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Pinellas County Opens Up Parks, Pools, Beaches

in news

Beginning Monday, June 1, the playgrounds at Pinellas County parks, including Philippe Park in Safety Harbor, will be open.

And beginning today (May 28) the county restrictions of 50 percent capacity on hotel swimming pools are lifted. This would affect the Safety Harbor Resort and Spa. Restrictions at other public pools, including those at condominiums, will be lifted on Monday,

Also beginning today (May 28) county restrictions at the beaches and limited capacity at daycare center playgrounds are lifted.

Pinellas County commissioners voted unanimously at their Thursday meeting to remove these local restrictions and also voted to extend the county’s state-of-emergency status to June 5.

The commissioners acknowledged that while the COVID-19 virus still poses a threat, the curve of infections has been flattened and public has been made aware of the risks.

“We’ve tried to flatten the curve. We’ve tried to put responsible practices in. And we’ve had a significant law enforcement presence,” said Pinellas County Administrator Barry A. Burton, who noted that the Sheriff’s Office and municipal law enforcement has done “a fantastic job” at educating the public.

“We’ve gotten past the Memorial Day weekend and so we believe it’s time to remove our restrictions and go with the governor’s orders,” he said.

Department of Health Director Dr. Ulyee Choe added that the number of positive tests for the COVID-19 virus is declining as is the number of people coming to the emergency room with symptoms.

The plan is for the country to continue to urge people to follow Governor Ron DeSantis’ statewide orders on social distancing as well as recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention such as hand washing, social distancing and wearing masks.

Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said health advisory signs at the beaches would stay in place. Burton said the county would be putting up similar signs at the county’s playgrounds.

Safety Harbor Candlewood Suites Set To Open in June

in news

A three-story, 72-room Candlewood Suites hotel is scheduled to open in Safety Harbor by mid-June, according to the owners.

A news release from L & A Hotel Group and Dellisart LLC Management says the extended-stay hotel “is the only one of its kind in the area” with apartment-style studio and one-bedroom suites with fully equipped kitchens and executive desks.

 This will be the first name-branded hotel in Safety Harbor. According to the Candlewood website, rates will range from $95 to $135.

The location in Oakbrook Plaza, at Enterprise and McMullen Booth roads, has been slated for a hotel since zoning was approved in 2014. The site previously had an office building and restaurants.

With a location minutes from major businesses and sporting events, our guests will find convenience and ease when traveling throughout the area” says General Manager Jacquelyn Leppert.  “We know that we are a perfect fit and style for the surrounding medical, government, corporate, sports and leisure travelers. Offering a competitive rate with lots of value and partnering with our community is our main goal”.

Two years ago some Safety Harbor residents protested having a hotel on this site and started a petition drive in an effort to stop it, but the zoning for a hotel had been approved years earlier.

Nationwide, the Candlewood Suites hotels comply with COVID-19 safe guidelines. The IHG Website says the hotels have “a long-standing commitment to rigorous cleaning procedures” including a partnership with Ecolab and Diversey, both known for cleaning technology. The hotels follow the advice of the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.

The IHG website says there is reduced contact at check-in, touchless transactions, front desk screens, sanitizer stations, sanitized key-cards, paperless check-out, additional deep cleaning of high touch surfaces, social distancing, ‘last cleaned’ charts,  and “best practices” for pools, fitness centers and lounges

Candlewood doesn’t have food service. Rooms come with kitchens for guests to prepare their own meals.

Candlewood Suites is a subsidiary, owned by InterContinental Hotels Group PLC (NYSE: IHG), which also owns Holiday Inn and other hotel chains.

Harbor Commission To Consider Fireworks Options

in city hall/events/news

The Safety Harbor City Commissioners are looking at options for the city’s 4th of July celebration, including canceling the annual fireworks show at the Waterfront Park and Marina because of the COVID-19 virus threat.

The 20-minute fireworks display has drawn around 10,000 spectators, according to city officials. Such gatherings are not allowed under current state-mandated guidelines in Governor Ron DeSantis’ Phase 1 of reopening the state in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The governor has not announced when Phase 2 would begin which might allow for large venue events but with limited capacity (50 percent or less).

The city’s contract with the fireworks vendor is due to be signed by Tuesday, June 2. And numerous Florida cities, including Clearwater, Tarpon Springs, Gulfport and Sarasota, have already canceled their fireworks shows.

After reviewing event logistics and information, the city staff offered the following options for consideration at the meeting set for Monday night.

1, Host a full event with vendors, entertainment and fireworks display. Concerns include managing density, social distancing enforcement, and sufficient personnel for crowd management.

2. Host a fireworks only show. Concerns include managing venue closings and sufficient personnel to keep people away.

3. Postpone the fireworks display to an alternate date.

4. Cancel the event.

Even though Safety Harbor City Hall is expected to be opened again by Monday, the commission meeting with be virtual, using Zoom technology.

