Phil Ammann - SaintPetersBlog

Phil Ammann

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.

All Children’s Hospital Pediatric Residency Program graduates inaugural class in St. Pete

Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg is graduating its first class of its pediatric residency program, the first new program of its type in the United States since the 1970s.

Last week, 10 pediatricians-in-training completed their journey through the three-year training program, which launched in 2014 at the 259-bed teaching hospital in downtown St. Petersburg. These new medical professionals learned to diagnose, prevent and treat childhood diseases, and will become the next leaders in children’s health.

The residency programs offered graduates a mix of clinical rotations and coursework focusing on patients and family-centered care, the business of medicine, ethics of care, research, patient safety and quality care.

As the nation faces growing shortage in pediatrics and other specialties, Johns Hopkins All Children’s along with other teaching hospitals, play a key role in training physicians of the future.

“This educational milestone pushes us to the next level, as we continue our transformation to become a leading academic health system in Florida,” said Jonathan Ellen, M.D., president and vice dean of All Children’s. “This next generation of pediatricians will now make their mark in children’s health as they go on to practice medicine at the bedside, expand their skills through fellowship opportunities and continue their focus on researching childhood disease.”

The inaugural class will now move on to complete their training and begin careers through a variety of institutions, with several staying in Florida and at All Children’s:

Brianna Conforti — Vanderbilt University, hematology/oncology fellow.

Jacqueline Crews — Johns Hopkins All Children’s, chief resident and hospitalist fellow.

Paul Gilbert — Primary Care Pediatrics, Boca Raton.

Mirinda Gillespie — John’s Hopkins All Children’s, hematology/oncology hospitalist.

Nicholas Jabre — The Johns Hopkins Hospital, pulmonology fellow.

Racha Khalaf — University of Colorado, pediatric gastroenterology fellow.

Alexander Kim — The Johns Hopkins Hospital, genetics fellow.

John Morrison — Johns Hopkins All Children’s, chief resident and hospitalist fellow.

Nina Replete — University of Ottawa, pediatric intensive care fellow.

Elena Rueda-de-Leon — Vanderbilt University, cardiology fellow.

 “Our inaugural graduation symbolizes the culmination of the efforts our graduates, our faculty and our institution toward getting these trainees to their next career steps and to completing our goal of training the next generation of leaders,” says Raquel Hernandez, M.D., director of medical education at Johns Hopkins All Children’s.

As an assistant professor of pediatrics at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Hernandez was helped design the residency program launched in 2014, and worked closely with both current students and the recruitment of new pediatric residents.

As this class graduates, the fourth class at Johns Hopkins All Children’s begin training in July.

Inaugural class of resident physicians’ graduation for Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, Saturday, June 10th, 2017. The graduation was held at the Trade Winds Island Grand Resort, 5500 Gulf Blvd, St Pete Beach, FL. The graduates include (Left to right): John Morrison, M.D., PhD, Alexander Kim, M.D., Mirinda Gillespie, M.D., ScM, Nicholas Jabre, M.D., M.S., Brianna Conforti, M.D., M.S., Paul Gilbert, M.D., Racha Khalaf, M.D., Jacquelyn Crews, M.D., Nina Replete, M.D., Elena Rueda-de-Leon, M.D.

 

 

Women’s Conference of Florida to hold leadership symposium in October

CEO and president of Women’s Conference of Florida, Arlene DiBenigno

This fall, a group of Florida’s professional business women will gather in Tampa to discuss and learn ways to take on strong leadership opportunities.

The 2017 Women’s Conference of Florida, now in its second year as the state’s premier professional symposium, is set for Oct. 26-27 at the Marriott Waterside Hotel & Marina in Tampa.

Founded in 2015, the day-and-a-half Conference — which drew more than 1,000 attendees last year — will take on issues facing professional women through speakers, panel and roundtable discussions, exhibits, vendors and networking.

“This year, we look forward to expanding our statewide platform as we continue on our mission to address timely and relevant issues of importance to women in the state of Florida,” said Arlene DiBenigno, president and CEO of the Women’s Conference. “The true benefit of this event is that it harnesses the power of women together — engaging, empowering and encouraging each other.”

In 1998, DiBenigno worked for Gov. Jeb Bush as director of appointments for boards and commissions. It was during that experience, she was inspired to create the Conference.

