The county seeks to inform you about upcoming meetings and agendas, events and issues that affect your lives and the community that we serve. Check back often for updates on the latest county news.
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Effective Wednesday, May 29, Pinellas County will begin a routine system maintenance program to optimize water quality. The water treatment method is being temporarily changed from chloramine to chlorine disinfection from May 29 to June 17, 2013. More information.
Pinellas County government offices will be closed on Monday, May 27, in observance of Memorial Day.
The courts of the Sixth Judicial Circuit (Pinellas and Pasco) will not be in session on Monday, May 27, except for first-appearance advisory hearings and emergency situations.
The Solid Waste Administration Building and HEC3 will be closed on Monday, May 27. The scalehouse/landfill will remain open.
The Florida Botanical Gardens and all county parks will remain open.
Annual beach and boat ramp parking permits will not be available for sale on Monday, May 27, as the administrative offices of Parks and Conservation Resources will be closed.
The Environmental Education Center at Brooker Creek Preserve, the Cultural and Natural History Center at Weedon Island Preserve and Heritage Village are normally closed Mondays.
The offices and adoption center at Pinellas County Animal Services will be closed on Monday, May 27.
All Pinellas County facilities will resume regular hours of operation on Tuesday, May 28.
Have a question? LiveChat is now featured on the website and on Mobile Pinellas. Pinellas County government is on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Pinellas County complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The Housing Finance Authority of Pinellas County has lowered the interest rate on its First Time Homebuyers Program to 2.99 percent. The 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage program is for individuals living in Pinellas, Pasco and Polk counties who have never owned a home, have not owned a home in the last three years or veterans.
Plans are under way to update the Pinellas County Land Development Code. This document contains regulations that govern how land is developed in the unincorporated areas of Pinellas County.
The code affects the everyday lives of people in our community in many ways. It addresses everything from zoning, site development, the natural environment and stormwater management. It extends to parking, sidewalks, landscaping and energy efficiency.
The county is now in the process of updating its Land Development Code. Pinellas County is almost built out, and most of “development” activity is actually “redevelopment.”
Each new project provides an opportunity to improve the community. New approaches are being considered to guide the development process in a way that will enhance the condition of the county’s natural and built environments, promote economic opportunity and help us achieve a more sustainable future.
Click here for more information about the Land Development Code update project and to see how you can be part of the process.
As we enter the rainy season, citizens are being urged to take precautions to keep garbage dry once it’s been set out for collection.
Pinellas County operates one of the largest Waste-to-Energy facilities in the country where garbage is burned and converted to electricity. For the garbage to burn efficiently, it needs to be free of moisture from the intermittent rainfall that is part of the Florida weather pattern. Increased moisture in the garbage not only causes operational difficulties but can also lead to increased air emissions.
Open containers of garbage sitting out in the rain are a detriment to efficient waste processing down the line. Rainwater in garbage also increases the weight of the load and can result in increased disposal fees. If the rainwater leaks out of the garbage can or collection truck, it can cause stormwater pollution.
The solution to this problem is very simple. Citizens are asked to “put a lid on it” by keeping the lid closed on garbage containers that are stored outside. Some haulers use automated collection containers with built-in lids that should be kept closed all the time. For those with other types of collection, it is important to make sure the garbage is either in a lidded container or in a securely closed garbage bag. Putting a lid on it also helps keep pests and animals out of the garbage and reduces litter.
Keeping the lid closed on garbage containers helps the Waste-to-Energy facility operate more efficiently and reduce potential environmental impacts associated with open containers and wet waste.
Residents who are thinking about buying a new home won’t want to miss There’s No Place Like Home, the radio show sponsored by the Housing Finance Authority of Pinellas County.
This month’s focus is the HOPE (Home Ownership for People Everywhere) Expo , coming to the Raymond James Financial Center on Saturday, June 8, from 8:15 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The expo offers a vast amount of information on home ownership, as well a daylong HomeBuyer Workshop.
No Place Like Home features different issues each month. It airs the first Thursday of each month from 10:05 to 10:35 a.m. on WRXB 1590 AM. The show can also be watched on PCC-TV (Bright House 622, Knology 18 and Verizon 44), YouTube, or viewed online.
To better serve the needs of south county residents, the Pinellas County Office of Human Rights is opening – on a trial basis – a satellite office in St. Petersburg.
