Commissioner Murman quoted in this 83Degrees article on Cross-bay Ferry:

 

development news

Cross-Bay Ferry initial run exceeds expectations, likely to return in fall

PATRICK KELLY | TUESDAY, APRIL 25, 2017

 

PHOTO BY JULIE BRANAMAN

 

As a sixth-month test period comes to a close, the Cross-Bay Ferry is scheduled to stop making runs on April 30.

But action taken by the Hillsborough County Commission indicates it will likely be back.

The commissioners directed county staff to find funds in the 2018 budget that could be invested in a seasonal ferry linking the downtowns of Tampa and St. Petersburg. Last year, Hillsborough allocated $350,000 to the pilot program, along with Pinellas County, Tampa and St. Petersburg.

Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandy Murman says the county received somewhere between $40,000 and $50,000 back on its initial investment and the ferry project is headed in the right direction.

“We’re knee deep in transportation issues right now and we’ve build a great case for a successful project,” she says.
Proponents of the ferry say it performed beyond expectations during the trial run, proving itself as a viable transportation option.

“It’s had good revenues, strong ridership and very strong corporate sponsorship,” says Ed Turanchik, project adviser.
According to Turanchik, ridership for April is on track to reach 10,000 people. In total, more than 36,000 passengers have boarded the ferry for a trip across the bay.

The 149-seat catamaran runs from downtown St. Pete’s waterfront to downtown Tampa near the convention center seven days a week with the heaviest ridership on weekends. The pilot program served as a demonstration of the non-commuter market, which accounts for the majority of travel.

“This really shows us there’s a strong market for non-work-based transit,” Turanchik says.

Now that it has some momentum, Turanchick is looking at the next phase for the ferry.

“Now it’s not a question of a pilot,” he says. “It’s using seasonal service to transition into permanent service and build the market.”

With public-private partnerships to fund the initial investment and operating costs of the new transportation system in the works, big things are possible ferries in the future of Tampa Bay. Champions include Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman.

“I can readily envision there being a dozen to 16 ferries operating in the bay area when all these things finally are deployed,” Turanchik says. “There’s a market for this and it’s only going to grow.”

 

 

 

Commissioner Murman quoted in this PR Newswire report on NewSouth Window Solutions:

 

Florida Governor Rick Scott Breaks Ground with Window Manufacturer, NewSouth Window Solutions

SOURCE NewSouth Window Solutions

TAMPA, Fla., April 24, 2017 /PRNewswire/ — Governor Rick Scott showed his support and celebrated the growth of window manufacturer and installer, NewSouth Window Solutions, at the site of their new manufacturing facility and headquarters on Thursday. NewSouth Window’s success and expansion to the new 234,500 square foot building, is a signal that local manufacturing is bringing jobs to Tampa and to the state of Florida.

Standing with the group of NewSouth Window employees, Governor Scott spoke of job creation, and strategies to attract people to the state to continue to build the economy.

He acknowledged co-founders Dan Ochstein CEO, and Earl Rahn, President as he addressed the crowd:

“I’d like to recognize everyone at NewSouth Window. NewSouth started here in Tampa with one location the year I was elected, 2010, and since then they’ve opened in Orlando, Sarasota, West Palm Beach and soon be Ft. Lauderdale.”

NewSouth Window Solutions set up their Tampa manufacturing facility when the economic downturn was in full force in Florida, particularly for the building and construction business. Since that time, they have added 165 jobs in Florida, with a plan to add 50 more with this expansion.

As Scott looked over the impressive 13 acre portion of the 73 acre development, he commented on the scale of the concrete building footprint, stating,

“There’s not many places this big, this is outstanding! You better sell a lot of windows.”

NewSouth has made and sold hundreds of thousands of high performance window and door units, and plans to continue to climb as a leading provider of energy efficient windows in a state where the inefficiencies of the single pane aluminum still dominate. Ochstein spoke of his vision of the factory direct window company and the decision to build out of need for more space to accommodate the growth.

