Pinellas County Archives - Page 4 of 22 - SaintPetersBlog

Kathleen Peters calls for special meeting on infrastructure damage

State Rep. Kathleen Peters has joined state Sen. Jack Latvala in a call for action after Hurricane Hermine.

The Treasure Island Republican, in a statement released Friday, called for a special meeting of Pinellas County’s legislative delegation and local leaders “to discuss critical infrastructure concerns in light of recent storm surges.”

Hermine, a Category 1 hurricane at landfall, knocked out electric service Thursday night to hundreds of thousands across North Florida, and caused significant damage along the state’s Gulf coast.

Peters said she was specifically concerned about “municipalities across Pinellas County (being) forced to dump partially treated sewage into local waterways.”

“This comes after large scrutiny from nearly a month of rainfall (last year) that showed cities with a lack of capacity to handle heavy weather occurrences,” said Peters, who was elected to the House in 2012 after serving as South Pasadena’s mayor.

“It is absolutely essential that we discuss the needs of our county as a whole and why I believe it is necessary to have local officials at the table,” she added. “We cannot continue dumping these amounts of waste into our waterbodies and expect a safe and healthy public or environment.

“I have always said that taking care of the basic infrastructure needs for a city should come first, and now we are here,” Peters said. “That said, we need solutions, and it is my hope the delegation and local leadership responds positively to this request.”

Latvala — the Clearwater Republican slated to be the Senate’s next budget chief — went further.

Earlier this week, he questioned whether the state’s community-based power operations are positioned as well as they could be to recover after major storms. Latvala suggested he might call for hearings on the issue next legislative session.

4:30 p.m. update: Latvala announced he is calling a special meeting of the Pinellas Legislative Delegation on Sept. 20 on the University of South Florida St. Petersburg campus.

“I am going to discuss with (St. Petersburg) Mayor (Rick) Kriseman the possibility of a site visit by the delegation to the city’s nearby sewage treatment facility at that time also,” he said.

“This is especially important to me because the initial legislation to clean up our bay came first at the behest of two (former) members of our delegation,” Latvala added. “We cannot go backwards in our protection of the environment.”

Incumbent Myriam Irizarry squeaks out victory to remain on Pinellas County bench

Myriam Irizarry appears to have won a narrow victory over former state Rep. Dwight Dudley to retain the judicial seat she won last year by appointment.

Irizarry polled about 78,575 votes, or about 50.38 percent of the vote, according to unofficial results. Dudley was about 0.76 percent behind with 77,382 votes. That’s far enough behind to avoid a recount. But there were still some provisional ballots out late Tuesday night, although it does not appear that there were enough to change the results.

In the other judicial race for County Judge Group 8, assistant state attorney Dora Komninos won a landslide victory against Curtis Korsko, a Tampa lawyer who has also served as a civil traffic offense hearing officer. Komninos won about 71 percent of the vote, according to unofficial results.

The race between Dudley and Irizarry was hotly contested. It centered on experience, with both candidates claiming they had the best experience for the job. Dudley had argued that Irizarry lacks trial experience in Florida.

Irizarry countered that Dudley was misrepresenting her experience because he did not give her credit for past legal and trial work she had done in New Jersey.

Irizarry is a native of Puerto Rico whose family moved to New York when she was a child. She and her six siblings were raised by a single mother. With help from tuition-aid programs, she was graduated from Rutgers College and Rutgers-Newark School of Law and was admitted to practice in 1981.

Irizarry followed her family to Florida and joined The Florida Bar in 1995. She went to work for the Pinellas County Clerk of Court. Her first job involved teaching the clerks about criminal law and legal procedures. She was promoted through the ranks until she became general counsel for the clerk of court and oversaw the smooth running of the office and court system. Her duties included representing the clerk’s office in administrative hearings and conducting hearings over employment disputes.

Irizarry was appointed last year to the seat by Gov. Rick Scott. She contended that the year’s experience on the bench gave her the edge in the race.

It’s not the party … it’s the after party! A rundown of where Tampa Bay candidates will be on Election Night

Votes have been cast. Now it comes to this — Primary Election day.

For some, the campaign ends here. With others, the road now leads to November.

Either way, candidates will be attending a range of events, where celebrations — or the drowning of sorrows — will take place Tuesday night.

Here is a rundown of primary night watch parties and other celebrations throughout Tampa Bay:

Congressman David Jolly, running for re-election to Florida’s 13th Congressional District, cast his vote at 8 a.m. at the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections office, 13001 Starkey Road in Largo.

Nick DiCeglie, chair of the Republican Party of Pinellas County, will emcee a Primary Watch Party from 6:30-10:30 p.m. for all volunteers and candidates at the Quaker Steak & Lube, 10400 49th St. in Clearwater. Appetizers will be available. RSVP at, (727) 455-5636 or (727) 709-1679.

