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Mary Lynda Williams

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(Photo/Jarine Dotson)

At Monday night’s City Commission meeting, Commissioner Nancy Besore expressed her sorrow on the passing of former city commissioner Mary Lynda Williams, who served on the Commission from 2008 to 2012. Later, Besore shared that Ms. Williams loved serving on the Commission. Besore reflected, “Mary Lynda was very kind and encouraging to me. She taught me skills in canvassing neighborhoods in 2009, my first encounter with running for office. She was a wonderful friend to Mattie Williams Neighborhood Family Center. She served as liaison between the Center and the Commission during her service. She loved parades, our tree lighting, the Mayor’s Breakfast…” Besore participated in the Florida League of Cities training for Public Officials on Ms. Williams’ recommendation– another example of Williams being a mentor and role model. “It was,” Besore said, “a joy serving with her.”

Mary Lynda Williams and I had the opportunity to work together for several years when we were both Commissioners. I always admired her independent voice and desire to make decisions that were best for Safety Harbor. She was a true public servant and will be missed.

Joe Ayoub, Mayor of Safety Harbor

Janet Hooper, Executive Director of Mattie Williams Neighborhood Family Center and a former city commissioner, recalled Ms. Williams as “always thoughtful, kind-hearted. Always tried to do the right thing, the best thing.” Ms. Williams was a commissioner when Hooper began working at Mattie Williams and Ms. Williams was instrumental in having a community walk for Martin Luther King, Jr., Day. Hooper said that Ms. Williams “believed in the importance of recognizing the diversity of our community.” Hooper recalled that when she joined the Commission, Ms. Williams set an example through her dedication to her responsibilities. On being a Commissioner, Ms. Williams advised, “You show up–– you care about things going on in the community.”

By all accounts, that is exactly what Mary Lynda Williams did. Hooper said Ms. Williams attended every event. Whether through attending events, researching and working through difficult issues, making donations and bringing coupons to Mattie Williams, and, ever year until more recently, delivering food and gifts to Safety Harbor’s senior citizens for the Christmas holiday. “She was very caring and giving,” Hooper said, “She wanted to recognize everyone.”

Ms. Williams’ obituary can be found on the Dignity Memorial website. According to the site, a service will be held at 10 am on June 6 at Sylvan Abbey Memorial Park. Ever dedicated to the residents of Safety Harbor, Ms. Williams asked that donations in her memory be made to Mattie Williams Neighborhood Family Center.

Commission Notes: June 3, 2019

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Safety Harbor City Hall (Photo/Kathryn Malaxos)

A short one! Shorter than it appears to be here!

Audience to be Heard (on non-agenda items)

Resident Frank Pattison shared concerns about the dog park at City Park. He reported that a large dead tree lost a limb over the weekend and this was removed from the dog park area by residents. Pattison wanted the City to be aware due to safety concerns. He noted a need for more regular maintenance of the park, including fence repair, regular raking of the ground cover surface, and fountain repair.

Pattison shared that noise and parking overflow at Crooked Thumb can be problematic, including parked cars blocking the fire hydrant, and suggested this be monitored.

Pattison inquired about extension of the brick pavers along 7th Street South. Public Works Director Ray Boler shared that a design project is scheduled for extension of the brick pavers in that area.

Consent Agenda

Approval of Minutes from the previous Commission meeting on May 20 passed, 4-0.

Public Hearing

The Commission passed Resolution 2019-07, 4-0 (with correction of a tiny typo on page two), asking Governor DeSantis to veto CS/HB 1159. The Bill, specifically about private property rights and tree ordinances, would give the state government authority over these issues and is at odds with the concept of Home Rule. (More on Home Rule from the Florida League of Cities here.)

Municipalities shall have governmental, corporate and proprietary powers to enable them to conduct municipal government, perform municipal functions and render municipal services, and may exercise power for municipal purposes except as otherwise provided by law.

The Florida Constitution, Article VIII, Section 2(b)

Ray Boler noted that other local cities are also encouraging a veto of CS/HB 1159. Cliff Merz shared appreciation for the Commission having a meeting in order to discuss the Resolution, as this item may come before the Governor prior to the next City Commission meeting.

Earlier this month as reported by the Tampa Bay Times and others, DeSantis vetoed a bill that would have prohibited local governments from banning plastic straws, a move appreciated by both environmentalists and Home Rule advocates.