NewSouth products are designed specifically for the Florida climate, with a special focus on blending energy efficiency with impact resistant strength to defend against the unrelenting Florida sun and storms. NewSouth calls this the Ultimate Florida Window. Rahn stated, “Our products are made in Florida, for Florida homes, by Florida workers…and we are supported by the Florida Governor”.

Ochstein and Rahn received the Governor’s Business Ambassador’s Award to recognize their accomplishment and job creation for the state. Pro-business officials, Cissy Proctor, Executive Director of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity and Sandra Murman, Hillsborough County Commissioner, addressed the crowd in support of NewSouth Window and job creation.

Murman has been an advocate for the NewSouth expansion, and her support has been key for NewSouth Window in Hillsborough County. Murman states, “We are proud to be celebrating the expansion of NewSouth Windows, which is a testament to our strong manufacturing sector and workforce in Hillsborough County.”

Howard Bayless and Austin Jones of Marcobay Construction hosted the event as construction briefly halted on the site. Marcobay is the builder and developer of the 73 acre Crossroads Commerce Center in Tampa. NewSouth is planning on moving into the new facility in January of 2018.

 

 

Commissioner Murman quoted in this Tampa Bay Times article on Children’s Museum:

 

Navy vet, 83, fashions cheap solution to save children’s museum exhibit

Friday, April 21, 2017 3:27pm

TAMPA — KidsPort was in bad shape.

The popular Glazer Children’s Museum exhibit was about to be closed two to three months for a repair job estimated at $100,000 or more — a lot of money for a nonprofit with an annual budget of $2.8 million.

Some 60,000 visitors would miss a chance to frolic in the waters of the kiddy-style Port Tampa Bay mockup.

Then along came Bob Stanley, an 83-year-old Navy veteran who served as a welder during the Korean War.

Stanley would save the day.

  • • •

KidsPort, visited by 1.4 million people during the museum’s six years in operation, is all about water.

Some 1,800 gallons of it course through a 3,500-square-foot elevated pool, complete with toy boats, sea life, bridges and other fun features.

Kids delight in splashing around in it. But with all that commotion, water leaked out and ran down to the supports — 165 square metal tubes held up by rods made of ferrous metal, prone to rust.

And rust they did, forcing the museum to contemplate repairs it didn’t want to make in an exhibit scheduled for replacement in another two years anyway.

  • ••

For the past six years, three days a week, Stanley has driven 28 miles from his home in Gulfport to arrive by 4 a.m. outside the berth of the SS American Victory Ship Mariners Museum on Channelside Drive. He walks up into a space formerly called “Cargo Hold 4,” turns on the lights, brews the coffee and dons his welder’s mask.

The mask is adorned with the image of a flaming skull, chains in its mouth.

“Not my style,” Stanley said with a gruff laugh. “But it was cheap. And it works. So I bought it.”

That’s Stanley’s outlook on life in a nutshell, shaped by an upbringing in Toledo, Ohio, and honed by five years in the Navy followed by a stint with the Piledrivers union, welding all manner of things.

This outlook is how he saved the day.

  • ••

The Glazer Children’s Museum is near and dear to the hearts of the Propeller Club — a group created to boost Port Tampa Bay.

“We were having problems with leaks and rusting and mildew and different things and we were going to have to take the whole exhibit out,” said club member Sandra Murman, a Hillsborough County commissioner. “And this wonderful man found this very simple fix for a very small amount of money.”

  • ••

After Stanley showed up at the SS American Victory, Cargo Hold 4 got a new name — Stanleyville. He has filled the once-empty space with tools and equipment from his personal collection, like a drill press, band saw, belt sander, pipe bender and hydraulic press.

During a visit with his son Ryan in 2011, he was asked if he’d like to help fix up the American Victory — a restored cargo ship that saw action in World War II, Korea and Vietnam, and is similar to a ship Stanley served aboard.

“All they had was this little bitty welding table set up,” he recalled.

Stanley jumped at the chance to help and now dedicates hours of his time to the task.

Said Tom Procopio, the ship’s operations manager: “This guy is amazing.”

  • ••

When he first heard about the plight of the children’s museum, Bill Kuzmic, president of the SS American Victory museum and a member of the Propeller Club, offered help from seasoned volunteers like Stanley.

