essential services that a disaster-struck area might need....
No, Pinellas County doesn't want to keep your pets.
But 310 pet owners might not get their dogs, cats, rabbits, birds or other animals back until Thursday, said animal services director Doug Brightwell.
That's because it could until then to deliver pets who went to shelters with special need residents or without cages, Brightwell said.
Some of the 310 pets the county took to its boarding facility included aggressive pets, he added....
Tom Horner wanted to make sure he could get gas for his Chevy Impala, his home. In fact, the 60-year-old was sitting in his wheelchair next to a pump at a Thorntons convenience store Monday though it was closed.
He had no idea when it would open.
"I only have an eighth of a tank," Horner said. "I can't get anywhere."
Horner, who said he has been living in his car for a year, rode out the storm nestled in the car wash at Thorntons at Starkey and Ulmerton roads....
At 5:45 a.m. Saturday, more than 100 Pinellas County Sheriff's deputies crowded into two rooms to get patrol assignments.
"I've never seen this many people in here at one time," said Cpl. Roy Swiech, a 16-year deputy.
Major David Danzig pointed to a projector showing the beach communities where deputies would warn residents about evacuating and looking for looters.
Danzig encouraged deputies to speak....
09/09/17 Local Government
LARGO — The troubled Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board is facing another threat to its survival: The agency must find enough members to serve on its governing board by Oct. 1 — otherwise it may not be able to discipline contractors.
The agency was rocked by allegations last year that former executive director Rodney Fischer was rigging the nomination process to keep his hand-picked candidates on the board. The Pinellas County Commission never approved any of his nominations, leaving the board shorthanded....