“One of my duties was to try and identify different individuals that could serve on these boards and commissions and it seemed to me that every time I reached out to a woman who I thought was extremely qualified, who would serve well, the first response was ‘I can’t do it’ or ‘I don’t really have the knowledge,'” DiBeningo told WUSF in 2016.

Speakers for the 2017 event will include:

Nely Galan, producer, author and former President of Entertainment for Telemundo. As the first Latina president of a major network, she owns of Galan Entertainment and is an Emmy Award-winning producer of more than 600 episodes of television in Spanish and English, including the hit FOX reality series “The Swan.”

Galan is the author of “SELF MADE: Becoming Empowered, Self-Reliant and Rich in Every Way” and the founder of the nonprofit The Adelante Movement, which seeks to empower Latinas to become entrepreneurs. In 2008, she appeared on the first season NBC’s “The Celebrity Apprentice,” raising $250,000 for Count Me In, her charity for women entrepreneurship.

Jan Babiak is an independent director, board member of the Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. and the Bank of Montreal. She is also on the board of GHD Group, an employee-owned, privately held, Australian-based engineering, architecture and environmental consulting firm.

Babiak previously served on the board of the Royal Mail, during which it listed on the U.K.’s FTSE 100. From 2010, until its sale in August 2012, she was Audit Committee Chair for Logica PLC, a then UK-headquartered FTSE 250 technology company.

Before starting her “portfolio career,” Babiak spent 28 years with Ernst & Young where she held the board and global leadership roles in cyber/technology security and risk services; climate change and sustainability services; and regulatory and public policy.

Jean Chatzky, financial editor for NBC’s “Today Show,” is an award-winning personal finance journalist, AARP’s personal finance ambassador, and the host of “Money Matters with Jean Chatzky” on RLTV. She is a longtime magazine columnist and the best-selling author of eight books. Her newest book, “Age-Proof,” written in partnership with Cleveland Clinic’s chief wellness officer Dr. Michael Roizen, explains the link between health and wealth.

Chatzky recently launched Jean Chatzky’s Money School — online tutorials on topics like saving, budgeting, debt and retirement planning — that she personally teaches at JeanChatzky.com.

The inaugural Women’s Conference of Florida, held May 2016, featured keynotes from several big-name speakers: Randi Zuckerberg, former Facebook executive and CEO of Zuckerberg Media; Jill Abramson, former executive editor of The New York Times; and Cheryl Strayed, author of the #1 New York Times best-selling memoir “Wild.”

Presenting the Conference is Conversa, a Florida-based communications firm serving Fortune 500 clients, national and regional nonprofits, and small businesses.

For information and registration, visit wcoffl.com or contact Jennifer Dunn at jennifer@conversaco.com or (813) 579-2157.

Duke Energy’s Top 10 tips to beat summer heat, save money

With Florida’s summer well underway, meteorologists are predicting slightly higher than average temperatures in 2017.

And with the heat, comes an inevitable seasonal spike in electric bills. But summer doesn’t have to be a budget-buster.

Duke Energy, which services about 1.8 million Floridians, is helping consumers take control of their energy use by offering several simple, energy-efficient changes in the home.

Here are the Top 10 low-to-no-cost energy-efficiency tips for summer:

— Set your AC to the highest comfortable setting. Every degree increase saves about 5 percent in cooling costs. Energy Star recommends a minimum set point of 78 degrees Fahrenheit.

— Change or clean your air filters monthly. A dirty air filter can make a cooling system work harder, using more energy.

— Inspect and service your HVAC. Make sure your HVAC system is ready to keep you cool by having it checked by a qualified heating and air conditioning contractor.

— Don’t cool an empty house. If you are going out, program the thermostat to work around your schedule.

— Close the blinds. Shutting drapes and shades during the hottest part of the day can keep the sun’s rays from heating your house.

— Grill outdoors. Cooking in the oven and on the stovetop creates indoor heat. Help save energy by firing up the grill outdoors or prepare meals that do not require cooking.

— Use fans in occupied rooms. They circulate air to supplement air conditioning. Make sure they are set to operate in a counterclockwise direction.

— Turn off unnecessary lights. And, use energy-efficient light bulbs that use less electricity and emit less heat.

