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St. Pete issues call to artists for public art installation in Roser Park

St. Petersburg is calling on artists to design a public art display for Historic Roser Park on the outskirts of downtown next to Bayfront Medical Center. The Historic Roser Park Neighborhood Association is one of the most active in the city and is seeking art creatively related to either the neighborhood’s unique geography, architecture or history.

Roser Park was the city’s first locally designated historic district. It was developed in the early 1900s amid a very different Florida landscape. The area’s main feature consists of a large ravine carved out by water in the otherwise flat Pinellas County peninsula. Remnants of that water still exist today in Booker Creek, which flows through the bottom of Roser Park.

The neighborhood still includes its historic stone retaining walls along the main road and its narrow, red-brick roads. The sidewalks are still paved with hexagon paving stones.

The city is looking for an artist who will design something that fits with the neighborhood’s “story,” character or the park setting next to Booker Creek. The art project does not have to be any particular style, but materials should be durable in Florida’s environment.

The art should be easily seen and enjoyed by people walking or biking along the creek or in the park. The city prefers an art installment next to the cluster of trees and sign delineating the park, but is open to other ideas.

If art is placed in that location artists can make use of the already existing brick wall and bench. The city can also redesign the area by removing or replacing the wall, adding seating or redesigning the existing sign. Those changes would not eat into the project’s budget unless the project included seating or a wall.

The $65,000 budget includes design, engineering, fabrication and installation. Finalists chosen for the project will be paid $750 as well as expenses to travel to St. Pete to present their proposals.

Artists must have at least one successfully completed project similar in scope and in an outdoor setting. They must have “advanced art education or comparable training, apprenticeship or employment experience.”

Proposals are due to the city by April 15. More information on how to apply is on the city’s website.

St. Pete hires former senior administrator as Baseball Forever coordinator

In what was really just an excuse to hand out free T-shirts, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman launched the city’s Baseball Forever campaign Saturday evening at Ferg’s Sports Bar. The campaign is the city’s official effort to build a case for keeping the Tampa Bay Rays in St. Petersburg.

According to St. Pete chief of staff Kevin King, the city hired Rick Mussett, the city’s retired senior administrator who was St. Pete’s main contact with the Rays and played an integral part in bringing Major League Baseball to the city in the first place. Mussett is now the Baseball Forever coordinator.

King said the city budgeted $50,000 for Mussett’s services as a part-time city employee. He’ll work through about October when the city expects to release its prospectus to the Tampa Bay Rays outlining why St. Pete is the best place in the region for baseball.

Other than that, few details about the campaign were released. The city is partnering with the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce. Kriseman and chamber CEO Chris Steinocher announced a still-forming list of campaign leaders to raucous applause in the packed bar.

Those leaders include Duke Energy’s Alex Glenn; Anthony Ateek, a writer for DRaysBay Blog; City Council member Ed Montanari; chamber board chair Greg Holden; and Joni James, CEO of the St. Pete Downtown Partnership as well as several other attorneys, community leaders and business heads.

“We’re asking all of you to join us,” Kriseman said. “Show [the Rays] corporate support is possible.”

The Rays have long struggled to pack fans into Tropicana Field for games. Though the team consistently has high television ratings, its attendance ratings are among some of the worst in the league. That’s why the Rays have fought for years to be able to look outside St. Pete for new places to play ball.

St. Pete City Council finally approved a deal this year allowing the team to explore stadium prospects in Pinellas and Hillsborough. Part of that deal includes giving St. Pete the opportunity to plead its case. The team also has to pay $100,000 toward a master plan for the Tropicana Field site. The city released a Request for Qualifications for firms to establish that plan this week, and it puts heavy emphasis on developing plans based on keeping a stadium on site.

The baseball forever campaign will focus primarily on the Tropicana Field site as well, though the city is keeping an open dialogue with county officials for other sites near the city such as Derby Lane.

The Baseball Forever campaign will develop a prospectus to deliver to the Rays that will follow guidelines the team already released as priorities in a new stadium location. Those include a catalyst for development, local authenticity, regional connectivity, site accessibility, size and geometry and financial feasibility and development readiness.

“This is the best place for that team to play,” Kriseman said, referring to all North America, not just the U.S.

That’s because there has been much speculation that the Rays may leave the Tampa Bay area and head to Montreal.

Steinocher implored fans to start acting like fans. He told them to go to more games.

“We are a major league city,” he said.

