St. Petersburg Archives - Page 7 of 32 - SaintPetersBlog

Manuel Sykes questions will of city officials to support minority-owned businesses in Midtown

Suntrust Bank. Sweetbay Supermarket. Sylvia’s Queen of Soul Food restaurant. Walgreens.

Those are all businesses that have closed, or are about to close, in south St. Petersburg, the Rev. Dr. Manuel Sykes said Wednesday. Yet, the city seems to have done nothing to help them stay open or to replace the ones that have closed.

City officials could have stepped in with grants or loans or even delayed some actions, Sykes said. But instead of using the city’s power to help those businesses, Sykes said, it almost seems as if St. Petersburg officials stepped in to help some businesses go belly up.

“These things were almost designed to fail,” Sykes said.

Sykes, pastor of Bethel Community Baptist Church and a civic activist, was speaking in front of St. Petersburg City Hall. He, and other concerned residents, had gathered there to demand officials sit down to discuss the business situation in Midtown and answer questions from the community.

Much of the discussion centered on Sylvia’s, which closed earlier this summer. Greg Williams of Aracle Enterprises, which managed the restaurant, agreed management mistakes had been made. But, he said, the restaurant would have been viable with another infusion of cash. But the city refused to provide the necessary help for Sylvia’s to get a loan.

The city also refused to take late payments for the rent because the money came too late, he said.

Sykes agreed the city could have provided help. It has money in the Community Redevelopment District for that, he said. And the city has offered help and incentives for other businesses to succeed. Most notably, he said, the city has encouraged and provided incentives for businesses that will locate across the street from historic Manhattan Casino, where Sylvia’s was located.

“Why has one side of the street come to life?” Sykes asked. “Why has the side gone dark?”

All the community wants, he said, is a level playing field that provides African-American and minority business owners the same kind of help and deals other businesses receive.

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High-speed ferry between St. Petersburg and Tampa is a go

With a 5 to 1 vote, Pinellas County on Tuesday became the fourth governmental body to collaborate on the launching of a high-speed ferry between Tampa and St. Petersburg.

The vote cements a deal among St. Petersburg, Tampa and Hillsborough County to link the two counties by a high-speed ferry.

Comm_Dave_EggersThe lone holdout was Commissioner Dave Eggers who has opposed the proposal from the beginning. Among Eggers’ objections are a lack of market research on the viability of the project and the high risk of failure.

“I’m not in favor of this project for a number of reasons,” Eggers said. “I can’t support the use of public funds for a risky venture with no market research to back it up.”

Eggers was not the only skeptic. Largo resident Jeff Moakley said he believes officials are “frivolously” spending money for a “government subsidized boat ride on Tampa Bay.”

“It’s strictly a Petersburg and Tampa issues. It’s not a county issue,” Moakley said. “You’re just throwing away $350,000 to subsidize something two mayors want so badly they can’t see straight.”

If all goes well, the ferry will launch Nov. 1 for a six-month pilot project to test the viability of the idea. To get the project going, four governments – St. Petersburg, Tampa, Hillsborough and Pinellas counties – have each agreed to put up $350,000, or one quarter of the total $1.4 million cost of the pilot. Pinellas’ portion will come from BP settlement money.

The purpose of the pilot is to test the viability of a ferry service both for daily commuters and for tourists who wish to cross the bay. Plans are for HMS Ferries to provide a minimum of two trips between St. Petersburg and Tampa Mondays through Thursdays and Saturdays and Sundays. There will be a minimum of three trips on Fridays. Officials believe that schedule will test both the commuter market and the tourist market.

kriseman2The ride would cost $10 for a one-way ticket although St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman said officials are working on weekly and monthly passes at greatly reduces fees. The fees for children who ride the ferry might also be lower.

“The rate … is going to help determine the ridership,” Kriseman said. The difficulty, he said, is finding “that sweet spot” for a cost that encourages people to ride the ferry but also provides profit for HMS, the private company running the ferry.