The Republican Party of Florida (RPOF) and the Greater Brandon Republican Club is hosting a joint Primary Results Watch Party at Square 1 Burger, 2042 Badlands Dr. in Brandon. Scheduled to attend the event, which begins at 7 p.m., are state Sen. Tom Lee, state Reps. Ross Spano and Jake Raburn, Hillsborough County District 4 Commissioner Stacy White, District 6 Commissioner Jim Norman, District 6 candidate Tim Schock, Clerk of Court candidate Eric Seidel, State Attorney candidate Mark Ober and County Soil & Water Chair Mark Proctor.

The RPOF, also in partnership with the Downtown Republican Club of Tampa, will be hosting its Watch Party beginning 7 p.m. at Jackson’s Bistro, 601 S. Harbour Island Blvd. in Tampa. Scheduled to attend are Florida Senate District 18 candidate Dana Young, Hillsborough County Republican Executive Committee Chair Deborah Tamargo, District 1 Commissioner Sandy Murman, Florida’s 14th Congressional District candidate Christine Quinn, Hillsborough County Donald Trump campaign co-chair Rebecca DeBoer, Hillsborough County State Committeeman-elect Jim Warishuk, Property Appraiser candidate Todd Jones, State Committeewoman-elect Clarice Henderson, and County Commission District 6 candidate Tim Schock.

Democrat Augie Ribeiro, running for Florida Senate District 19, will be at Three Birds Tavern beginning at 7 p.m., 1492 4th St. N. in St. Petersburg.

Rep. Darryl Rouson, who is also in the SD 19 race, will be at the Green Bench Brewery, 1133 Baum Ave. in St. Petersburg, from 6 to 8 p.m. For those wanting to attend, visit the event’s Facebook page.

Rep. Ed Narain, another Democrat running for SD 19, is scheduled to hold his election night festivities at the Tampa Heights Community Center, 2005 N. Lamar Ave. in Tampa.

Democrat Rena Upshaw-Frazier, running for House District 59, will be at O’Toole’s Irish Pub, 1215 W. Brandon Blvd. in Brandon. Party begins at 6:30 p.m.

Democrat Eric Lynn, running for House District 68, will be at Reno Downtown Joint, 27 4th St. N. in St. Petersburg, Event begins at 7 p.m.

Democrat Ben Diamond, also in the HD 68 race, will be at 400 Beach Seafood & Tap House starting at 7 p.m., 400 Beach Dr. in St. Petersburg.

Wengay Newton, the former St. Petersburg City Councilman running for House District 70, will be at the Boca Bay Grille at 2832 Beach Blvd. S. in Gulfport. The party will start at 6:30 p.m., “Newt” will be arriving after the last vote has been cast and the polls close at 7 p.m. RSVP on the event’s Facebook page for a headcount for food and drink.

Pinellas County Property Appraiser candidate Mike Twitty will be at the Seabreeze Island Grill and Raw Bar, 17855 Gulf Blvd. in Redington Shores. Party starts at 6 p.m., polls close at 7 p.m. with the results expected at 7:15 p.m. More information is at

Pinellas officials say they are combatting mosquitoes, Zika

Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday announced a new case of Zika in Pinellas, bringing the total cases in the county to 10.

The nine cases that had already been identified as of Monday by the Department of Health were all travel-related. The 10th was not. It was locally transmitted, meaning that mosquitoes in the area are infected with the virus.

Zika disease is caused by the Zika virus, which is spread to people primarily through the bite of an infected mosquito, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting up to a week, and many people do not have symptoms or will have only mild symptoms. However, Zika virus infection during pregnancy can cause a serious birth defects.

The best way to prevent Zika is to avoid being bitten by a mosquito, the CDC says.

Pinellas County officials say they are already aggressively fighting mosquitoes by treating known breeding areas from air and ground. So far this year, Pinellas County mosquito control has received more than 2,500 service requests from Pinellas County residents and businesses — with an average response time of 24 hours or less.

Technicians note many local homes have items or areas that contain standing water — ideal breeding conditions for mosquitoes — contributing to the mosquito problem. Mosquito larvae only need a fraction of an inch of standing water to survive.

“In light of Zika activity in our state, we are urging residents to do their part to reduce the mosquito population,” said Rob Krueger, entomology and education support specialist at mosquito control.

Steps residents can include:

— Empty any containers that can hold water (examples: flower pots, garbage cans, recycling containers, wheelbarrows, aluminum cans, boat tarps, old tires and buckets).

— Flush birdbaths and wading pools weekly.

— Flush ornamental bromeliads or treat with BTI, a biological larvicide available at home stores.

— Clean roof gutters, which can become clogged and hold water.

— Change the water in outdoor pet dishes regularly.

— Keep pools and spas chlorinated and filtered.

— Stock ornamental ponds with mosquito-eating fish.