Also on the agenda is a presentation by the Safety Harbor Fire Department on the upcoming hurricane season and further discussion on providing some kind of aid to city businesses or residents impacted by the COVID-19 shutdown.

Commissioners have been discussing giving aid since early April but have not settled on who, what, how or how much, although they have expressed willingness to spent $200,000 to $300,000 from a General Reserve Fund.

The most recent proposals involve giving $1,000 grants to small businesses to cover rent, mortgage or utility costs to those eligible (an estimated 200 potential businesses). Another proposal would grant $200 to $300 utility credits to low income individuals who would qualify.

For more information go to http://www.cityofsafetyharbor.com

COVID-19 Threat Doesn’t Stop Marriage Proposal

in news/photos/town square

Romance will find a way, even when a pandemic threatens. 

Ask Jonathan Mossey, a psychologist and personal trainer.  He recently surprised his girlfriend with an elaborate marriage proposal at the Safety Harbor Art and Music Center. 

It was a proposal that involved a scavenger hunt, a private musical performance, a lot of roses and a spoof of the TV show, “The Bachelor”. 

Keep Reading

City Facilities Slowly Reopen Street Closures, Aid Debated

in city hall/news/photos

The City of Safety Harbor plans to slowly open city-run facilities that have been closed to the public due to the COVID-19 pandemic with the goal of having city hall and the Safety Harbor Public Library open by June 1. 

The city pier and waterfront boardwalks were opened over the weekend, and the fitness center in the Safety Harbor Community Center could open next week, said City Manager Matt Spoor during the Monday night city commission meeting. 

He said these facilities will be opened under Center for Disease Control guidelines that include social distancing and limited capacity.  Face shields to protect employees are being installed. Spoor said that the city needs to careful about letting the public know about openings to avoid a rush or crowd that couldn’t be handled. 

There was a lot of discussion, but no action taken on offering financial aid to people and/or businesses hurt by COVID-19 closure.  

Also, no action was taken on Mayor Joe Ayoub’s proposal to close off a portion of Main Street to vehicle traffic to make room for expanded outdoor dining at restaurants for at least the next two weekends.  

Ayoub said Spoor had been in contact with several restaurants in town and the majority were in favor of the closures, even restaurants that would not be in area that might be closed off. 

Commissioner Carlos Diaz said that while he is skeptical about the benefits from doing this, he favored giving it a try.   

Commissioner Cliff Merz said he is concerned about what might happen if weekend closures created a “3rd Friday” festival atmosphere and drew crowds. “COVID is still with us and will be with us,” he said. “And the reason that it’s at the level is it now is because of the protections that were in place, so things are slowly opening, and we’ll see how that works.”  

He said it might work if the restaurants required reservations and customers came in an orderly fashion but if it became a “big collection of people” and it was up to law enforcement to break it up then that would not be the right approach.   Commissioners Andy Zudrow and Nancy Besore also expressed concerns about potential crowding. 

After a lengthy discussion among commissioners on what kind of financial aid to give to those impacted by COVID-19 with nothing settled on, Mayor Ayoub asked the city manager to gather more information on costs and administration of giving utility discounts of $1,000 to businesses that qualify and at least $100 to individuals that qualify.   

This information may be presented at the June 1 commission meeting. 

In other action, commissioners approved $62,500 for the installation of a 20-foot gazebo/gathering place for the Folly Farm city park. There were some objections from the public over spending these funds while some citizens are in financial need due to the pandemic. 

The mayor and city commissioners pointed out that this money is from capital improvement funds that can’t be spent on social-help programs.  The gazebo was a gift to the city from George Weiss who also donated the Folly Farm park land. He donated $25,000 for the gazebo in 2019 and its been in storage.  

The $62,500 was the lowest of three bids for land preparation, grading, concrete slab, gazebo assembly, electrical work, paved patio and other site work. 

PRESS RELEASE: Safety Harbor Library Home Delivery Service Updates

in news/town square

Home delivery of library materials is available for Safety Harbor residents of all ages unable to physically visit the library due to illness, disability, or injury. This service is free, available on a long-term or temporary basis.

    Due to the current COVID-19 conditions, the Library is offering delivery service to residents aged 65 and older who are not comfortable visiting the Library. Items are left in bags at your front door for return and pick up without social interaction.

    Home delivery patrons can call for advice on what to read or request specific materials. Items are checked out to your library card, delivered to your door, and picked-up for return by a library ambassador on a bi-monthly basis. If you need a library card, we can assist.  

For more information or to register for home delivery service, visit the Outreach page on our website for an application,www.SafetyHarborLibrary.com, emailoutreach@cityofsafetyharbor.com, or call 727-724-1525 x 4107. The library is located 101 2nd Street N., Safety Harbor, FL 34695.

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