“I think you’re going to see different rates,” Kriseman said.

ken-welch-photoCommissioner Ken Welch said the cooperation among the four governments was unprecedented and boded well for future projects, “except the Rays. We’re going to keep them in Pinellas County.”

Welch made the motion to support the ferry. Pat Gerard seconded his motion. John Morroni, who is on sick leave, did not vote.

Kriseman gave each a sea captain’s cap to celebrate the deal.

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St. Petersburg council bans sale of dogs, cats from puppy mills in pet stores

Council members have unanimously approved an ordinance that bans pet stores in St. Petersburg from selling dogs or cats unless they can show the animal came from a humane organization.

The approval came after an emotionally intense public hearing in which animal advocates displayed graphic, gut-wrenching photographs of dogs kept in puppy mills for breeding purposes. Other supporters came close to tears over the plight of the animals that are in puppy mills or that are killed in shelters because of pet overpopulation.

Council member Karl Nurse, who had proposed the idea, which had the support of Mayor Rick Kriseman, made the motion to pass the ordinance. Nurse said he hoped the ordinance would help stem the “endless onslaught of puppies that are not spayed and neutered.”

The ordinance provides that pet stores, which includes groomers, flea markets and pet hospitals, cannot sell dogs or cats unless they come from rescue organizations or humane societies. The rule does not apply to hobby breeders who sell animals from their homes.

The ordinance also covers the display of pets for sale. The requirements include an age limit – the animal must be at least eight weeks old, have access to fresh water and a health certificate. Information about the animal’s breed, age, source and known health issues should also be provided.

Council members and advocates conceded that no pet store in St. Petersburg currently sells puppies and kittens. Instead, several pet stores either display animals from rescues and other humane groups, or have adoption days when such pets are available. Even so, the ordinance was needed, they said, to make sure no pet store does business with a puppy mill.

Council member Charlie Gerdes said he would like to thank St. Petersburg residents for being the reason that no pet stores are selling animals that come from puppy mills. It’s the public’s refusal to buy such animals that prevent the stores from carrying them. But Gerdes agreed the ordinance is necessary to avoid future problems.

“We don’t have them now, let’s not have them,” Gerdes said.

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St. Petersburg Police, Fire set active shooter training session

With almost daily reports of shootings and other mayhem in public places, you might have wondered what to do if you’re ever placed in that situation.

The St. Petersburg Police and Fire Rescue departments will teach you. The two departments have scheduled a free active shooter training session so you’ll know what to do if you’re ever in that situation. The training is set for 6:30 p.m. to 8: 30 p.m. July 28 at the Coliseum, 535 Fourth Ave. N. Parental guidance is suggested for those younger than 18 because of some violent content of the training.

For information, call police Officer Tower at (727) 892-5008.

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Want to help redevelop the Trop? Here’s one way

St. Petersburg officials have scheduled two public meetings to gather thoughts, visions and ideas for redeveloping the 85-acre Tropicana Field site.

At each meeting, participants can expect to learn more about the initiative and the opportunities it presents. They’ll also have an opportunity to ask questions and offer comments. The importance of this site to the future of St. Petersburg can hardly be overstated, officials say. It is a once in a generation chance to create new opportunities for growth, economic development, and an enhanced community.

The first meeting is 6:30 p.m. Monday at the Coliseum, 535 Fourth Ave. N. The second is 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Campbell Park Recreation Center, 601 14th St. S. For information or to RSVP, call (800) 317-8449, email tropicanafield@garthsolutions.com, or go to tropicanafieldmasterplan.eventbrite.com.

 

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St. Pete’s proposed budget includes millions for stormwater system improvements

St. Petersburg’s tax rate would drop a bit, water and sewer rates would go up, and spending on the stormwater system would increase under Mayor Rick Kriseman’s proposed budget for the 2016-17 fiscal year.

Kriseman’s recommended budget, released Thursday, totals about $507.7 million. That’s an increase of about $2.1 million, or 0.41 percent, over the current operating budget.

kriseman-rick-tiger-bay-840x440The mayor noted that the city’s public works department, which includes the water and sewer enterprise funds, is about $28.9 percent of the total operating budget, or about $146.9 million. The city’s public safety departments, including police and fire, account for about 28.7 percent of the total operating budget, or about $145.5 million.

