Pinellas County Commissioners discuss water fees and cleaning up waterways
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08/09/11 Sarah Curran
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Pinellas County Commissioners discussed a possible water tax decreases for residents at Tuesday morning’s public hearing. They also touched on the issue of next year’s Republican National Convention.

Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD) spokesperson Corri Cutler says even though Pinellas and Pasco counties’ general tax fund will increase, residents may see a decrease in their water tax.

“But what they will see is there won’t be a Pinellas-Anclote river basin pipeline on their tax bill this year. So overall there budget is gonna decrease. There gonna see a decrease in what they paid to the district. Most people think that’s a good thing because it s a reduction in taxes, but it also mean a reduction in dollars available to fund projects that we cooperatively fund with you.”

And that wasn’t the only water issue Commissioners dove into at Tuesday morning's Public hearing in Clearwater. Commissioner Neil Brickfield asked about possibly returning Lake Tarpon, considered “The Jewel of Pinellas County” to its original brackish state. He says it costs the county tens of millions of dollars to keep it a freshwater lake. Commissioners also approved $1.3 million towards the restoration of Lake Seminole. Chair Susan Latvala says a lot of the issue has to do with runoff.

“You fertilize your lawn on Saturday afternoon and it rains on Sunday. And it all washes into either the stormwater system or the body of water that you might live on whether it’s a lake, a stream or the Gulf of Mexico. And its just real important that we educate our citizens about not doing it. Limit the fertilizers; only use the fertilizers you really need. Use time release fertilizers instead of the ones that you have to put on more often and reduce the amount of clean up that government is required to do.”

Latvala adds Pinellas is the only county in the state that isn’t affected by recent legislation on the sale of fertilizers.

“We were very fortunate last year in that our ordinance passed prior to the legislative session it was actually the year before and our local delegation was able to cut us out of the new leg the summer ban on fertilizer is still in effect in Pinellas. No other county in the state can now implement that.”

However, she adds EPA standards are even stricter than current County standards. Those standards are the subject of a Congressional hearing in Orlando today. But Water wasn’t the only issue floating around Tuesday’s meeting. Commissioners also brought up next year’s Republican National Convention. Latvala is part of the host Committee and says they are trying hard to represent the area positively when millions tune in to watch the convention next August.

“There will be thousands and thousands of people coming to the area to attend but then there will be millions of people who are watching on television. And it will be an opportunity for the world, literally, to see our region and what a great place it is! So we have to take advantage of that. We have to get people to go; Wow, that’s where I am going on vacation next year or I’m thinking of relocating my business maybe ill check that out, I’ve never been to that area before lets go see what its like.”

Latvala says the committee is in the process of raising over $55 million for the convention and the stage alone will cost 20 million dollars. Latvala says none of it will be taxpayer funded. But Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn has requested $50 million from the federal government for security.

Latvala is also urging residents wanting to get involved in their local governments to volunteer. Currently the county is especially in need of communications volunteers. To learn more you can go online to Pinellascounty.org and click on the link to the commission.

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