Residents can visit this office from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. starting Friday, May 3. The office is located at 501 1st Avenue N, Room 417 in St. Petersburg. It will open the first and third Monday of each month starting May 3. At this facility, residents can schedule appointments to speak to representatives, drop off documents and inquire about discrimination complaints.
The Pinellas County Office of Human Rights, in conjunction with federal partners at Housing and Urban Development and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, investigates allegations of illegal discrimination in housing, employment and places of public accommodation.
“We look forward to reestablishing a presence in St. Petersburg and being more conveniently located to residents in south county who find it impossible to come to our Clearwater office,” Said Paul Valenti, director of the Office of Human Rights. “We believe there will be enough demand for our services at this location to allow us to continue staffing these satellite office hours for the long term.”
To learn more about the Office of Human Rights, visit www.pinellascounty.org/humanrights or call (727) 464-4880.
In a Pinellas County citizen research survey, results showed a growing sense of optimism, positive sentiment and trust in county government.
This is the third consecutive year that Pinellas County has conducted a statistically valid citizen survey, with the first year used to collect feedback on residents’ priorities in the midst of budget reductions.
Last year, as the Board of County Commissioners continued to move forward and plan for the future, residents were asked what they most value in the community. This year’s survey builds on that initiative as the commission continues to set the direction for the county and define the elements that citizens envision as enhancements to their overall quality of life.
“This survey is a valuable tool as we collect feedback from citizens to better gauge their values,” said County Administrator Bob LaSala. “This ties into our Quality of Pinellas Communities initiative which seeks to enhance our communities by making decisions based on the overall vision of what quality of life means to residents and our strategic planning process that we’re continually engaged in.”
To collect this year’s results, HCP & Associates conducted 200 telephone interviews in each of the county’s regions: north, mid, south and beaches. The calls were made from Feb. 4 to Feb. 24.
Responses indicated an increased level of optimism. A majority of residents expressed trust and confidence in Pinellas County government, a rate that exceeds national Gallup Poll responses. When asked about their expectations in 10 different areas of county services, half or more of those interviewed said Pinellas County is exceeding or meeting their expectations, with park maintenance receiving the highest scores, followed closely by law enforcement.
A majority of citizens said they would definitely recommend Pinellas County as a place to live, work, raise children and retire. Very few said they plan to move away within the next year. One in five of those interviewed said the quality of life improved in the last year, an increase from last year, and more than one-third expect the quality of life to improve in the next five years, which is also up from last year.
According to the results, challenges facing the county continue to include the economy, traffic/congestion and crime.
Once the telephone survey was completed, an online survey was posted on the Pinellas County website and remained open for five days, Feb. 25 to March 1. There were 707 respondents. The online survey is not considered statistically valid but results closely mirrored the results of the phone survey with a majority of residents recommending the county as a good place to live, work, raise children and retire, and the outlook on quality of life more positive than last year.
Close to seven in 10 respondents of the online survey reported having a great deal or fair amount of confidence in how the county handles issues. Park maintenance again topped satisfaction ratings in meeting expectation for specific services. Law enforcement and animal control received high ratings as well.
Those areas of greatest concern were mass transit options, vacant home upkeep and road/sidewalk repairs.
The surveys are posted online.
From the historical structures at Heritage Village to the wide-open sandy vistas of Fort De Soto Park, Pinellas County has a number of parks, preserves and other ideal locations for events. Whether it is a dream wedding, concert or a 5K run on the Pinellas Trail, there are certain requirements that need to be met. In some cases, several Pinellas County departments, and perhaps even state or local municipal departments, may need to be involved in the planning.
In response to resident and organization requests, Pinellas County prepared a new special events guide to help expedite the planning process. This guide provides information and contacts for county departments in order to make planning an event as smooth as possible.
This guide covers requirements for unincorporated Pinellas County and/or events held on county-owned property. Where possible, the guide provides some guidance on other agencies or public entities that you may need to contact when planning an event. This guide does not cover other federal, state or municipal requirements.
Red the online guide for a list of user fees and forms to complete and submit for an event.
Résumés are now being accepted for two two-year appointments to the Suncoast Health Council.
The Suncoast Health Council’s purpose is to “stimulate the establishment and continuous re-evaluation of community-oriented health goals.” They assess, plan and advise for the health needs in Pasco and Pinellas counties.