Under the proposed budget, Kriseman sees the tax rate dropping from $6.77 per thousand dollars of assessed, taxable value to about $6.76 per thousand dollars of assessed, taxable value.

Although the proposed tax rate would drop slightly, the city would bring in about $7.9 million more in ad valorem taxes next year than it did in the current fiscal year. That would be a total of about $103.4 million in the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1. The current fiscal year’s property tax revenue is about $95.6 million. The 8.24 percent increase in property tax income comes from an 8.61 percent increase in property values.

Kriseman said he’s also foreseeing a possible 3.75 percent increase in water rates and a 5.8 percent increase in stormwater rates. Those estimated increases could change before the budget is adopted, Kriseman said, because “ongoing rate studies for both water resources and stormwater will likely impact the rate of increase over what is currently included in this recommended budget.”

Rate increases are also proposed at Twin Brooks and Mangrove Bay golf courses – $1 more for a bucket of balls. This would be the first such increase in nine years.

Boat owners could also see a 3 percent increase in the price of slip rentals at the city marina.

The proposed $103.9 million capital improvements budget for the 2016-17 fiscal year includes about $58.5 million in the water resources department. That’s about 56 percent of the overall CIP proposed budget. That includes $22 million to renovate the Southwest Water Reclamation Facility to increase the capacity. This will help, Kriseman said, to help avert overflows during heavy rains. Also included is $2 million for sewer pipe rehabilitation and $500,000 for manhole rehabilitation. Kriseman also included $8 million for relining of pipes. Kriseman said the $8 for pipe relining will be an annual line item.

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Pet stores must sell dogs, cats from humane organizations under St. Petersburg proposal

Council members unanimously gave tentative approval to an ordinance that would ban the sale of dogs and cats in St. Petersburg pet shops unless they came from humane organizations or rescue groups.

The item is scheduled for a final public hearing at the July 21 meeting.

“It better protects pets and it discourages the puppy mill business, which, I think, is self-evident cruelty,” council member Karl Nurse said. Nurse had spearheaded the issue.

The ordinance is similar to others that have been passed elsewhere in Florida and the U.S. It is designed to prevent the sale of dogs from puppy mills, which, animal advocates say, make money from cruel, inhumane conditions for the dogs that live in them.

Under the proposal, pet stores, which includes such businesses as grooming parlors, flea markets and pet hospitals, would be banned from selling dogs or cats unless they came from rescue groups or humane organizations. The ordinance would not apply to hobby breeders or home breeders who sell dogs and cats from their homes.

The ordinance also covers the display of dogs and cats that are for sale. Among the requirements: the animal must be at least eight weeks old, have access to fresh water, have a health certificate, and information about the animal’s breed, age, source and known health issues.

Noting that some pet stores have said they have to be able to sell puppies and kittens to keep the doors open, Nurse said that the business model for pet stores has changed. Some pet stores, he said, have realized the money lies in the toys and other pet supplies that owners buy rather than in the animal itself. Several retailers, he said, have voluntarily stopped selling dogs and cats unless they do come from a rescue or humane organization.

Steve Kornell referred to his two rescue dogs, Harvey and Hedwig, saying that puppy mills should take note: “You might want to wake up and come into the 21st Century because we’re not going backward.”

Ed Montanari voted for the ordinance but conceded he was “somewhat torn on this issue” and needed to learn more about it.

Then, referring to comments other council members had made about their dogs, Montanari said, “I’m not going into a dog story, although I think I probably have the most spoiled dog of anyone on the council.”

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St. Pete slow to dredge dock-clogging silt, with water too shallow for boats

Maryann Lynch is famous for naming her properties after Monopoly board properties. Now she is feeling high and dry.

The 55-year-old St. Petersburg property tycoon resides in a 2,764 square foot waterfront home complete with a boat dock.

However, silt from a city owned drainage installation flowing into the bay has rendered her dock all but useless.