The city and chamber are still assembling their Baseball Forever team. Steinocher said everyone is invited to meetings and to come forward with ideas for making St. Pete’s pro-baseball case.

Interested individuals can sign up for updates on the campaign at the Baseball Forever website. Steinocher asked everyone to “step-up” and invite their friends, family and neighbors to get involved as well.

Then people flocked for those free T-shirts.

New St. Pete Public Works Administrator officially welcomed to the Sunshine City

Claude Tankersley began his post as St. Pete’s public works administrator this month. During an unrelated workshop Thursday, City Council members officially welcomed him to the city.

“My motto is that it’s very important to keep the public in public works,” Tankersley said. “I like to make sure that I know our constituents as well as I can. When we have unfortunate crises, they’re more willing to help us find solutions.”

Tankersley’s statement is fitting considering the terms by which he enters the position. He arrives to the after inauspicious circumstances dogged his predecessor.

Mike Connors resigned abruptly in late summer after millions of gallons of raw and partially treated sewage was dumped into Clam Bayou, Tampa Bay, and the Eckerd College campus.

Prior to that, Connors was already being scrutinized for his work despite nearly three decades of service. The scrutiny followed a contentious selection process for a new Pier design where the most popular design chosen by survey was dismissed by the committee Connors led.

Tankersley will earn $149,000 annually. Connors’ salary was $140,000.

Tankersley joins St. Pete from the City of Bradenton where he served in a similar capacity. He began working with Bradenton in 2008. The year prior he earned the city’s Leadership Award. Tankersley has been a Florida Certified Professional Engineer since 1995 and is a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers. He was named the Young Engineer of the Year in 1996.

Tankersley earned his Master’s of Science degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Florida in 1991.

Tankersley joins St. Pete’s leadership team in a swap of sorts with St. Pete Assistant Police Chief Melanie Bevan who left her longtime post with St. Pete to join the Bradenton Police Department as its chief.

Old St. Pete Spirits sues over faulty equipment

The newly launched Old St. Pete distillery is suing Keller Mechanical and Engineering for selling a worthless piece of machinery used to distill spirits. According to a lawsuit filed in Pinellas County court Feb. 10, the company was hired to build a steam- and chilled water-cooling system.

According to Beverage Master, a craft spirits and brew magazine, “distillers will spend lots of time and money to add heat, steam, and energy to cook their mash and to run their still but completely overlook the equipment needed to remove that same heat from the system. Crash cooling a hot grain mash with chilled water can help to minimize bacterial growth.”

The machine Old St. Pete commissioned reportedly never worked. The lawsuit claimed distillers were “never able to get the system working.” The lawsuit claims the distillery lost “barrels for aging” and had to replace chillers and water and steam lines.

The lawsuit does not specify how long the distillery was inoperable as a result of the described malfunction. News reports show the distillery was close to completion in about January 2015 with an anticipated launch date the next month. However, the distillery didn’t officially launch until April.

The lawsuit also does not mention how much revenue was lost or how much the distillery is seeking in damages.

The distillery seems to be doing well despite its equipment trouble. Though only a year old, Old St. Pete was honored by Playboy Magazine as Florida’s top spirit for its Tippler’s Orange Liquor.

Old St. Pete prides itself on using local and fresh ingredients. The company’s website claims they hope to expand operation to export spirits to other places in the country and eventually the world spreading not just their product, but St. Pete as well.

St. Pete searching for firm to develop Tropicana Field site plans – with a stadium

St. Pete is now officially looking for a firm to develop a master plan for the Tropicana Field site. The City released a Request for Qualifications Tuesday with emphasis on creating a plan that includes a new baseball stadium.

“It is the goal of the City, through this planning process, to show the assets and potential of the site to the Rays and to articulate the economic development and job creating strength of this development,” the request reads.

City Council recently approved a deal brokered between Mayor Rick Kriseman and the Tampa Bay Rays allowing them to search outside of St. Pete in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties for a new stadium location. However, the city has said it is a top priority to market the city to the Rays as the best place to continue playing baseball.

Part of the agreement requires the major league baseball team to pay for the creation of a master plan up to $100,000.

The city said the chosen firm should address in its plan all six of the Rays announced priorities on a new stadium site. Those include a catalyst for development, local authenticity, regional connectivity, site accessibility, size and geometry and financial feasibility and development readiness.

The plan also highlights fifteen areas that should be addressed in a final master plan. Those include things like the inclusion of multimodal transportation, market analysis and feasibility studies, urban and architectural design that emphasizes a healthy lifestyle, inclusion of streetscaping and public art.