The Council is a volunteer board made up of consumers, providers and purchasers of health care. The Suncoast Health Council board is comprised of 12 members; eight members are appointed by the Pinellas County Board of County Commissioners and four members are appointed by the Pasco County Board of County Commissioners.
Representatives are appointed to specific member categories; i.e., Health Care Consumer, Health Care Provider, and Health Care Purchaser. The current vacancies are two-year terms for the Health Care Consumer category and Health Care Purchaser category.
One appointment is for the Health Care Consumer Plus-60 member category, which comes through Commissioner Norm Roche’s office. The category includes individuals who are neither purchasers nor providers, who receive medical care from licensed practitioners, reside in or receive services from a health care facility, and who may or may not access public and/or commercial (private) health insurance coverage.
The other appointment is for the Health Care Purchaser member category, which comes through Vice Chair Karen Williams Seel’s office. This category includes individuals licensed to provide or who are providing health care services to individuals and/or groups, such as insurance executives. Individuals can also be purchasing health care services on behalf of others, provided they don’t also provide direct medical care. Examples include Human Resources managers and business owners purchasing health coverage for employees.
For more information on the Suncoast Health Council, visit www.healthcouncils.org/html/hc_board.html or call (727) 464-3377.
Email resumes to email@example.com.
Mail résumés to:
It is still more than a few months until the start of the 2013 Atlantic hurricane season, and now is the prime time for residents to review their survival plans. Activities such as outdoor improvements and adding additional bracing to an attic are easier to accomplish in the cooler months.
Some key actions that can be taken now include:
While these preparations are essential for hurricane season, they can also help residents get ready for other hazards, including tornadoes and winter storms, such as the one the Tampa Bay area experienced 20 years ago on March 13 and 14, 1993.
For more information about how to prepare yourself and your family for hurricanes, visit the Emergency Management website to find your evacuation level, learn about storm dangers and discover how to create your own disaster plan.
Each summer, Pinellas County teens join the volunteer team at Heritage Village. Approved as a Bright Futures Scholarship volunteer location, Heritage Village's Junior Docent Program encourages teens, ages 12 to 17, to learn about local and Florida history by participating in the fun, action-packed Passport Adventures in the history program.
Teens will learn how to provide historical house tours, demonstrate living history activities and play historical games. Applications are now being accepted. To receive a junior docent volunteer application, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (727) 582-2125.
Junior docent orientation will be on Saturday, June 8, from 10 a.m. to noon at Heritage Village. A parent must attend the orientation. Training dates for teens will be Wednesday, June 12; Thursday, June 13, and Friday, June 14, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. each day. Teens must attend at least one training date.
Heritage Village is located at 11909 125th St. N. in Largo. This living history museum brings more than 150 years of local history to life. Tour 28 authentic buildings and structures, and experience historical Pinellas County through hands-on exploration. Paths wind through 21 acres and connect with the Florida Botanical Gardens and the Florida Gulf Coast Center for Fishing and Interactive Museum.
Heritage Village is open Wednesday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday, 1 to 4 p.m. It is closed all Pinellas County holidays. For more information about Heritage Village call (727) 582-2123.
Arrangements have been made to accommodate the outpouring of support for the family of the child seriously injured Wednesday night in Palm Harbor. Ireland Nugent lost both her feet at the ankle in a tragic accident involving a lawnmower.
Since the accident, many area residents and Pinellas County employees have asked how they can help the family during this stressful and emotional time. The Pinellas Federal Credit Union has established a special fund in Ireland Nugent’s name and will post details on their website at www.pinellasfcu.org by the end of the day. Individuals can also obtain information by calling (727) 586-4422 during regular business hours.
Many in the community have already rallied to provide support to the family in various ways. The fund set up by the Pinellas Federal Credit Union will provide a way for contributions to be applied where they’re needed most by the family.
For more information on Pinellas County services and programs, visit www.pinellascounty.org or create a shortcut to www.pinellascounty.org/mobile on any smartphone. Pinellas County government is on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Pinellas County complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Beginning April 15, any two people over the age of 18 will be able to register as domestic partners in Pinellas County, subject to certain limitations.
