Lighting, safety on Hillsborough Commission agenda

09/04/08 Seán Kinane
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The Hillsborough Board of County Commissioners met today in Tampa and covered a range of issues including park lighting, road safety in front of Plant High School, affordable housing, street flooding, the Confederate flag, and the county’s animal shelter.

Commissioner Jim Norman pressed his fellow board members and county staff to fix an ordinance that makes it difficult to get approval for construction of lights at sports fields and parks.

“Our parks have been put on hold for months and months and months. … I want to get these things built. … Our kids are suffering because we’re not doing anything.”

Joann Herron works in the county’s Transportation and Land Development Review Division. Herron said “stakeholders” came together for a county lighting task force meeting on Wednesday.

The county’s director of planning and growth management, Peter Aluotto, said that a fix to the park lighting problem could be coming soon.

“We have a text amendment that’s in the works. It’ll be coming before this board next month. It goes to the Planning Commission on Monday. It will be coming to this board next month. It’ll have all the changes in it.”

Plant High School is located on a busy stretch of Dale Mabry Highway in South Tampa, leading to concerns about pedestrian safety. Commissioner Brian Blair made a motion, which was passed unanimously by his fellow commissioners, to send a letter to the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT). Plant High School, and elected officials to help make that stretch of road safer for pedestrians.

State Rep. Mike Scionti, a Democrat from District 58 which includes Plant High School, told the Commissioners he will be sponsoring a bill with Sen. Arthenia Joyner to address similar problems across the state.

The board approved givomg nearly $1.5 million to a developer that promises to purchase the Shadowood Apartment buildings east of the University of South Florida Tampa campus. The University Area Community Redevelopment Corp. would then be required to rehabilitate the buildings to a 24-unit affordable rental complex.

During public comment, activist and self-described "grandmother-at-large" Marilyn Smith accused the county of an “unbridled effort to cram something down our throats.”

But Commissioner Jim Norman touted the program. "This is one of our key elements in what we’re trying to do for our citizens out there.”

When Hurricane Frances hit the area in September 2004, Fowler Ave, 22nd Street and nearby roads east of USF flooded. Bob Gordon, the county’s public works director told commissioners the county plans to spend $14 million for capital projects needed to pump water from what is called the Duck Pond Area, to the Hillsborough River in case of another massive rain event.

Recently a giant Confederate battle flag has been flying again over I-75 south of I-4 and east of Tampa. During public comment, David McCallister said that his group, the Sons of Confederate Veterans, would like the flag “to be welcomed as an ordinary feature of the civic landscape.”

“It’s been up for two weeks at least. … Everybody’s really OK with it, except those who have some kind of self-serving agenda to promote.”

The Hillsborough County Commission agreed to begin a partnership with a local businessman to assist the county's animal shelter. Bob Reina, CEO of Talk Fusion, said a new nonprofit organization called Care Crew will help market the animal shelter and recruit donors and volunteers. He also donated 325 pet beds to the animal shelter.

Reina recently adopted and paid the medical bills for a dog that lost a leg to an alligator attack.

The next commission meeting is Sept. 17 on the second floor of the County Center on Kennedy Boulevard in downtown Tampa.

Photo by Seán Kinane/WMNF

Hillsborough Board of County Commissioners

Michael Scionti

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