So a few months ago, Stanley visited the children’s museum. He put on his knee pads, spent half an hour checking out the exhibit, went to lunch at Wendy’s, then returned to Stanleyville.

He grabbed some tubing and other scraps around the shop, and in less than an hour, fashioned a solution — an adjustable stainless steel device that would fit into the KidsPort footings and replace the rusting stands. The replacements would not rust.

The museum provided a welder and an argon tank to cut the stainless steel to Stanley’s specifications, shelling out just $3,000.

Then Stanley went to work, welding together all the pieces. Each morning, after making the coffee back in his shop, he would fashion more assemblies.

“They needed 165,” he said, pointing to boxes full of the new supports. “I got them all made.”

  • ••

The KidsPort repair was a win-win for Stanley. He loves working with metal and he loves helping kids.

“I’m glad we could save it and keep it going,” he said. “I’m just glad I was able to help out. We have to do everything we can for the kids nowadays.”

KidsPort never posed a safety threat, said officials at the children’s museum, but now it can stay open as long as they had planned.

“KidsPort is a well-loved exhibit,” said museum president and chief executive Jennifer Stancil, “so we are thrilled with the out-of-the-box thinking that will increase its longevity.”

 

Commissioner Murman quoted in this Tampa Bay Times article on transit study:

 

Long-awaited Tampa Bay transit study identifies five corridors for future transportation systems

 

By Caitlin Johnston, Times staff writer

Published: April 22, 2017

 

The firm assembling a highly anticipated study has identified five potential routes for a future transit system in Tampa Bay.

This is the first big update in the regional premium transit feasibility plan, a cumbersome term for a process that will identify whether rail, express bus or other types of transit will best serve the region.

A team from Jacobs Engineering expects to narrow that list and recommend three specific projects — including the exact routes and the type of transit that will operate on them — by November, said Jacobs executive Scott Pringle.

Politicians and transit advocates alike have placed a lot of weight on this 2½-year study, which the Florida Department of Transportation paid $1.5 million for and the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority is overseeing. They hope it can provide some sort of blueprint for one day solving the bay area’s transportation woes.

“I am depending on this study a lot to be a real, unbiased analysis of what this region needs to solve its transportation challenges,” said Tampa City Council member Harry Cohen. “My hope is that they’re evaluating every conceivable option.”

Politicians, business leaders and residents have discussed building transit options for decades, but have failed to garner enough support or political will to fund or build most of them.

The five corridors Jacobs selected are a mix of routes between Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco counties, connecting the area’s densest regions and busiest road corridors:

  • West Shore to Brandon through downtown Tampa
  • Downtown Tampa to the University of South Florida
  • Wesley Chapel to USF, then to Tampa and St. Petersburg
  • Clearwater to the St. Petersburg Gateway area to downtown
  • South Tampa to downtown Tampa.

The potential routes were evaluated based on how many popular destinations and activity centers they served, along with the number of jobs, amenities and population per mile. The next step is to evaluate what type of transit would operate best in each area. Those modes could include a streetcar, express bus, light rail or other options.

All these routes have already been evaluated by several of the nearly 60 different transportation studies that have been conducted over the past three decades in Tampa Bay. The goal of this study is to draw on those previous findings, identify the best projects, put together an actual plan and draft state and federal grant applications to help fund them.

“We’re not trying to do just another study,” Pringle said. “We’re trying to pull together a plan from all those studies. … Let’s build on those lessons learned and move this thing forward.”

The initiative, though originally called the premium transit study when the DOT first announced it in late 2015, has since been rebranded as a feasibility plan to highlight the fact that it will produce an actual proposal for local leaders to act on.

Jacobs will ultimately identify three specific projects to build in Tampa Bay, Pringle said, and rank them in the order they should be built. Once the projects are selected, the next phases of the study will decide how to pay for them and who will maintain and operate them.

Hillsborough County Commissioner and HART board member Sandy Murman was disappointed that none of the corridors connect to South Hillsborough, the district she represents. She also complained that the firm was using out-of-date population numbers. She encouraged them to look at parts of the region, such as her district, that are experiencing more growth.