— Seal air leaks with caulking and weather stripping. And keep the door closed as much as often as possible to keep cold air inside.

— Replace incandescent bulbs with energy-efficient lighting options. LEDs use up to 90 percent less energy than traditional bulbs, lasting at least 15 times longer than traditional bulbs.

Also, Duke Energy offers a variety of programs, incentives, and rebates to help customers save money, including Home Energy Checks, a free service performed online, over the phone or in person. Energy advisors can offer energy-saving recommendations and figure out customers’ eligibility for company rebates toward energy-efficient improvements.

After a home energy check, customers in single-family homes receive a free energy efficiency kit, which includes an energy-efficient showerhead, faucet aerators, a hot water gauge, a refrigerator/freezer thermometer, weather-strip seals for doors and windows, switch and outlet insulation seals and LED light bulbs.

To sign up, call (877) 574-0340 or visit the Duke Home Energy Check website. Customers living in apartments, condominiums, duplexes and townhomes may be eligible for the Multi-Family Energy Improvement Program.

— Upgrade attic insulation — Upgrading to insulation that’s rated R-38 or greater is the best way to reduce high home cooling and heating costs. Following a Duke Energy Home Energy Check, customers may qualify for a rebate of up to $200.

— High Bill Alerts — Duke customers can receive high bill alerts if a bill is projected to be $30 AND 30 percent greater than usual. Historical usage and temperatures are used to estimate consumption compared to the previous month. Duke will send a courtesy alert midway through the regular billing cycle, allowing customers to make energy-saving choices to help reduce their bill. To receive an alert, a customer should have a current email address on file and at least 12 months of usage history. More information is at www.duke-energy.com/home/billing/high-bill-alerts

Duke Energy Florida provides about 8,800 megawatts of owned electric capacity to a 13,000-square mile service area in the Sunshine State. With its Florida regional headquarters in St. Petersburg, Duke is one of the largest electric power holding companies in the United States, serving approximately 7.5 million customers located in six states in the Southeast and Midwest.

St. Pete retirement communities decry ‘unlawful’ property appraisal, seek tax refunds

Three St. Petersburg retirement communities are accusing the Pinellas County Property Appraiser’s office of “unlawfully” calculating of property values, leading to overpayment of thousands of dollars on its 2016 tax bill.

In separate lawsuits, owners of the three properties are suing Mike Twitty, as Pinellas County Property Appraiser; tax collector Charles W. Thomas and Leon M. Biegalski, who serves as executive director of the Florida Department of Revenue.

The suits, filed June 19 and 20 in Pinellas County Circuit Court, are for Westminster Suncoast at 1095 Pinellas Point; Westminster Shores at 125 56th Ave. S and Westminster Palms at 939 Beach Dr. NE, all in St. Petersburg.

Each is a “church-based” community owned by Westminster Communities of Florida, a not-for-profit organization based in Orlando.

According to county records, the combined 2016 property tax bill for the three properties was $377,836: Westminster Suncoast (Property Appraiser page) was assessed $69,952.31; Westminster Shores (Property Appraiser page), $172,069.92 and Westminster Palms (Property Appraiser page) $135,803.88.

Westminster Communities is alleging property taxes assessed on each of three retirement communities it owns were based on an appraised value that “greatly exceeds the just value of the subject property.”

The company claims it is because the County Property Appraiser “ignored or did not properly apply the Florida Real Property Appraisal Guidelines” and “unlawfully, systematically, and intentionally substituted his own assessment policy instead of following” state law and guidelines.

Furthermore, they say the Appraiser’s method allegedly was “unrealistic, unjust, excessive, [and] arbitrary.”

Each of the three properties now receives a large property-tax exemption. For instance, although the Property Appraiser estimates Westminster Shores’ market value at $21.6-million, exemptions reduce the taxable amount by roughly two-thirds, bringing it to $7.7-million.

“As a result of the foregoing over-valuation, the 2016 market value and assessed value greatly exceeds the just value of the subject properly,” the suit continues, “and the ad valorem taxes resulting therefrom substantially exceed the taxes which would  have  been  levied  on  the subject  property had it been  properly assessed.”