The plan would also include a small to medium-sized convention center or exhibit space.

The city asks that the chosen firm look at the site’s economic impact including job creation and incorporate small business enterprises into the plan. They also list as a priority proper integration of the site into the surrounding community.

The chosen firm would also be required to develop preliminary site plans while the City awaits a decision from the Tampa Bay Rays on where they will call home. The team has three years to make that decision. The preliminary plans would include, among other things, pre-construction phases for the rest of the project.

The chosen firm would have until September 30 to develop a master plan including a stadium.

The RFQ also lists a second scenario in which a plan may need to be prepared without a stadium. However, there are no listed specific criteria for that project in the current RFQ document.

Submissions are due by 4:00 p.m. March 25. Firms will attend a pre-proposal meeting March 4. On April 7, a selection committee will shortlist the submissions. Those remaining teams will present to the selection committee April 21, with a final ranking issued that same day.

Contract negotiations are expected in May. City Council would be set to approve the final recommendation sometime in June.

The RFQ states that the importance of this plan can “hardly be overstated.”

“It is a once in a generation chance to create new opportunities for growth and economic development.”

St. Petersburg hires full-time community intervention director

Expressing outrage and concern over a rash of shootings that left seven dead in the closing weeks of 2015, St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman vowed to spend $1 million combating gun violence — particularly in the mostly poor Midtown and South St. Pete neighborhoods.

Kriseman took the first step in making good on that promise this week by hiring a community intervention director. During a speech at the Carter G. Woodson African-American History Museum last month, Kriseman announced a position would be created to lead the charge in stamping out gun violence. This position appears to fit that bill.

Kriesman hired Kenny Irby, a former Poynter Institute faculty member overseeing visual journalism and diversity. He held that post for 20 years. Irby will earn an $80,000 annual salary.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, Irby is also a pastor at Bethel AMEC and has been the state director of men’s ministry and youth outreach for eight years. In that capacity, Irby launches chaplain programs as well as peer-to-peer counseling. He also formed “Men in the Making” pairing kids with mentors. The group meets at St. Petersburg College’s Midtown campus.

His role with the church’s outreach programs and status in the community will play a vital roll in reaching young men at the center of the gun violence epidemic in the community.

According to the Times, Irby said he’s still in “brainstorming mode.” He’s evaluating efforts already in place and searching for ways to reach young people who haven’t already been touched by one program or another.

Irby will report to St. Pete Police Chief Anthony Holloway.

Rick Kriseman delivers not-so-subtle blow to St. Pete’s other Rick, former Mayor Baker

St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman took a jab at one of his predecessors during a recent interview on the SPF 15 podcast.

“I served on City Council from 2000 to 2006 and that was kind of a period of time that was described as … our first real Renaissance,” Kriseman said.

He was asked how the city is “managing this growth in a considerate manner.” Kriseman’s answer in a nutshell: We weren’t, but now we are.

The dig is directed at former Mayor Rick Baker who served from 2001 until 2010.

“There was a lot of excitement and celebration over the growth but there wasn’t planning done to address the byproducts of that growth,” Kriseman said never actually mentioning Baker’s name.

He said that during Baker’s administration there wasn’t enough planning for infrastructure needs or public safety.

“Because of it, it sets us back,” Kriseman said. “The city just didn’t seem to be prepared for the growth – we were just living on the positive vibes.”

That’s something Kriseman said he’s changed. He said even though it’s not “sexy” to budget things like new sewer pipes or other infrastructure needs, “you gotta do it.”

“What we do today has to be sustainable,” Kriseman said. “We’ve got to do long-term planning.”

Kriseman also weighed in on a number of other issues during the 30-minute interview released Monday. Topics ranged from education improvements and Southside revitalization to touting developing districts like Warehouse Arts and Skyway Marina.

Listeners also learned that Kriseman has zero aspirations for running for president of the United States and that he’d rather have Donald Trump’s hair for a year than his immigration policies.

He also said he wants to change the culture both inside and out of City Hall.

“Inside, government has a culture of no,” Kriseman said. “I don’t want to hear no. That shouldn’t be the first answer out of your mouth. Find a way to make it happen. Only after you’ve exhausted your attempts is it OK to say no.”

Outside of City Hall Kriseman said he wants to break down what he described as a historic division along Central Avenue.

“If I haven’t succeeded in changing the perceptions of life south of St. Pete and truly created that city of opportunity, than I don’t feel like I’ve truly done my job,” Kriseman said.