“There’s a balancing act between the suburban area versus the urban area,” Murman said. “I didn’t see a lot out in the unincorporated areas.”

Her concerns highlight one of the biggest obstacles facing transit in Tampa Bay: how to build support for a project that may not serve everybody. Ultimately, the plan is to build an expansive, integrated system with main corridors connected to other parts of the region by buses, circulators and other transit options. But creating an entire network takes time and money, and it can’t all be built at once.

“To develop a transit system for a very sprawled-out community like we have is going to be very, very difficult,” Murman said. “We have to work with HART to build connections to those main routes and make sure the taxpayers know we’re not just going to do one area.”

Murman, however, voted against the most recent attempt to raise money for transit. The Hillsborough County Commission decided in April 2016 not to put a 30-year, half-cent sales tax referendum to fund transportation on the November ballot.

Hillsborough has since found more than $800 million in the county budget to spend on road projects. But by its own estimates, the county has more than $8 billion worth of transportation needs in the coming decade.

Previous attempts to pass a sales tax for transportation failed in Hillsborough in 2010 and in Pinellas in 2014, largely because of a lack of support from voters outside the downtown areas. Many suburban residents see transit as something that benefits only the urban cores, and thus don’t want to pay for something they won’t use.

Trying to plan a regional system further complicates this. There is no regional transit agency that would oversee such a project. An attempt by state Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, to create such an agency recently died in the Florida Senate.

There’s also the issue of regional competition: If a corridor based largely in one county is chosen as the first project, leaders and citizens in other counties might feel slighted or wonder why they should support it.

“That’s a very, very, very hard thing for elected officials to do,” Cohen said. “But so far, I do think people understand that there are going to have to be concessions all over the place for a truly regional approach to work.”

 

Commissioner Murman quoted in this SPB article on the Ferry project:

 

Hillsborough Commission expresses caution about fully investing in Cross-Bay Ferry for second year

MITCH PERRY

April 19, 2017

 

Hillsborough County Commissioners sounded impressed by the relative success of the Cross-Bay Ferry pilot project between Tampa and St. Petersburg that concludes at the end of this month, but whether they are prepared to spend another $350,000 to fund a repeat performance later this year remains uncertain.

After hearing a presentation from St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, whose leadership led to the project happening, the board passed a motion to have County Administrator Mike Merrill review whether the board can find the funds to subsidize its portion of the four-government pilot project later this year.

 

Curbing his enthusiasm somewhat, Kriseman began his address to the Board by acknowledging that the ferry is hardly the solution to the Tampa Bay area’s vexing transportation issues. “It is simply an additional tool in our toolbox that works toward those solutions that I think all of us seek and know that we’ve got those challenges that we’ve got to address if we’re going to grow out counties and our region,” he said.

The St. Petersburg mayor, who is running for re-election this year, unveiled a PowerPoint presentation filled with statistics to measure who has actually taken the ferry over the past five-and-a-half months. At the end of March, more than 31,000 people had ridden on the ferry, with organizers hoping the total number could hit 40,000 before it ends in 12 days.

Kriseman said that expectations were low for people to commute to work on the ferry, especially with the project using only one boat. During weekdays the service offers only two full round trips, with three on the weekends.

The visit to the Hillsborough Commissioners was the mayor’s second appearance before one of the four local governments who contributed the $350,000 to get the project with HMS Global Maritime rolling last fall. He will visit the Tampa City Council next week.

The survey shows that 90 percent of passengers were Tampa Bay residents, but Board Chairman Stacy White said he wanted those numbers broken down further by zip code, questioning how many people living in the outlying parts of both counties were using the service, vs. those living in Tampa and St. Petersburg.

 

Nearly everyone – 95 percent – said they enjoyed the experience.

The ferry has had a farebox recovery rate of 35 percent. That’s higher, Kriseman noted, than the standard farebox recovery for bus systems, which is around 20 percent.  (Farebox recovery is the proportion of the amount of revenue generated through fares by its paying customers as a fraction of the cost of its total operating expenses).

