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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.

Carlos "Chino" Rolon at SHAMC.

Safety Harbor supports Boricuas de Corazón

in news/town square

Hurricane Maria slammed onto the island of Puerto Rico, an unincorporated U.S. territory, in September of 2017. Following the storm, many residents left Puerto Rico for the U.S. mainland. According to Science News, estimates made from Facebook data suggest that approximately one-third, about 65,400 people, came to Florida. Twenty months later, the U.S. citizens who live on the island still struggle from the impact of the storm.

Safety Harbor resident and poet Carlos “Chino” Rolon decided he had to do something. Rolon says that many of the island’s homeowners live in houses that have been in their families for generations. “They can’t prove ownership,” he said, and so can’t meet FEMA requirements for aide. Rolon noted that there are many families with children or people with disabilities who have simply not been able to get adequate help.

Rolon organized a fundraiser at the Safety Harbor Art and Music Center (SHAMC) to assist Boricuas de Corazón, a non-profit organization based in Brandon, in raising money for roofs, windows and front doors for families on the island. The original goal, Rolon said, was to raise funds for sixty homes.

On May 5th, locals and friends gathered at SHAMC to show support, raise additional funds and recognize community members and organizations who have contributed to the effort. Tampa band The Katz was on hand to provide entertainment.

Boricuas de Corazón, founded by Linda Perez Davila, also provides support for people who have settled in Florida after leaving Puerto Rico. For more information, Boricuas de Corazón can be contacted through Facebook, Facebook Messenger, or at (954) 496-1463.

Safety Harbor City Hall (Photo/Kathryn Malaxos)

CRA and Commission update

in city hall/news

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.

Here we are

in news/town square

Welcome to the Safety Harbor Sun! We hope to become a welcome part of your world as a resident of Safety Harbor.

Our goal is to provide news and information that will assist you in making decisions as you live, work, and play in Safety Harbor. The advent of digital nearly-everything gives us a never-ending flow of information and a bazillion sources for it. In the midst of these advances, we’ve experienced loss. Journalism itself is criticized – often legitimately – as a result. We need trustworthy sources who will present useful information, who will report all of the facts as they become available, and who will be transparent.

We also need information for our daily lives. Remember the weekly section of your local paper that listed area churches and information? Remember when your local edition shared news about your child’s school – and when student reporters had an opportunity to publish their own work? Remember when the op-eds and letters to the editor were a forum for civil discussion about things that really matter?

Remember when the daily news was a part of your daily life?

Sure, we all can “google” anything. But googling doesn’t build community. It doesn’t connect you to your neighbors, their concerns, their celebrations. Our goal is to be a source and a forum – for you.

Join us.

Front yard gardens

in news/town square

Home gardeners have been tracking a particular bill through the Florida Legislature this session. Florida Sen. Robert Bradley (R.- District 5) introduced the SB 82 after a south Florida man was told to remove his front yard garden or incur daily fines. The Florida Senate passed SB 82 on March 21, 2019 and a related bill, HB 145 was approved by the House of Representatives on May 1st and awaits Gov. DeSantis’s signature.

Impact: This bill will affect folks who want to garden at home. Prior to this action, local governments could ban residents from growing food in their front yards.

Why should you and your neighbors garden?

  • Aesthetics: Gardens create a lovely and interesting-looking community. Gardeners design unique landscapes, often combining traditional landscaping concepts with a broad palette of color and diverse purpose.
  • Biodiversity: Home landscapes often seem to combine the same few plants over and over, but the yard of an avid gardener attracts attention. How? Successful gardeners know the importance of a thriving local ecosystem and include a wide variety of plants.
  • Pollinators: Have you read about bees and butterflies dying off and wondered how you can help? Gardeners know that their flowering fruit trees will not produce fruit without pollinators and so they learn to protect the insects that are part of our food supply chain. Gardeners create healthy ecosystems, planting flowers to attract pollinators.
  • Health: Gardening not only helps the environment, it also helps people. Gardeners benefit from the healthy food they produce– but the act of gardening is also exercise. Fresh food from local gardens is an opportunity for a healthier “you.”
  • Fun! Gardeners love to share. Sharing plants, flowers and food brings opportunity not only for learning, but also for connection and community. Consider joining local gardening groups, plant swaps and community gardens as a way to gain knowledge and make new friends.

Get started with home gardening

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