Westminster, founded in 1954, owns 21 Florida retirement communities with nearly 7,000 residents. Although Westminster paid its assessed 2016 tax bills in full, the company is saying it is not an admission that the tax was the correct amount due.

Westminster is asking the court for a partial refund.

More endorsements come rolling in for Darden Rice’s re-election

St. Petersburg City Council Chair Darden Rice is announcing an extended list of new endorsements Thursday for her District 4 re-election bid.

As a popular first-term Council member and longtime civic activist, Rice enjoys a wellspring of support from elected officials, colleagues and well-wishers on both the local and state levels.

The growing list of endorsements includes several prominent local elected officials: State Sen. Darryl Rouson, State Reps. Ben Diamond and Wengay Newton, as well as St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman, and City Council colleagues Lisa Wheeler-Bowman, Karl Nurse, Jim Kennedy and Charlie Gerdes.

“Darden is truly dedicated to the people of St. Petersburg,” Nurse said Thursday. “She has a passion for public service that shines through the work she does, especially when it comes to constituent services. I’m proud to support Darden again in her race for City Council.”

Also lining up behind Rice are Pinellas County Commissioners Pat Gerard, Janet Long, Ken Welch and John Moroni, Pinellas County School Board Member Rene Flowers, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, and Tampa City Council Members Mike Suarez, Yolie Capin, Harry Cohen and Charlie Miranda.

Welch praises Rice’s “great work” for both for the City of St. Petersburg and Pinellas County.

“Her leadership on important issues like fair wages and the environment have a positive impact on all of us every day,” he says. “I’m looking forward to continuing our work together during her second term on Council.”

In addition to her work on the environment – the Sierra Club and Florida Conservation Voters are among her earliest supporters – and for social justice, Rice also recently proposed a landmark Defend Our Democracy ordinance for the city of St. Pete, which seeks to stem big money spending in municipal elections.

On a 4-3 vote Thursday, council members supported Rice’s proposal that would require corporations spending more than $5,000 in city elections to certify they are not entirely or partly owned by foreign interests.

“I’m honored to have the support of my colleagues in St. Petersburg, Pinellas County and around Tampa Bay,” Rice says. “It’s important in local government to work cooperatively to make positive change, and I look forward to four more years of progress.”

Rice is also being endorsed by former Florida Gov. and current Congressman Charlie Crist, U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, and former Congresswoman Gwen Graham, who is now a Democratic candidate for Florida Governor. She also has earned widespread support from various neighborhood leaders in District 4, a non-partisan seat covering large sections of North St. Pete.

As an active labor union advocate, Rice won the backing of the West Central Florida Labor Council, Service Employees International Union, Sun Coast Police Benevolent Association and St. Petersburg Association of Fire Fighters.

In her re-election bid, Rice is facing only a single challenger, USFSP student Jerick Johnston.

Mike Fasano’s July charity is Pasco back-to-school supply drive

For July’s charity-of-the-month, the five offices of Pasco County Tax Collector Mike Fasano will be collecting donations to help kids whose families cannot afford basic back-to-school supplies required of most students.

Soon after the promotion ends at the end of the month, schools in each community will receive the supplies.

“Each year students are expected to purchase an ever-growing list of supplies to bring with them on the first day of school,” Fasano said in a statement. “Gone are the days when a notebook, a pencil, and some book covers, often made out of old shopping bags, were what most kids needed. Now, in addition to backpacks, earbuds, USB drives and a variety of pens, pencils, tape, crayons and other items, they are expected to buy supplies for the classroom as well.

“There are far too many families who struggle to provide for their own children, let alone provide towels, wipes, and items for other students to use,” he added. “I am hopeful that our efforts will make the burden lighter for as many families and students as possible.”

During July, cash donations can be made at any of the five tax collector locations in Pasco County.

For more information about the Pasco Tax Collector’s Back-to-School Supply Drive, as well as the county’s charitable giving programs, contact Assistant Tax Collector Greg Giordano at (727) 847-8179 or visit pascotaxes.com.

Tampa Chamber to lend helping hand to minority businesses with new accelerator program

Tampa Bay-area minority-owned small businesses could get a leg up through a new program from the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce.

On Thursday, the Chamber announced its Minority Business Accelerator program, geared towards helping Black and Hispanic business owners identify and overcome barriers to growth.