— Cover rain barrels with screening.

— Check for standing water under houses, near plumbing drains, under air conditioner drip areas and around septic tanks and heat pumps.

— Eliminate standing water, improve drainage and prevent future puddling.

“It’s important for residents to remember the three D’s of mosquito prevention,” Krueger said. “Dress wisely, defend with a good mosquito repellent, and drain standing water.”

Mosquito bites can irritate skin and potentially spread disease. Residents are urged to protect their skin from mosquito bites when outdoors by wearing mosquito repellent (products containing DEET, IR3535, picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus) and loose-fitting clothing with long sleeves and pants. These simple preventive measures can help reduce the number of mosquitoes in Pinellas County and minimize mosquito-borne diseases, officials say.

Locally-transmitted Zika comes to Pinellas

Pinellas County has its first case of locally transmitted Zika.

The Department of Health is investigating five new cases of locally acquired Zika, including one case in Pinellas County. The remaining four cases were found in Wynwood, the trendy Miami arts neighborhood where health officials first identified local cases of the mosquito-borne illness.

According to the Governor’s Office, there are now 42 cases of locally transmitted Zika in Florida.

While the investigation is ongoing, Gov. Rick Scott said in a statement the Department of Health “still believes that ongoing active transmissions are only occurring” in Wynwood and Miami Beach. However, Scott said the Department of Health has begun door-to-door outreach and sampling in Pinellas County. Mosquito abatement and reduction activities are also taking place, the governor said in a statement.

“In Pinellas County, the Department of Health and Pinellas County Mosquito Control are already working together and have begun aggressive spraying and mosquito abatement efforts,” said Scott in a statement. “Any pregnant women who would like to receive a free Zika test or a Zika prevention kit should contact the Florida Department of Health in Pinellas County. We remain fully committed to ensuring that every county has all of the resources they need to combat this virus and stand ready to assist residents and visitors in the impacted communities.”

Scott also announced Tuesday the Department of Health has cleared an additional perimeter in the Wynwood area, bringing the impacted area down to 0.5 square mile.


Tampa Bay ranks second in job gains

By Michael Moline

The Tampa Bay region posted strong numbers in the latest report by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, released Friday.

The Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater metropolitan area recorded 37,700 new jobs, a 3 percent increase compared to the same point last year. Only Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford posted stronger gains, at 4.1 percent.

Of the 701,642 people in Hillsborough County’s labor force, 668,853 held jobs — for an unemployment rate of 4.7 percent. That compares to 5.3 percent at the same point in 2015.

Pinellas County mounted a labor force of 486,766, of whom 464,905 held jobs, for an unemployment rate of 4.5 percent. The jobless rate was 5.1 percent at the same point last year.

Pasco County’s labor force was 219,248 strong, with 207,574 of them holding jobs. That made a jobless rate of 5.3 percent, compared to 6.1 percent in July 2015.

Hernando County’s labor force comprised 67,937 people, of whom 63,692 were employed, for a jobless rate of 6.2 percent. At the same point last year, that rate was 7.2 percent.

Pinellas slated for extra money to fight Zika

Pinellas County Mosquito Control will receive a bit more than $106,000 in supplemental state funds for the month of August to combat the spread of the Zika virus.

Rick Scott 05.08.jpgThe funds are part of Gov. Rick Scott’s executive order that allocated $26.2 million in state funds for Zika preparedness, prevention and response in Florida. Each month, the risk across the state will be re-evaluated and funds may be reallocated.

The funding award comes as Pinellas County Mosquito Control continues to aggressively and proactively target the potential transmitters of the Zika virus. The division works daily to reduce the mosquito population by treating known breeding areas by ground and air, as well as responding to calls from residents with requests for localized evaluation and treatment.

“Pinellas County is pleased to leverage local and state resources in our fight against Zika and other mosquito-borne diseases,” said Brian Lawton, the county’s mosquito control program coordinator. “We look forward to purchasing extra chemicals and equipment like hand foggers, backpack foggers and thermal foggers, equipping each technician in the field with what they need to continue doing this important job.”

Mosquito bites can irritate skin and potentially spread disease.

Residents are urged to protect their skin from mosquito bites when outdoors by wearing mosquito repellent (products containing DEET, picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus) and loose-fitting clothing with long sleeves and pants. Residents should also ensure doors and windows are sealed properly, along with ensuring screens are in place and intact. These preventive measures can help reduce the number of mosquitoes in Pinellas County and minimize mosquito-borne diseases, officials said.

Norm Roche asks judge to overturn her decision in ‘un-hiring’ lawsuit

Norm Roche
Norm Roche

Former Pinellas Commissioner Norm Roche has asked a judge to reconsider her decision that the county did not violate the state public records law.

