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Pinellas Point: An artifact found at the site (3 cm/1 inch). (Photo/Louis Claudio)

USF Archaeologists Dig Philippe Park

in news/town square

If you have recently jogged in Philippe Park, taken an easy bike ride, or hiked up the mound, you may have noticed USF Professor of Anthropology Dr. Tom Pluckhahn and his team of student archaeologists surveying, digging and sifting through sandy dirt nearby for evidence of the Tocobaga culture that once inhabited this land.

Dr. Pluckhahn surveying area near mound. (Photo/Louis Claudio)

The word Tocobaga is familiar throughout the Tampa Bay area—from kayak tours and a disc golf course, to Cigar City’s red ale. But how many of us appreciate the history behind the name? Tocobaga was a civilization that thrived along Tampa Bay about 500 years ago. Their villages were likely scattered throughout the area, but believed to be headquartered near the mound they built in what is now Philippe Park.

When visiting the area today, it may be difficult to imagine that area was once home to a thriving civilization. Much of what is known about the Tocobaga derives from journals of Spanish missionaries and explorers who arrived in the area in the 16th century. Their short reports provide a tantalizing but severely incomplete account of what was clearly once a prosperous and intricate culture.

Over the past century, there have been several excavations of the site. Archaeologists with the Smithsonian Institution completely excavated a burial mound in the 1920s but their report of the work is only a few pages long. In the 1940s, archaeologists with the State of Florida completed small excavations in the “temple” mound and village. Despite these efforts, there is still a lot that is not known about the Tocobaga culture.

Today, the park we love for its native flora and fauna, for the beautiful Tampa Bay, and for the shaded picnic spots, offers no visual evidence of those who were here centuries ago. Except, of course, for the mound, where a powerful chief’s home once stood.

Dr. Pluckhahn hopes to discover more.

Keep Reading
(Photo/Kathryn Malaxos)

Ready for 100

in city hall/news

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.


Safety Harbor City Hall (Photo/Kathryn Malaxos)

Commission Notes: May 20, 2019

in city hall/news

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.

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

‘Tis the Season– for flood zone changes

in city hall/news

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: climatecentral.org

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.

Sustainable home energy

in news/town square

As we become more aware of the impact of human action on the environment, we can– and should– have conversations about sustainability. One area where people can improve environmental sustainability is home energy. Coal and gas are well-established as main energy sources and continue to be the easiest to use. But  coal and gas deplete the earth of natural resources that can never be replaced. In the process of removing parts of the earth, we are destroying trees and soil— and our water and air quality in the process. Animals and plants are destroyed. Biodiversity is affected.

Solar power

Solar energy is an option for personal and societal improvement. Getting energy from a more sustainable resource like the sun, especially in sunny Florida, seems an obvious solution for those who care about the environment. So why doesn’t everyone use it? Solar energy is one of the best options for energy production, but consumers don’t always have a choice. The reasons are multiple and sometimes personal. Maybe your roof is old, or you don’t have the money, or you are renting. Maybe you have a beautiful 200-year-old grandfather oak tree shading your entire home. Whatever the reason, sometimes solar is not plausible for many of us. But we can participate in programs that encourage power companies to increase availability of solar power.

Duke Energy has a shared energy program that allows customers to purchase “blocks” of solar energy. The fee for the blocks is added to the monthly bill and enrollees get a bit of credit “based on the fixed solar annual average avoided energy price, which is subject to change.” For information on DUke’s renewable energy program: (866) 233-2290. If solar blocks aren’t in the budget, Pinellas residents can contact Duke between 7 am and 9 pm to share support for sun power at (727) 443-2641.

Incentives

Consumers can also take advantage of energy company incentives. Duke Energy offers incentives such as:

  • Duct Test and Repair
  • Attic Insulation Upgrade
  • Heat Pump Replacement
  • Energy Efficient Windows

Contact Duke Energy for specific incentives currently available.

Tips for home energy conservation

If solar panels or solar block purchase aren’t options, using the least amount of nonrenewable energy sources is important. Simple actions will lower electric bills and reduce use of limited natural resources.

  • Turn off lights when you aren’t using them.
  • Set air conditioning to 78 degrees. Or set it about five degrees cooler than the outside temperature to rid the house of the humidity.
  • If it is nice outside, turn the air conditioning off and open those windows.
  • Install solar tint on windows. This is a heat barrier, deflecting direct sunlight.
  • Lower the temperature on your water heater to 120 degrees.
  • Be sure all windows and doors have good seals.
  • Check air conditioning for leaks. Don’t lose cold air to leaks!
  • Install an attic fan to lower the attic temperatures.
  • Add insulation to the attic to make sure cold air isn’t escaping.
  • Only run the dishwasher and washing machine when they are full.
  • Use LED lightbulbs.
  • If your power company offers an option to buy solar energy from them, do it.

Get audited!

Duke Energy offers a home energy audit. A trained inspector will do a simple inspection, analyze your home and bill and tell you where you could cut back on your energy consumption. They will look for leaks and check attic insulation and air conditioning Ducts. They can use a thermal camera to see if the attic or any doors or walls are leaky.  They even leave you with tips and an energy efficiency kit that includes low-pressure shower heads and faucet aerators and door and window seals. If you prefer, Duke will walk you through a home energy audit online or by phone.

Each of us can, in some way, participate in sustainable energy consumption– and even save some money while helping the planet!

Transit Riders Advisory Committee

in news/town square

The Transit Riders’ Advisory Committee (TRAC) is a citizen review board of the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA). The PSTA board is made up of a rotating, geographically-disbursed mixture of mayors, city and county commissioners, and transit professionals who are responsible to their home cities and to voters.

TRAC reviews decisions made by the PSTA Board. Was there logic to the decision? Was there due diligence? Was it difficult? (Always.) Do TRAC members always agree with the decisions? Not always, but they are not mayor or commissioners. TRAC members are there to ensure transparency and to advocate for transit riders. The process ensures that decisions made by PSTA live “in the sunshine.”

Serving on the committee is satisfying, often detailed-oriented work. It is good work done for good cause. Volunteers agree to ride at least twice per week to ensure they are connected to the experience of transit system consumers. They receive briefings from PSTA employees, who answer lots of often-pointed questions.

Most of all, TRAC members know there are busses full of good people who ride the many routes of PSTA every day. People go to work, to school, to the doctor, to the store and members of TRAC are their advocates.

Compensation for serving on TRAC includes coffee and cookies during meetings, a bus pass, a greater understanding of the decision-making process and the satisfaction of being a part of work for a greater good.


Duncan Kovar is one of two north Pinellas representatives on TRAC and will be sharing insights and information from his ongoing work as a public transit advocate with readers of the Safety Harbor Sun.

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