According to the Chamber website, in Hillsborough County, the demographic between minorities and non-minorities is split nearly 1:1. Hispanics represent the largest segment of the minority population-base (27 percent), followed by Blacks (nearly 18 percent) for about 45 percent.

The MBA program – three years in the making — seeks to give minority small-business owners the tools and knowledge for better organization, cultivate business referrals and raise visibility.

As the first part of the Chamber’s 10-year plan for increased inclusiveness, Tampa Chamber Chair Mike Griffin hopes to announce the MBA inaugural class Dec. 14 at the Chamber’s 132nd annual meeting.

“I have been involved in this project since I co-chaired the Minority Business Caucus two years ago,” says Bemetra Simmons, who will serve as MBA program chair. “This initiative is the culmination of researching similar programs in other communities and understanding the needs of the Tampa/Hillsborough County area.

Simmons added: “I am excited to chair the first class of our Minority Business Accelerator and I look forward to helping Black and Hispanic-owned and operated businesses in our community reach their fullest potential.”

The Chamber identifies three common growth barriers effecting many minority businesses, which limits their ability to flourish and contribute more significantly to both Tampa and Hillsborough County economies:

— Limited access to capital. Many minority businesses have limited personal funds to offset the capital needs of their business and have a tough time generating sustainable income to be used to reinvest in growth.

— Limited access to key decision makers. Many minority businesses cannot get past “gatekeepers” and gain access to key decision makers that purchase their goods and services.

— Limited access to information and knowledge. While many minority businesses are experts in their respective fields, they lack the access to information and knowledge to facilitate capacity building and/or business growth.

Recruitment for the program begins in August, with two Community Info Sessions before the application period. Details of the MBA program are at tampachamber.com/mba.

 

Florida Sheriffs name Jack Latvala, James Grant, Chris Sprowls ‘legislative champions’ for 2017

Florida Sheriffs recognized several Tampa Bay-area lawmakers Thursday for “significant contributions to and support of good public safety policies” during the 2017 Legislative Session.

The Florida Sheriffs Association (FSA) named five legislators — including Clearwater state Sen. Jack Latvala and Reps. James Grant of Tampa and Chris Sprowls of Palm Harbor —  for their “commitment to protecting the best interests of Florida citizens” and support of FSA initiatives.

In 2017, Grant had sponsored HB 7059, a prolific juvenile offender bill; Latvala sponsored SB 150, the Senate counterpart. Sheriffs praised Sprowls for supporting public safety throughout Session.

Other legislators as named as FSA Legislative Champions include Rep. Jim Boyd of Bradenton who sponsored HB 477, which sought to stem the heroin/Fentanyl epidemic. Sen. Greg Steube of Sarasota sponsored SB 150 the Senate companion of the heroin/Fentanyl bill.

“The Florida Sheriffs Association is honored to recognize these legislators for their commitment to public safety,” said FSA President and Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings. “We are grateful for Rep. Boyd and Senator Steube for their dedication and leadership in passing comprehensive legislation to address Florida’s heroin and Fentanyl epidemic.”

“This session, Senator Latvala and Rep. Grant made addressing the problem of a lack of accountability among repeat juvenile offenders a priority with the passage of the prolific juvenile offender bill (SB 7059),” said FSA Legislative Chair and Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri. “Sheriffs also greatly appreciate the leadership of Rep. Sprowls for working on this bill as well as numerous other public safety issues that had to be addressed throughout Session.”

Sheriffs also recognized 18 Senators — as well as Latvala and Steube — with the FSA Friend of the Sheriff Award, for legislation that would have a positive impact on public safety: Dennis Baxley, Aaron Bean, Lizbeth Benacquisto, Lauren Book, Rob Bradley, George Gainer, Bill Galvano, Rene Garcia, Denise Grimsley, Travis Hutson, Tom Lee, Debbie Mayfield, Kathleen Passidomo, Keith Perry, Darryl Rouson, David Simmons, Wilton Simpson and Kelli Stargel.

 In addition, Reps. Jason Fischer, Joe Abruzzo, House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Attorney General Pam Bondi were given the FSA Friend of the Sheriff Award.