Commission Reports

Commissioner Nancy Besore shared that a former member of the Safety Harbor City Commission, Mary Lynda Williams, has passed away. Besore acknowledged Commissioner Williams service and dedication to Safety Harbor. A memorial for Williams will be held at Sylvan Abbey Memorial Park on Thursday morning.

Besore encouraged attendance at this Friday morning’s living shoreline planting event at Waterfront Park.

Commissioner Cliff Merz appreciated the Memorial Day Ceremony sponsored by VFW Post 10093 – Safety Harbor and enjoyed the community Movie in the Park event for the premiere of Hallmark’s Love in the Sun movie, noting that it was “a nice opportunity and a good showing of the city and our community.”

Keep Reading

Ready for 100

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(Photo/Kathryn Malaxos)

Bryan Beckman of the Suncoast Sierra Club presented the Ready for 100 Campaign to the City Commission on May 20. The Sierra Club wants cities to commit to transition to 100% clean, renewable energy by 2050. Some members of the meeting audience wore stickers or green tee shirts in support. Beckman shared the benefits of solar and wind power:

  • Fossil fuels emit hundreds of pounds of carbon dioxide per million British Thermal Units (BTUs) while solar and wind emit none;
  • Renewables do not pollute the earth and cost less than fossil fuels;
  • Solar energy recently had an 88% drop in cost.

Problems with windmills

During public comment, Jonathan Brewer, the city’s volunteer Economic Development Liaison, expressed concern. He mentioned recent research on windmills was not all positive: “The effects of windmills and solar really have a negative effect on the climate and local weather patterns,” he said. Speaking after the meeting, Brewer said he is not opposed to the measure and supports “anything more environmentally-friendly” but wants the city to consider unintended consequences.

“The down side of wind power” by Leah Burrows (The Harvard Gazette article mentioned by Brewer) includes comments from David Keith, professor of Applied Physics at the Harvard University. Keith says “Wind beats coal by any environmental measure, but that doesn’t mean that its impacts are negligible. We must quickly transition away from fossil fuels to stop carbon emissions. In doing so, we must make choices between various low-carbon technologies, all of which have some social and environmental impacts.”

If your perspective is the next ten years, wind power actually has — in some respects — more climate impact than coal or gas. If your perspective is the next thousand years, then wind power has enormously less climatic impact than coal or gas.

David Keith, Harvard professor • The Harvard Gazette

Matt Spoor, Safety Harbor City Manager, said the city has “no intention of any large-scale wind farms.”

Brewer also stated that “Duke will not have the resources to provide us with renewable energy if their energy plan is to be at 23% renewables by 2050.” And Brewer is correct: On its current path, Duke Energy would not be able to support the entire community by 2050.

How long do we have?

While some suggest caution, other environmental advocates don’t think the Sierra Club’s goals go far enough. Extinction Rebellion holds protests in both Hillsborough and Pinellas counties to highlight the need for climate change action. James Lamont from the Tampa Extinction Rebellion group says the Sierra Club’s Ready For 100 Campaign deserves credit for helping to move public conversation from “cutting” to “eliminating” emissions. But Lamont says updated climate change information means the Sierra Club’s target date of 2050 for 100% renewables is already woefully out-of-date. Extinction Rebellion advocates net-zero emissions by 2025.

Who’s in?

Safety Harbor Mayor Joe Ayoub and mayors from Sarasota, St. Petersburg and Dunedin have signed the Mayors for 100% Clean Energy Endorsement.

Clearwater and Tampa are in the process of adopting campaign goals and Largo has “committed to transition the community-wide energy supply to 100% clean and renewable energy for all, and to transition the municipal energy supply to 100% clean and renewable energy by 2035 with 50% by 2030.”

Commission Response

Commissioner Nancy Besore said she loves the idea of “starting with some thing we can, and moving from there.” She noted Pinellas County’s recent addition of a climate change resiliency officer.

Commissioner Andy Zodrow said, “If you can’t get a coastal community in the state of Florida on board with 100% renewables, then I really have concerns about the fate of humanity. We are about 700 yards from Tampa Bay. We just got a report in last week that they raised the sea level rise from three to eight-and-a-half feet. That is really important to understand.” Zodrow reminded the Commission and audience of FEMA updates to flood zone maps. He strongly recommended implementation of some goals.