 

One of the biggest disappointments was that the ferry was inoperable during high profile events like Gasparilla and the Saturday before the national college football playoff game. Kriseman said that the lack of a permanent docking station was the culprit. The ferry has been taking off the Vinoy Basin in St. Petersburg, and dropping off passengers next to the Tampa Convention Center.

Commissioner Les Miller noted that the passenger loads were less than filled to capacity in the opening weeks of the ferry service, but grew noticeably in recent months. What changed, he asked Kriseman.

 

The mayor acknowledged that the reduction of the fare had a considerable influence on ridership, dropping one-way tickets from $10 to $5 on weekdays, but he said he thought the number one factor was the awareness and word of mouth factor.

The local governments will not get their $350,000 back, but they will collect some funds to reduce the subsidy when it ends later this month. As of the end of March, more than $111,000 was scheduled to be returned to Tampa, St. Pete, Hillsborough and Pinellas Counties, with the mayor predicting they will receive a check back for approximately $30,000. “It rarely pays for itself,” he said of transportation outlays, a comment frequently invoked by local officials advocating for light-rail in recent years.

An optimistic Kriseman said in addition to ferry service in Hillsborough County and from downtown Tampa to downtown St. Petersburg, he also mused about ferries running from St. Pete to the Westshore area of Tampa. “Not only giving people the opportunity to go to work in Westshore, but also to take a shuttle to Tampa International Airport and not have to rent a car.”

“This was one of the best reports that have come back to us that we’ve made,” enthused Commissioner Sandy Murman after Kriseman’s presentation Murman reminded the public that the board did approve a proposal two weeks ago to move forward on a much delayed public-private partnership ferry plan to take passengers from South County to MacDill Air Force Base, then to St. Petersburg.

 

“I don’t know if we can go up to $350,000 the next round,” she admitted about a similar Tampa-St. Pete Cross-Bay Ferry project for 2017-2018. “I think we’re building a very solid case for continuing this.”

“The wife and daughter and I enjoy our moments crossing the bay on the ferry, ” said Commissioner Victor Crist. ” They’re memorable moments.”

 

Merrill said that “there are enormous needs and enormous opportunities,” regarding the upcoming budget discussions, but said that the Cross-Bay Ferry project would fit into the “return on investment category” in the budget, where it could hopefully recoup all of their investment next year.

“It’s probably a little bit early to judge how this would fit with all the others (budgetary issues) because we haven’t really finalized all of the work that we plan to bring back on May 9th,” Merrill said, adding that his staff will seriously look at the funding request.

 

Commissioner Murman quoted in this FOX13 News article on ferry service:

Hillsborough commissioner pushes for permanent ferry service

 

By: Haley Hinds, FOX 13 News

 

POSTED:APR 05 2017 10:13PM EDT

UPDATED:APR 05 2017 11:23PM EDT

 

 

TAMPA (FOX 13) – Joan Routt and Nancy Height were all smiles as the Cross-Bay Ferry docked in Tampa Wednesday afternoon.

“Oh, I enjoyed it. I love boating,” said Routt. “It was my first trip today.”

“We saw dolphins out there today, too!” exclaimed Height. “It went fast. It was really rough out there today and we really didn’t feel that much of the waves.”

We are now in the final stretch of the six-month Cross-Bay Ferry pilot project. April 30 will be its final run. Currently, the Cross-Bay Ferry only stops near the Tampa Convention Center and in downtown St. Pete.

Between November and April, the ferry carried more than 31,000 passengers. According to Cross-Bay Ferry officials, more than 90 percent of riders were residents, not tourists.

With growing ridership, Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan is proposing a more permanent ferry system with HMS Ferries/South Swell. The proposal would connect several more locations in Tampa Bay.

“From south shore to MacDill, from Tampa to St. Pete,” Hagan explained. “We would pay a fee up front and lock in a long-term operational and capital agreement for 15-20 years that again places all the costs and all of the risks and burden on the private sector and protects the taxpayers.”

The plan would also include construction of multiple marinas that would support the ferries and also be open for public use. The plan got plenty of support from commissioners at Wednesday’s meeting.

“It could be a very lucrative venture where we could very easily double or triple our investment,” said Commissioner Victor Crist.