Registration as domestic partners will afford unmarried couples certain rights relative to each other regarding health care visitation and decisions, funeral and burial decisions as well as notification of information conveyed to other family members.
The countywide domestic partner registry is “an important service for our citizens, which reflects our community’s values of fairness and equality,” said Board of County Commissioners Chairman Kenneth T. Welch.
County comptroller and elected Clerk of the Circuit Court Ken Burke said, “My office is pleased to work with the Board of County Commissioners to provide this new service to the public.”
The ordinance creating a countywide domestic partnership registry was approved by the Board of County Commissioners on Jan. 15, 2013. Commissioners afforded staff 90 days to prepare the necessary forms and infrastructure prior to accepting registrations.
Domestic partnership registrations will be accepted at the following Clerk of the Circuit Court offices during regular office hours:
The filing fee for registering as domestic partners is $50, although a reduced fee may apply for those applicants who have already registered their partnerships in a Pinellas County municipality.
More information about the domestic partnership registry may be found online at www.pinellascounty.org/Humanrights/pdf/domestic.pdf and forms relating to the domestic partnership registry may be on the Clerk of the Circuit Clerk website.
A hurricane can bring tremendous devastation to homes, businesses, apartments, cars and many other structures. When this damage occurs, residents depend on insurance to help bring them back to normal. The problem is that many learn they have purchased insufficient coverage or failed to get the right kind of policies after the damage is done and when they need protection the most.
That’s why hurricane pre-season is the perfect time to review insurance policies to ensure coverage is both adequate and comprehensive. Some very important points to consider include:
Read that policy. Sure, an insurance policy isn’t a real page turner, but giving them a brief read over will reveal terms, as well as raise questions that coverage gaps to be discussed with an insurance agent. Start on the declaration page. That’s where your name and address are and usually the limits covered. If you read nothing else after that, read the exclusions! And watch for any special endorsement that excludes wind coverage. Ask your agent to explain any questions you have.
Soak up flood insurance. Since 1968, most homeowner’s or renters’ policies have not covered damage from flooding. That coverage is provided under the prevue of the National Flood Insurance Program (www.floodsmart.gov). Besides protecting from the obvious damage of a rising drainage creeks, it also protects against storm surge. Another coverage is sewer backup from a flood. Your homeowner policy, even if it covers sewer backup, will most likely have an exclusion if the sewer backup is caused by flooding. Remember, all flood policies require 30 days from when they are ordered until they are ordered, which means buying flood insurance at the last minute won’t work. If you are located in a Flood Hazard Area, you may need to get a “flood elevation certificate” which could take some time. If you are not, there is still the application process which will take time. You may be surprised by how inexpensive flood insurance is, especially if you are not in a Flood Hazard Area!
Wind is special. Hurricane – or windstorm – deductibles are not like the standard deductible on your policy. While there may be a smaller deductible for a fire or burglary loss, windstorm deductibles are typically a percentage of your home’s value. This is done to help keep premiums low, but can add up to an expensive surprise when the time comes. A 5 percent deductible on a house valued at $200,000 can leave policy owners on the hook for the first $10,000 of repairs.
Getting to code. After a hurricane, if a home is damaged beyond a certain amount, the new structure will need to be rebuilt to current Florida building codes. While this may not be a problem for a home after 2001, it could be a considerable expense for a home built before that year. Law and ordinance coverage helps bring even older homes up to current code should significant damage occur.
Cars need comprehensive. Basic auto coverage is required on all vehicles operated in the state of Florida. While these policies offer minimal coverage for auto accidents, other hazards such as flooding, wind damage and the like are covered under a comprehensive auto insurance policy.
Renters need coverage, too. A landlord or property owner will have insurance on the structure that is being rented, but renters need coverage as well to protect their personal belongings. As with regular homeowner’s policies, most renter-s insurance coverage does not cover flooding, so a separate flood insurance policy can make a difference in how quickly you can replace your possessions.
Inventories are invaluable. While most homeowners can recall from memory the larger items in their homes, would they be able to catalog every item down to the smallest details? A quick home inventory done on a list or through photos or video can help tremendously after the disaster. A video or pictures on your tablet computer or smart phone will only take minutes. Capture what is on the walls, the fixtures and type of flooring as well as your personal property. Also check with your agent to see if your insurance carrier offers “replacement cost” coverage on your contents. Otherwise, your structure may be covered to be rebuilt, but your contents may be depreciated by the insurance carrier.