Community members who spoke in support of Ready for 100 at the Commission meeting included:

  • Kayla Dixon, Countryside High school student, represented We the Students.
  • Mike Moscardini spoke as a representative of Whispering Souls African American Cemetery.
  • Father Joe Diaz, Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, reflected on his upcoming 80th birthday: “The paradise I grew up in is evaporating before my eyes.”
  • Kevin McCullough and Brandt Robinson shared support from Indivisible Safety Harbor.
  • Jessica Harrington, a public school teacher and candidate for State Representative – District 64, cited a United Nations report and asked the Commission to support Ready for 100.

How we make a difference is by having the courage to say that we are going to stand up for this and we are going to do this. We have eleven years to make this right.

Jessica Harrington, FL-64 House of Representatives candidate

What now?

Some power companies are committing to renewable energy production. MidAmerican Energy has plans to be 100% renewable by 2020. XCEL Energy and Idaho Power share a goal to have 100% reduction of CO2 emissions between 2045 and 2050.  Florida communities can pressure their energy companies to use more renewable energy, too.

At the meeting, the Sierra Club’s Beckman shared steps cities can take toward meeting Ready for 100 goals such as reducing energy consumption by making small changes like switching to LED bulbs, installing renewables such as solar where possible, and partnering with energy providers to purchase energy from renewable sources for remaining needs. Also, residents and businesses can make changes without waiting for the city.

What’s next?

City Manager Matt Spoor reflected on Safety Harbor’s ongoing progress to date: Approximately 90% of the city’s facilities’ lighting has been replaced with LED lights. City-owned street lights and bollards were replaced or will be replaced with LED this year. Duke Energy upgraded all Duke Energy-owned street lights to LED lights in 2018. The City Park ball field lights have not yet been replaced. There will be an EV charging station at the library.

Brewer, the Economic Development Liaison, suggests the city put together a community working group. The group, he suggested, could discuss possibilities and make recommendation to the Commission.

The Commission asked City staff to draft a resolution supporting Ready for 100. If approved, the goal-setting process will begin.

Nearby, Clearwater recently hired a sustainability coordinator. Will Safety Harbor consider this level of commitment, too? A sustainability expert could partner with community groups and volunteers, evaluate where we are, coordinate an energy audit and create an action plan.

View Bryan Beckman’s presentation to the City Commission here.

Commission Notes: May 20, 2019

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Safety Harbor City Hall (Photo/Kathryn Malaxos)

According to a February 12, 2018 piece posted on the Strong Towns website, residents of some cities have a difficult time finding information about public meetings. Standing room only for Monday night’s City Commission meeting suggests the City of Safety Harbor does not share that problem. (Agendas, minutes, and backup materials as well as recordings of the Commission meetings can be found on the city website and scheduled meetings are posted on the city website calendar.)

A few notes from the May 20, 2019 meeting:

Chris Steffens of the Finance Department was recognized as the Employee of the Quarter for the first quarter of 2019.

The Sierra Club presented information about the Ready for 100 Campaign. The campaign asks cities to commit to transitioning to clean, renewable energy. Mayor Joe Ayoub had previously pledged support for the campaign and the Commission requested that city staff draft a resolution. If approved, that resolution will begin the planning process.

Mayor Ayoub presented a proclamation for National Public Works Week, May 19-25.

The Parks and Recreation Staff presented a programming update for Folly Farms. All ages can participate in the monthly Explore, Discover, Grow program at the Farm. The next Explore, Discover, Grow program will be on June 8th; the focus will be on reptiles.

The Commission discussed, heard public comment, and achieved consensus on an update to the Downtown Master plan for areas where the maximum height restrictions have been 45 feet. The draft language was approved with the addition of a minimum percentage for balconies and a requirement for inclusion of four of the seven proposed design elements. The Downtown Redevelopment Board public hearing will be on June 12 at 6:30 pm.

In response to concerns expressed by residents at previous Commission meetings, city staff will draft new code language regarding security cameras installed on private homes.

An unfortunate, unexpected combination of wind and tide during construction of the living shoreline at Waterfront Park caused erosion and resulted in a change of design plan in order to bolster protective elements. The Commission approved funding in the amount of $40,993.16 for this.

The Parks and Recreation Advisory Board presented a concept plan for enhancement of two lots south of the Baranoff oak on Main Street at Second Ave. N. City Manager Matt Spoor noted that a priority in design of this area is “to keep as much impervious surface as possible for the tree roots.” After discussion, the Commission left open potential adjustment to the number of concrete loungers to be installed in the park. The Commission approved the concept plan for the park with addition of an “artistic” bike rack and a dog and people water station.

View the meeting live stream for more details and information here.