Fischer had sponsored HB 721, which seeks independently elected sheriffs in all 67 Florida counties and Abruzzo advocated it in committee, s. Sheriffs applauded Corcoran for supporting public safety initiatives throughout Session. As her top priority, Bondi pushed for passage of a heroin/Fentanyl bill (HB 477) and was instrumental in moving it through the Senate.

“Without the aid of these important state legislators, and Attorney General Bondi, the Florida Sheriffs Association would not be able to serve the citizens of Florida to the best of our ability,” said FSA Executive Director Steve Casey. “On behalf of the entire Florida Sheriffs Association, I would like to honor these men and women for doing their part to help keep Floridians safe.”

Founded in 1893, the Florida Sheriffs Association is made up of sheriffs, approximately 3,500 business leaders and 70,000 citizens throughout the state.

Barclay Harless announces trio of summer events in St. Pete Council bid

Barclay Harless is giving supporters not one, but three new opportunities to connect this summer in his bid for St. Petersburg City Council.

The 31-year-old banking executive announced a trio of events Wednesday for the upcoming months as he runs for District 2, which covers most of Northeast St. Petersburg.

On Sunday, July 9, Harless will be the featured guest at a Young Professionals Bruch hosted by MB Strategies founder Maya Brown and Cesar Hernandez, who currently serves as government affairs specialist for Hillsborough Area Regional Transit. The event begins 1 p.m. at the Home of Rachel Ebner. An address will be provided upon RSVP, which is available online. Tickets are a suggested $50, with a spot on the host committee going for $200.

Jim Kennedy, the term-limited council member who now holds the District 2 seat, will host a fundraiser for Harless Tuesday, July 18, beginning 6 p.m. at Ricky P’s Creole Kitchen, 11002 4th St N in St. Petersburg. While the suggested contribution for the event is $100, any amount is welcome. RSVP are also available online.

On August 10, Equality Florida’s Ed Lally and his husband Phil Dinkins will hold a fundraising reception for Harless at their St. Petersburg home. Harless currently serves on the Equality Florida “Equality Means Business” advisory board. The reception begins 5:30 p.m. Address will be provided on RSVP, which is available here. Suggested contribution is $100 or more.

Harless, a graduate of the University of South Florida St. Petersburg, is an assistant bank officer at Bank of the Ozarks. Before that, he was a legislative aide to then-state Rep. Darryl Rouson. Harless also worked on Alex Sink’s 2014 campaign for Florida’s 13th Congressional District.

Harless faces realtor Brandi Gabbard in the nonpartisan race and currently leads in fundraising, taking in $4,890 in May for more than $36,000 to date.

AT&T, FirstNet offer states ‘early opt in’ for first-responder LTE network

FirstNet and AT&T are taking the next step toward a nationwide wireless broadband network for first responders. This means Florida’s police, firefighters and EMTs will soon be getting a dedicated network for public-safety communications.

FirstNet’s long-awaited first responder LTE network is finally moving forward, as FirstNet officials Monday announced more details on individual network plans for states and territories to early opt in online.

FirstNet officials say they are finishing the fee structure for states and territories wanting to use the LTE core and licensed 20 MHz of 700 MHz spectrum – as well as a possible opt-out scenario — but FirstNet Chair Sue Swenson said it there is a chance the final numbers may not be ready in time for next week’s rollout of the state plans.

“We’re trying to get it into next week, but for sure in the September one,” Swenson said in an interview with IWCE Urgent Communications. “At least they’ll have an indication of it, because that’s how they’re going to make the decision. I mean, you have to have that in there. We know how important that is.”

Under the federal law giving FirstNet responsibility for the nationwide public-safety broadband network (NPSBN), states and territories can choose the FirstNet plan — constructed by AT&T — or pursue an “opt-out” alternative.

The partners have begun presenting individual State Plans, which detail what they’ll get. Local governments will have 45 days decide to join FirstNet.

Each State plan will come fully funded and without added money from local governments, but governors could choose to opt out and build their own networks and plans. So far, eight states are considering their own alternative first responder network.

The remaining states can take the 45 days to review state plans.

As the winning bidder, AT&T will build the network for the states choosing to opt in, and maintain the network for the next 25 years.

If all goes as planned, responders in those states – including Florida — will have access to the dedicated network by the end of the year.

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