Roche contended Pinellas officials had failed to give him documents and other records concerning his termination from county employment before his first day of work. Earlier this month, Circuit Judge Cynthia Newton disagreed, saying Roche had “failed to meet the burden of establishing evidence that there were un-produced responsive documents within [the county’s] control.”

In his motion, Roche says that some records — telephone text messages — were supplied only after he had filed the lawsuit. Roche adds he knows other documents should exist but have not been turned over. Those documents include written approvals of his hiring that are a required part of the county’s employment process.

“For instance, the plaintiff, Norm Roche, testified without contradiction that his initial hiring required supervisor approvals in writing. No documents with the supervisor approvals of his hiring were produced. None of [the county’s] witnesses rebutted or contradicted this testimony,” the appeal says.

It adds, “It was un-rebutted that plaintiff is a former county commissioner and county employee. As such, [Roche] has personal knowledge of the procedures and requirements of the Pinellas County hiring process. None of the witnesses contradicted or rebutted plaintiff on this specific point. The ‘documents’ were not produced in full.”

The motion asks that Newton overturn her decision and “recognize the un-rebutted, un-contradicted evidence that all of the public records response to Norm Roche’s request were not produced timely … and for an order for Pinellas County to produce the communications and documents requested.”

Newton’s order only applied to one part of Roche’s lawsuit. The rest of the lawsuit is still being litigated.

The suit claims that county officials refused to hire him, then hired him only to withdraw the offer before his first day of work. Roche says he was “un-hired.”

Mark Woodard
Mark Woodard

Roche worked for the county for about a decade before his 2010 election to the county commission. His one term was noted for controversy, and he was known for expressing views unpopular with many of his fellow commissioners. He lost a re-election bid in the 2014 Republican Primary to Ed Hooper. Democrat Pat Gerard subsequently defeated Hooper.

After Roche’s loss, he unsuccessfully applied for 26 county jobs. He got the 27th job – as a $14-$15-an-hour customer service specialist. He passed the background check and all other checks county employees undergo. He was issued a “welcome aboard” letter and given a start date.

But before he could start work, Assistant County Administrator Paul Sacco called and withdrew the offer. Sacco has since testified County Administrator Mark Woodard made the decision.

But the county was not forthcoming when Roche began asking why the job offer was rescinded. He says officials refused to meet with him and also refused him public records.

Pinellas County chooses new assistant county administrator

Bill Breckinridge
Bill Breckinridge

Pinellas County has hired a new assistant county administrator, Bill Breckinridge, a U.S. Navy veteran and engineering professional with 20 years of experience, ranging from public works to environmental management.

Breckinridge, who started work Monday, will oversee the following county departments: the St. Petersburg-Clearwater Airport, public works, and solid waste and utilities. He replaces Pick Talley, who held the position on an interim basis since last year and previously served Pinellas County for nearly two decades leading up to retirement.

As a commander in the U.S. Navy, Breckinridge served at home and abroad; more recently, he managed logistics while stationed at the Pentagon. His professional background has encompassed capital projects, utilities, facilities program management, budgeting, and energy and environmental management. He is a registered professional engineer and certified energy manager with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the U.S. Naval Academy and a master’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Florida.

Mark Woodard
Mark Woodard

“I am grateful for the opportunity to join the excellent team at Pinellas County and work with our partners to deliver first class services to all of our citizens,” Breckinridge said.

Breckinridge brings a focus on leadership and collaboration as he works to guide his departments in fulfilling the county’s strategic goals.

“We are excited to welcome Bill to the county,” Pinellas County Administrator Mark Woodard said. “His diverse career background and proven leadership will be great assets as the county continues to fulfill its mission of doing things to serve the public.”

Multi-million dollar Gateway Express project gets the go ahead

Pinellas County commissioners unanimously agreed Tuesday to sign an agreement with the state Department of Transportation for a project designed to improve transportation in the Gateway area.

Karen Seel“It’s going to greatly improve transportation in mid-county,” Commissioner Karen Seel said. “Hooray.”

Commissioner Dave Eggers agreed, saying, “This is truly an exciting day.”

Seel “enthusiastically” made the motion to accept the deal.

The Gateway Expressway has been under development for 15 to 20 years, officials said. Construction is expected to cost about $412 million. Pinellas County will provide about $55 million of that funding. Construction is projected to start in the summer of 2017 and be finished in June 2021.

Part of the Gateway Express project will begin on the south side of the Bayside Bridge and link up with 118th Avenue N. Another portion will begin at U.S. 19 and 118th. Yet another part will affect I-275 from Gandy to the Howard Frankland Bridge.

When complete, portions of the roadway will have tolls, some variable and some static. But there will also be non-tolled lanes. Other lanes will be elevated although street level lanes will also be maintained.

The Gateway Express is not a part of the Tampa Bay Express project, but it is designed to link to that and other road improvements.

The FDOT has posted a video showing the project on the department’s YouTube channel here.

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