“It does create jobs. Very important. Good for the environment. Tourism,” added Commissioner Sandy Murman. “There is a very strong business case to move forward with the ferry project.”

Despite all the agreement, there was one area of disagreement: how to pay for it. Hagan initially proposed using the county’s $22 million dollar BP oil spill settlement. Commissioner Les Miller, Jr. felt that money should be focused on environment issues.

“I don’t think that’s the proper way to go,” said Commissioner Les Miller, Jr. “Those dollars came to us because of the destruction that was done on the environment. Our parks people utilize constantly, that’s what that money should be used for.”

Those who support the plan argue the environment does play a role. “It gets cars off of the road and it gets emissions out of our air and the possibilities of a marina could be economic as well,” said Crist.

The commission agreed that if the project moves forward, it would not just utilize BP money, but federal funds as well.

From here, Hagan said a consultant will review the feasibility of building marinas and where potential locations will be. Meanwhile, county staff members will negotiate with HMS in hopes of reaching a long-term agreement to consider.

 

Commissioner Murman quoted in this Tampa Bay Times article on ferry service:

 

Hillsborough sets aside $22 million BP settlement for permanent ferry service

 

By Steve Contorno, Times Staff Writer

Published: April 5, 2017

 

TAMPA — In the waning days of the Cross-Bay Ferry pilot program, Hillsborough County laid the groundwork Wednesday to make water transportation a permanent fixture in the Tampa Bay region.

Commissioners voted to keep in reserve $22 million from the BP oil spill settlement with the hope it could one day go toward expanded ferry service, including a route between the downtowns of Tampa and St. Petersburg.

However, commissioners also said getting there will require re-imagining a project that has stalled for years due to federal red tape, environmental concerns and lack of funding.

“For this project to materialize, to be successful, it must involve a public-private partnership,” County Commissioner Ken Hagan said. “The challenge in my mind is determining the best model.”

For several years, Hillsborough County has had a standing, short-term agreement with two companies, HMS Ferries and South Swell, to someday open a commuter ferry line between south county and MacDill Air Force Base. Under that pact, the county would pay for the capital costs, and the companies would cover operating expenses.

On Wednesday, commissioners asked staffers to renegotiate that arrangement into a long-term deal of up to 20 years. In a new deal, the county also would like to see HMS Ferries and South Swell take on all the risk — and potential financial reward — of the entire project. In return, the county would write the companies a check, though it’s not clear for how much. The project was estimated to cost the county $25 million to $30 million.

“This would mean likely paying more up front but in doing so we can achieve a long-term agreement for 15 or 20 years,” Hagan said, “and we will not be responsible for all of the other issues associated with this project.”

Additionally, commissioners want a new deal to guarantee service from south county to Tampa as well as a route between the downtowns of Tampa and St. Petersburg. The current agreement says market demand would dictate whether those routes are offered. Many area leaders and ferry advocates believe that demand was demonstrated by the six-month ferry pilot program linking downtown St. Petersburg to downtown Tampa that is scheduled to end April 30.

The Cross-Bay Ferry sold nearly 8,000 tickets in March, according to numbers released Wednesday, bringing total ridership to 31,362 since the service launched in October.

“It is amazing,” Commissioner Sandy Murman said. “The ferry, I think, has passed the test. We know there is strong demand for water transit.”

Still, much remains up in the air. The county has set aside $750,000 for a study of the project that will, among other things, determine a viable launch site in south county. The Schultz Preserve is one potential location.

Tampa and St. Petersburg would have to agree to the terms of any deal that services their cities, and they would also likely have to contribute to the project. Hillsborough, Pinellas County, St. Petersburg and Tampa each put in $750,000 to the pilot program but it’s not clear that kind of rare regional cooperation could be replicated to support a more ambitious expansion.

Even if they received the go-ahead tomorrow, it will take three years before the boats are operating full time, said Ed Turanchik, who represents the two private companies.

There’s not yet full support for the ferry in Hillsborough, either. Commissioner Les Miller, a persistent skeptic of the project, said the BP money was given to Hillsborough out of an environmental disaster and a ferry doesn’t fit the spirit of the award.

“The vast majority,” Miller said, “should go into our conservation and environmental lands.”