As a result, Lynch alleges it has become too shallow to launch her boat. Previously, she would simply lower the craft, fire it up and head out into the bay. Now she is forced to push her boat away from the dock into deeper water before being able to get going.

In 1995, Lynch purchased the property with a resolution by the former owner regarding an easement with the city, which stated:

“The City will indemnify (former owner) Frank A. Rowell by repairing or replacing any damage to the seawall and/or the rip rap in the outflow area on his property or other damage to his property that may be caused by the water flow from the box culvert installation constructed in accordance with the new drainage installation.”

According to Lynch, the drainage system and its outflow caused the buildup of silt around her boat dock, affecting her ability to launch her boat.

The situation has detrimentally affected the value of her property to the tune of approximately $100,000 she alleges.

In the past, the City of St. Petersburg used subcontractors to dredge the area just outside of the outflow, but not around Lynch’s dock.

According to court documents, the sub contractors state that, “it was clearly the City’s responsibility to correct the silt damage to Plaintiff’s (Lynch) waterfront property, as the drainage was the obvious cause.”

Apparently, the City has agreed – in exchange for the “Perpetual Easement and via the Resolution” – to repair any “future” damage caused by the water flow but has steadfastly refused to dredge any silt deposits around Lynch’s dock.

The City contends that even though the sediment is clearly a direct result of their drainage system, they do not have the responsibility to dredge.

This impasse led Lynch to file suit against the City of St. Petersburg.

“Much of the benefit derived from having a waterfront property is the ability to navigate one’s boat freely to and from their dock,” she argues.

Lynch is seeking the damages along with the dredging and repair of her dock.

None of the parties involved returned calls for comment by press time.

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Rick Kriseman kicks off ‘Not My Son’ grassroots, anti-violence initiative

Not My Son Invite Noting that southern St. Petersburg has suffered long-term poverty and disenfranchisement, Mayor Rick Kriseman earlier this year pledged he would bring full opportunity to the area’s residents.

He will take the first step to reach that goal with the Thursday launch of a grassroots campaign to take back neighborhoods against violence. The “Not My Son” campaign is directed at African-American youths and young adults, aged 12 to 24, and their families. The idea is to make both aware of ways to fight crime before it begins and have families take pledges to help keep their children crime free.

Not My Son is the first step in a larger campaign that, in itself, is part of a nationwide effort called “My Brother’s Keeper,” launched by President Barack Obama in 2014. Obama explained the MBK campaign is about “helping more of our young people stay on track. Providing the support they need to think more broadly about their future. Building on what works – when it works, in those critical life-changing moments.”

St. Petersburg is one of almost 250 communities across the U.S. that has accepted the MBK challenge. But St. Pete put a slightly different spin on it by including young women and calling it “My Brother’s and Sister’s Keepers.”

In announcing the MBSK initiative last January, Kriseman noted that a goal of his administration is to create a city of opportunity for all.

“What you should know is that this is the issue I care the most about; not a pier or a baseball team,” Kriseman said. “I care about people’s lives, their quality of life, their safety, and whether opportunities exist for them. That’s also what our city council cares the most about. It’s our top job.”

The mayor referred to gun violence that had claimed the lives of young black men in the weeks before his announcement. The violence must end, he said. He pledged $1 million to “to chart a course toward solutions that will make a difference for our community’s young black men.”

He asked community members to help him find ways to reach those goals. Kriseman added that he intended to make resources available to do so.

“I come to this work deeply invested in the belief that fair does not always mean equal,” Kriseman said. “Where there is disproportionate need we must invest disproportionately in order to move ahead equitably. Decades of disenfranchisement means there is more need in our city south of Central. And, we are answering that need with more focused resources that are designed to finally shift the trajectory of poverty and disenfranchisement in a way that transcends mayors, and administrations, city councils and commissions.”

Kriseman added, “We are working to change the story in a way that can never be undone.”

The kickoff for Not My Son is 7 p.m. Thursday – Live on the Deuces: Soulful Thursday – on the corner of 22nd Street and Ninth Avenue S.

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