Kriseman also admitted his favorite comfort food is fried chicken, though he avoids eating it, and his first band appearance, should the singing Mayor start looking for gigs, would be at Jannus Live.

And in case anyone is wondering, Kriseman’s favorite curse word is “schmuck.”

Rick Kriseman ties new commercial flights out of downtown to first flight 102 years ago

St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman released a video Friday showing his recent flight from downtown St. Pete to Fort Lauderdale on a new commercial flight now available out of Albert Whitted airport.

“Today we have the pleasure of flying from Albert Whitted down to Fort Lauderdale on a 9-passenger plane. Very easy flight. Very Comfortable,” Kriseman said of the February 1st flight. “Being able to take off from Albert Whitted is really something that I always wanted to see happen.”

The plays on the city’s historical ties to air travel.

“On January 1st, 1914 Tony Jannus piloted the world’s first scheduled winged airline from St. Petersburg, FL with former Mayor Abram C. Freil on board,” the video begins.

It’s been 102 years since that first flight.

Kriseman is touting the new flights in and out of downtown St. Pete as a way to increase transit options in the city.

“It’s allowing our residents to have another way of traveling outside of having to go to St. Pete Clearwater or Tampa International and it allows people to be able to fly directly into downtown – not even have to rent a car, just be able to walk to their hotel and really be able to take advantage of everything that downtown St. Pete has to offer,” Kriseman said. “We have to have alternative means of transportation other than just cars. So whether that’s in the form of a high speed ferry that goes from downtown St. Pete to downtown Tampa or an airline like Tropic Ocean Air that can go to Fort Lauderdale, to Key West to Tallahassee, that’s the direction that we want to be going in as a city. That’s how we become more sustainable.”

The interior of the amphibious Cessna, a small but spacious cabin seating nine, is decked out with comfortable chairs and over-the-shoulder seat belts.

The flights, available to the public, run twice a week on Mondays and Fridays in the morning and evening and cost about $300 for round-trip tickets. Tropic Ocean, the small airline company operating the flights, is running a sale on the flights through May for $199.

Still, the price is steep compared to other ways of getting to Fort Lauderdale by air. Silver Airlines, for example, costs a little over $120 before taxes and fees to make the same trip from Tampa.

The new St. Pete service, however, isn’t necessarily catering to travelers looking to save a buck.

“It’s not intended to be a low-cost carrier,” St. Pete Chamber board Chairman Greg Holden  said following the flight earlier this month.

Imagine what it takes now to hop a flight from Tampa International Airport. Travelers typically arrive at least an hour early to allow time to get through security and to their gate. There’s time to park, time waiting on the plane and time getting off the plane. All the while, the flight to Fort Lauderdale itself is less than an hour.

By the time travelers factor in how long it takes to fly a large aircraft a short distance, the benefit of flying versus driving has been mitigated. Meanwhile, flying out of Albert Whitted allows travelers to step out of their cars and virtually right onto the plane — no security, no getting there early.

Plus the company helps its customers with ground transportation to and from their destination to make trips even easier.

It’s something city officials hope will attract businesses to St. Pete.

Toast to the Bay, Dump into the Bay: Karl Nurse and Sam Henderson

Toast: Karl Nurse’s environmental gusto

As a lame duck City Council person, Karl Nurse has proven himself quite feisty. During a day chock full of legislative process, Nurse seized an opportunity to nail home a message he’s made no secret of – saving the environment.

Thursday included for St. Pete City Council a full day of committee meetings, regular agendas, Community Redevelopment Area sessions and public hearings. And in the middle of it all, Nurse jumped on an admiral speaking point – why the hell are public servants driving around in gas guzzling Chevy Tahoes and various SUVs?

And why in the blazes do those already fuel inefficient vehicles need to have racing engines?

Nurse may have sounded to some as a whiney liberal (any by some we mean people who only pretend to give a rat’s patoot about the environment,) but what he was in reality was quite different. He was pragmatic. He was wise. He was, simply put, on point.

Both the police and fire department have in their automobile fleets several large Sport Utility Vehicles. The police department typically uses those for canine officers who need room for their furry partners in the back seat. But, wouldn’t a sedan suffice? And as for the fire department, really?

Nurse wisely raised the specter on whether or not such vehicle purchases are thought through. And he did so with the promise from City staff to look into it.

But Nurse didn’t even stop there. Nurse also called out bus drivers for leaving buses idling.