But he may be outnumbered.

“I consider it a transformative project,” Commissioner Pat Kemp said, “and well worthy of anything we could put forward in terms of our BP oil resources.”

 

Commissioner Murman quoted in this Tampa Bay Times article on puppy sales ban:

 

Ban on puppy sales moves forward in Hillsborough County

 

By Steve Contorno, Times Staff Writer

Published: April 5, 2017

 

TAMPA — Looking to curb abusive puppy mills, Hillsborough County commissioners moved ahead Wednesday with a proposal to ban the commercial sale of cats and dogs.

Under the proposed ordinance, new pet stores would be able to sell only dogs or cats purchased from local animal rescues. They would be barred from getting their supply of animals from large-scale breeders.

Existing pet stores, however, would still be able to operate here unrestrained, a concession commissioners made after hearing complaints from the owners and employees of a Hillsborough puppy store.

Commissioner Ken Hagan, who brought forward the proposed ban, said many breeders incorporate abusive practices and house animals in inhumane conditions. Those abuses aren’t always readily apparent when people visit pet stores with cute puppies in the window.

Most of the industry’s suppliers aren’t in Florida, so shutting down commercial sales is the only way to guarantee dogs and cats aren’t coming from these breeders, he said.

“Eliminating the sales outlet is essential to addressing this problem,” Hagan said. “It doesn’t make sense to import animals when we already have thousands of unwanted animals.”

According to the county attorney’s office, 48 other Florida jurisdictions have passed similar restrictions.

The proposed regulations drew an outcry from owners and employees of All About Puppies, which operates two of the three existing commercial pet stores in Hillsborough County, one in Carrollwood and the other in Brandon. The other Hillsborough store is Puppies Tampa on N Dale Mabry Highway.

Supporters of All About Puppies flooded the public comment period of Wednesday’s meeting, wearing baby blue T-shirts with the slogan “My puppy my choice.”

“This ordinance as written 100 percent force-closes my business in 90 days,” store owner William Roland said.

Advocates of the new rule noted stores could still sell rescue dogs and cats. But All About Puppies’ argument gained traction with several commissioners, who said they didn’t want to see county regulation shutter a business.

“I do not want to put anybody out of business today. That’s wrong,” Commissioner Sandy Murman said. “America was founded on people having the right to open a business, keep a business and operate it without fear of government regulation.”

Ultimately, commissioners voted to grandfather in the three existing pet stores and will create an incentive program that encourages them to get their dogs and cats from the county’s Pet Resource Center and other local shelters.

The ordinance does not affect large pet stores like PetSmart because they already utilize rescued dogs and cats exclusively, Hagan said.

A public hearing and final vote on the ordinance is expected next month.

Commissioners also asked county staffers to prepare regulations that crack down on suppliers over concerns that stopping pet sales won’t be enough to prevent abusive breeders.

“It’s feeding the wrong end of the dog,” Commissioner Victor Crist said, “because what we’re going to end up doing is something that does nothing to stop the puppy mills.”

 

Commissioner Murman quoted in this SPB article on the ferry project:

 

Hillsborough moves forward on ferry project that may use BP settlement funds

MITCH PERRY

15 hours ago

 

While the Cross-Bay Ferry reportedly carries nearly 8,000 passengers in March as the six-month pilot project ends later this month, Hillsborough County Commissioners approved a proposal Wednesday to move ahead on a public-private partnership plan to take passengers from South County to MacDill Air Force Base, then to St. Petersburg.

The plan would include using the $22 million settlement money the county received from the BP oil spill while building a marina that could be used to service the ferry in southeastern Hillsborough County.

Commissioner Ken Hagan said he’s wanted to present the plan since the country received the $22.8 million in BP funds in the summer of 2015.

 

“I want to stress that this agenda item does not lock us into a marina or a ferry agreement,” he told his colleagues. “It is simply considering a different model or approach in an attempt to achieve a long-term operating and capital agreement.”

The plan would also include hiring a consultant who works on ferry projects to study where the public marina should be located.