Discuss with your agent the most effective way to present a claim, should a disaster strike. If many homes are damaged, know how your carrier will find your home. If you must evacuate, take your insurance policy with you. Have the claims office phone number and your agents emergency contact information with you.
Most importantly, your home and valuables are things. Your first priority is always to keep yourself and your family safe. Everything else can be replaced, you can’t.
For more information about how to prepare yourself and your family for hurricanes, visit www.pinellascounty.org/emergency to find your evacuation level, learn about storm dangers and discover how to create your own disaster plan.
Pinellas County Animal Services has new hours of operation. They are Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., with the adoption center closing at 5:30 p.m. Saturday’s hours are also expanded. They are now 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and services include adoptions.
Shelter services include dog and cat adoptions, pet licensing and reclaiming lost pets. In addition, a licensed veterinarian administers rabies vaccines on Thursdays from 1 to 4 p.m. No appointments are necessary.
Pinellas County Animal Services is located at 12450 Ulmerton Road in Largo. For news on how to adopt, donate or volunteer, join Pinellas County Animal Services on Facebook. To learn more about the shelter, visit Animal Services or call (727) 582-2600. The lost or found pets hotline is (727) 582-2604.
The seasonal reclaimed water restrictions for Pinellas County reclaimed water customers will begin on Monday, April 1, in accordance with Pinellas County Code 82-3. These reductions help avoid reclaimed water shortages during Florida’s traditional dry seasons (April to June and October to November).
From April 1 to June 30, irrigation with reclaimed water supplied by Pinellas County is limited to three days per week, based on the resident’s home address. The mandatory seasonal restrictions state:
Overwatering can damage a lawn. Customers are encouraged to limit irrigation with reclaimed water to three days a week or less throughout the year to promote a healthy, drought-tolerant lawn with deep roots.
For more information, contact Pinellas County at www.pinellascounty.org/reclaimed or call (727) 464-4000.
Despite the challenges that we face, our opportunities for progress are even greater, and the state of Pinellas County is strong.
Pinellas County Commission Chairman Kenneth T. Welch’s first, quarterly, 18-minute State of the County video address was posted this week on the Pinellas County website and on the county’s Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
“The commission and county staff are working on several critical issues, and it’s important to keep our community informed and involved in the process,” said Welch. “As commission chairman, one of my priorities is communication, using traditional and social media more effectively and increasing our transparency and interaction with our citizens. The goal is to convey what we’re working on as a commission, what we’ve achieved and what’s coming to us down the road.”
State of the County topics this time around include strategic planning, the economic impact of poverty, public health, human rights, the upcoming transit tax referendum, tourism and the FY2014 county budget.
The State of the County message can also be viewed on PCC-TV at noon, 6:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. on weekdays; 12:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. on weekends. PCC-TV may be seen over Bright House Networks Channel 622, Verizon Channel 44 and Knology Channel 18.
Residents will have an opportunity for one-on-one conversations with their elected officials and county staff at the upcoming 2014 Budget Community Forum on Wednesday, April 10, in partnership with St. Petersburg College Seminole.
An open house will be set up in the SPC Digitorium common area from 5:30 till 7 p.m. There, visitors can browse information booths set up by the various Pinellas County departments. Participants can meet with county officials and their county commissioners, ask questions, provide feedback and learn more about county services.
From 7 to 8 p.m., an eTownHall will take place inside the Digitorium in front of a live audience. County commissioners and the county administrator will respond to comments and questions from the community as they discuss the upcoming FY2014 budget, strategies for closing the budget gap and plans to sustain the budget into the future.
Pinellas County’s Health and Human Services department reports that 3,500 Pinellas County Health Program customers have been affected by the closing of nine Sweetbay supermarkets in Pinellas County in mid February.
Clients who were getting prescription medications filled at Sweetbay stores that have closed in Pinellas County will need to find another pharmacy for that service within the PCHP network.
Health and Human Services advises clients to bring new prescriptions or transfer existing prescriptions to any other open Sweetbay store or to any one of the independent pharmacies within the PCHP network.
Network pharmacies are prepared to transfer prescription records or fulfill new requests as quickly as possible. Clients of PCHP can call the Health and Human Services department for more information at (727) 464-8400.