His fervor is not only impressive, it’s necessary. Cheers to you Councilman Nurse – keep fighting the good fight.

Dump: Sam Henderson’s hissy fit

Anyone who has met Sam Henderson knows he’s a cool guy. And his work as Mayor of Gulfport hasn’t been particularly shabby either. We like Sam. But he may have just screwed himself royally this week with an outburst entirely unbecoming an elected official at any level (except maybe Congress; they’ve made these sorts of temper tantrums common place.)

During the final moments of a meeting Thursday night, Vice Mayor Yolanda Roman proposed a resolution pertaining to the August sewage dump into Clam Bayou. The issue left Gulfport split. There are those who were peeved, but who trust St. Pete will do the right thing. And there are those who want more assurances from St. Pete that such a thing won’t happen again and more research into the environmental repercussions.

Henderson’s dump-worthy behavior has nothing to do with which side of that he falls. He could have shouted the Pledge of Allegiance in the same tone and been just as out of line and just as self-sacrificing. It was his tone.

Roman’s resolution asked, among other components, that there be conversations with St Pete officials about the issue. Henderson scolded her that there were and then called her a liar. That prompted outrage and it was all down hill from there.

Henderson continued to berate Roman, who is a woman making it all the worse, as if she were a child with a bad grade on the spelling test. He raised his voice and wagged his finger. He told her that she “would listen.”

At one point, someone in the audience shouted at Henderson that he was a bully. The altercation only ended when another council member diplomatically called for adjournment.

The next day Henderson took to Facebook to defend himself. Instead of accomplishing that, he wound up sounding even worse. He claimed he wasn’t being a bully because he was being bullied. His evidence was that Roman was spreading misinformation, launching a political attack as Henderson seeks re-election and taking credit for actions the rest of the board took.

Whether or not that is true is cause for another discussion – there’s a load of nuance. What is clear is that even if Roman was way off base, it’s cause for a professional conversation. Henderson showed no decorum in his handling of the disagreement and in doing so, he may have screwed himself royally.

His re-election bid has become a contentious one. Barbara Banno, a former City Council member, has made the Clam Bayou dump one of her key talking points. If Henderson is right and some are making mountains out of mole hills of an issue that is being handled, he lost any footing in that debate by screaming like a child.

It was unprofessional. It was mean. And it wasn’t smart.

Two businesses chosen to create 65 jobs in Midtown

Mayor Rick Kriseman has selected two companies to expand business operations in the Commerce Park area of North Midtown near 22nd Street South. The two companies, EMP Industries and Euro Cycles, are expected to bring 65 new jobs to the area.

The addition also satisfies federal job creation criteria for the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The area where the businesses will operate are also part of the newly formed Southside Community Redevelopment Area.

“The Commerce Park has been a focus of my administration,” Kriseman said. “I am pleased we have attracted these outstanding businesses to the area. I am particularly looking forward to the final lease negotiations with these two companies.”

EMP Industries, a marine supply company, will create 50 of the total jobs by leading a mixed-use development project in coordination with two other businesses – ACCMAR Equipment from Miami and ATTAJ Energy from Spain. The project will include workforce housing and retail along 22nd Street South. The trio will develop 10.6 acres of the 14-acre Commerce Park site. The EMP Industries addition and its partners are also part of the city’s “Grow Smarter Strategy.”

“We are very excited to develop the St. Petersburg Commerce Park, with new and modern manufacturing space for our industrial occupants to grow their businesses in St. Petersburg and generate jobs within the community,” said Tom Callahan, president of EMP Industries. “The blend of specialty and marine manufacturing, with retail and residential elements will be a great fit in the areas, complementing the Deuces Live Main Street and the ArtsXchange. We believe strongly in the potential for specialty manufacturing in St. Petersburg with the geographic advantages and the resources the city and community offer for business growth.”

The other company, Euro Cycles, is a motorcycle sales, repair and trading business. The new site in Commerce Park will be the company’s second location. The original is in Hillsborough County. Euro Cycles will create 15 new jobs.

“I am honored to be given the chance to help make St. Petersburg’s already amazing arts and culture scene even better by bringing high end European motorcycles and scooters to the local area,” said Aaron Sprague from Euro Cycles.

From here the city will finalize the development agreement with the two companies. City Council approval is required for the final negotiations.

“Working with local companies to locate and expand in South St. Petersburg to benefit our residents and the surrounding neighborhood has been the Mayor’s goal from day one,” said city development administrator Alan DeLisle. “This is very good news for the St. Petersburg economy.”

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