‘Tis the Season– for flood zone changes

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Safety Harbor Marina during Tropical Storm Colin on June 6, 2016. (Photo/Jarine Dotson)

Conversations about sustainability include global warming and rising sea levels. These add another dimension to Florida’s hurricane season. Temperatures around the globe are getting warmer, ice caps are melting, sea levels are rising and land mass will diminish as a result. Florida – the peninusla-on-a-peninsula of Pinellas County in particular – is population-dense. Planning for storms is imperative. We are aware of the risk of catastrophic storms and the potential impact of sea rise and flooding. NOAA’s 2019 Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook will be announced on May 23. As a coastal community, summer brings additional seasonal preparations to Safety Harbor.

Flood zone changes may impact insurance needs

During the April 15, 2019 City Commission meeting, City Manager Matt Spoor reviewed Safety Harbor’s participation in the Federal Emergency Management Association’s (FEMA) National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and pending updates to Flood Insurance Rate Maps {FIRM}. The Commission approved the Interlocal Agreement with Pinellas County in regard to preliminary floodplain maps. Commissioner Zodrow noted that changes in the Flood Insurance Rate Maps could impact resident’s insurance costs. Residents were urged to check for any changes in their flood zone and to check policies for any potential advantage in making changes now.

FEMA has completed a review of flood zone maps and residents can find more information on Pinellas County’s website. Important for Safety Harbor residents to note: “These new maps are based on revised coastal flood modeling and may affect owners of properties susceptible to flooding from the Gulf, Tampa Bay, and inland areas near waterways connected to the Gulf or Bay.” Residents should check for potential zone changes and check their insurance coverage.

Tax holiday

Hurricane season begins June 1 and Pinellas County’s schools will break for summer just in time for the statewide “disaster preparedness” sales tax holiday from May 31 to June 6, 2019. Florida residents will be able to make tax-free purchases of:

  • flashlights and lanterns costing $20 or less
  • radios and tarps costing $50 or less
  • coolers and batteries costing $30 or less
  • generators costing $750 or less

Sea level rise

Climate Central’s map shows projections of what could happen over time as a result of increasing sea levels. Use the interactive slider to see the impact of up to ten feet of encroaching water. The map serves as a reminder of the need to implement changes that will slow the impact of sea level rise on our communities.

map courtesy of Climate Central:

Another map to keep on hand

While prepping for the upcoming season, it’s a good idea to know the Pinellas County Shelter locations.

Who’s coming?

Everyone wants to know what to expect. One thing is certain– NOAA’s names for the 2019 storms. This year, we hope to avoid: Andrea, Barry, Chantal, Dorian, Erin, Fernand, Gabrielle, Humberto, Imelda, Jerry, Karen, Lorenzo, Melissa, Nestor, Olga, Pablo, Rebekah, Sebastien, Tanya, Van and Wendy.

CRA and Commission update

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Safety Harbor City Hall (Photo/Kathryn Malaxos)

Community Redevelopment Agency

The Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) discussion was lively, lengthy and focused on a central question:

How do we make sure, as best as we can, that we get [architecturally beautiful buildings]?

– Commissioner Cliff Merz

The city staff will develop design specifications which will be presented to the Commission at the May 20th meeting. Residents who would like to weigh in can contact their elected officials or attend the Commission meeting on May 20th.

City Commission

The Kiwanis Club of Safety Harbor was presented with a proclamation honoring many decades of service to the Safety Harbor community. Members of the Kiwanis Club then presented the city with a check for $5000 for the Park.

Whit Blanton, Executive Director of Forward Pinellas, gave a presentation about the 2045 Advantage Pinellas Plan, a long-range transportation plan for Pinellas County. Of note: Blanton stated that housing and transportation costs comprise 68% of the average household budget in Safety Harbor.

The Commission approved all Consent Agenda items unanimously:

  • April 15, 2019 Commission minutes
  • Purchase of telecommunications equipment for two new Fire Department vehicles
  • Contract with Rowland, Inc. for Woodcreek North underdrain replacement project

The following new business items were passed, each with a vote of 5-0:

  • A code enforcement lien reduction request for 2175 Philippe Parkway
  • A professional services contract with Calvin, Giordano & Associates, Inc. for building official services
  • Appointment of Nadina Orozco to a two-year term on the Audit Committee

The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) Governing Board is comprised of elected officials from around Pinellas County. There was no recommendation for a Safety Harbor official to serve at this time.

Due to time constraints, the 2019 Goal discussion will be rescheduled.

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