It’s been nearly four years since attorney and public transportation advocate Ed Turanchik held a news conference with officials from Seattle-based HMS Ferries and South Swell Development Group to discuss a public-private partnership that would initiate Tampa Bay’s first commuter, recreational and tourist passenger ferry service.

 

The original idea came from county studies showing that thousands of commuters who live in South Hillsborough County and drive to MacDill Air Force Base on a daily basis would take a ferry service if it were an option.

Initial costs for the project were estimated between $11.5-$16 million, with more recent projections doubling that amount. In 2014, Tampa U.S. Representative Kathy Castor procured a $4.8 million Federal Transit Administration grant, bringing momentum to the plan.

 

But the project bogged down when Turanchik’s originally proposed site for the terminal in Southeastern Hillsborough County – the Fred and Idah Schultz Preserve just north of Apollo Beach – drew opposition from some environmental groups.

County Administrator Mike Merrill said that the original interim agreement with HMS & South Swell “was created with a different approach,” but said that it was time now to look at a different model “for a lot of reasons.”

The proposals (the board separated the vote into three separate motions) were all approved unanimously, 6-0 (Commissioner Al Higginbotham was absent).

 

“We’re getting to a point where we can make hard and fast decisions,” said Commissioner Sandy Murman, who has been a strong advocate for the ferry going back to 2013.  She also extolled the success of the Cross-Bay Ferry, which sold a record 7,990 tickets in March, a 31-percent over February, which was the previous high water mark since the six-month pilot project running from Tampa to St. Petersburg began in November.

 

Commissioner Victor Crist said he and his constituents in Northern Hillsborough County like the idea of a municipal marina. “It could be a very lucrative venture where we could very easily double or triple our investment,” he said.

 

The board also approved an amendment from Commission Chair Stacy White to direct staff to incorporate federal funds in the funding mechanism.

 

Commissioners had already said they were willing to drop the $4.8 million FTA grant because of the excessive bureaucracy required to accept those funds, causing a delay in the project.

Murman said it was worth the request because she believes the Trump administration is going to introduce a federal infrastructure plan “without strings.”

“If he does that and this does qualify, we may want to go that route,” she said, admitting that she didn’t know for certain.

 

Commissioner Murman mentioned in this SPB article on lobbying ordinance:

 

Hillsborough Commissioners add themselves to new lobbying ordinance

MITCH PERRY

19 hours ago

 

Hillsborough County Commissioners added themselves to a previously drafted amendment to an ordinance that would prohibit registered lobbyists from communicating electronically during commission meetings.

The proposal before the board would have only penalized lobbyists on Wednesday, prompting Commission Chair Les Miller to say that it was insufficient, and that “we as the County Commission should also adhere to the lobbying ordinance.”

 

Miller offered two new amendments that the board ultimately approved. One added “commissioners” to the provision that in the case that an electronic communication sent by a lobbyist during a meeting “could not be avoided,” that lobbyist must immediately notify the lobbyist registration manager. Now a commissioner has to notify that system as well. It passed 5-2, with Victor Crist and Ken Hagan opposing.

 

The second amendment would fine commissioners for violating the ordinance. The original draft only included lobbyists. The first fine would be $250, the second offense $500, and a third offense would require the lobbyist registration manager to inform the Florida Ethics Commission. The measure passed 5-2, with Hagan and Stacy White opposing.

 

“Candidly, I think it’s a joke,” cracked Hagan about the proposals. “It’s symbolic, repetitive, impotent and has no teeth.”

In December, Commissioners approved a motion offered by Commissioner Sandy Murman directing county attorneys to draft a proposal that would ban them from receiving text messages from a lobbyist during a board meeting, a variation of new lobbying rules promulgated in Tallahassee by House Speaker Richard Corcoran.

 

In January 2016, the BOCC passed an ordinance requiring all lobbyists to register by name, who they met with, what they talked about and who they represented when meeting with board members. The ordinance was prompted by the controversy surrounding how transportation engineer Parsons Brinckerhoff became the contractor for the Go Hillsborough transportation effort — and then hiring Beth Leytham as a subcontractor.

 

Leytham never registered as a lobbyist with the county when she communicated with commissioners via text message and/or email during that process.

 
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