CareerSource Pinellas calls emergency meeting to discuss future of leader Ed Peachey

Zachary T. SampsonTimes staff writer


Published: January 30, 2018

Updated: January 30, 2018 at 11:27 AM


Board members of CareerSource Pinellas have called an emergency meeting for Wednesday to discuss the future of leader Ed Peachey.

Peachey, the CEO and president of Career Source Pinellas and CareerSource Tampa Bay, has been under the microscope since state leaders called for investigations into whether the agencies inflated job placement numbers they report to the state.

Last week, Gov. Rick Scott called for the boards of directors at both agencies to convene emergency meetings and “consider appropriate disciplinary and administrative action” against CareerSource leadership.

The Pinellas County Commission had already called a meeting for 1 p.m. today to discuss how it wants to move forward. County Attorney Jewel White is expected to tell the county commissioners, who must approve all of CareerSource board members, what other powers they can exercise over the jobs center.

The Hillsborough County Commission plans to discuss CareerSource on Thursday, with a report from the county attorney, said Commission Chair Sandy Murman, who is also on the board for CareerSource Tampa Bay. She said the executive committee for the Hillsborough job placement center was still trying late Monday to schedule a meeting, potentially this week.

Additionally, House Speaker Richard Corcoran has ordered a House committee to investigate the same issues. U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, D-St. Petersburg, called for the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, to investigate because Florida received $286 million in federal workforce funds to operate the agencies in fiscal year 2017.






Commissioner Murman quoted in this Observer News article on homeless in South County:


Plight of the homeless in Southern Hillsborough County


Meals of Hope is an annual project by the Sun City Center Rotary Club with hundreds of volunteers to package macaroni and cheese meals that are delivered monthly to five local food pantries.


By Tom Hinkebein Contributed Op-Ed

Remember sleeping under the stars in the humid night air? It was fun and exciting to go on a camping excursion for a week or even just a weekend. Snuggling in your sleeping bag. Sleeping in a tent. Cooking over a campfire. Swimming and even bathing in the river or a stream. Well, now imagine living in the great outdoors year round, not by choice, but by need due to misfortune or circumstances.

That is the plight of the large homeless population of Southern Hillsborough County. Despite the Point in Time homeless count, conducted by the Tampa Hillsborough Homeless Initiative, which states that the county homeless population has declined over the last 12 months, we still have a large number of homeless persons in our area. Many are homeless due to loss of job, poor life choices, or unforeseen circumstances. Struggling to stay warm during the colder months, trying to keep cool when the temperature rises, keeping dry during thunderstorms or seasonal rains, or weathering hurricane-like winds is an everyday challenge.

Some are lucky enough to have a tent, although it may leak, to provide minimal shelter to protect themselves from the elements. Others seek shelter under a bridge, a tree or bush, cardboard or anything available. Many of the homeless take refuge in local wooded areas; however, they are being moved out of these areas due to the rapid growth of new residential developments in this part of the county.

The homeless are forced to keep moving as they are reported by local residents and businesses and then informed by local law enforcement that they may not camp or congregate in certain areas. They are not allowed to linger in any one area, day or night, within a community or they may face a citation for loitering. But with no local shelters, where are they to go?

With two local food pantries in Ruskin and three food pantries in the Wimauma area, the homeless are able to obtain food on certain days throughout the week. Hot meals are also available on Monday evenings in Commongood Park in Ruskin and lunch on Wednesdays at St. Andrew Presbyterian Church in Sun City Center. At least one or two of the food pantries offer personal care items, such as soap, shampoo, deodorant, toothbrushes and toothpaste, as well as other necessities, including insect repellent. From time to time a few clothing items and shoes are available to those in dire need. This is accessible provided the homeless are able to get to one of these facilities.

But what about other important needs…shelters, transportation, medical, dental, barber services? What about hot showers? One of the most asked questions from the homeless is “Where can I get a shower?” Most of us take that privilege for granted, but being clean gives a person a sense of dignity, something the homeless long for as well.  Lack of bathing sets the homeless apart and keeps them apart from the rest of society, as well as from finding employment. Currently, the only local shower facility is at E.G. Simmons Park in Ruskin at a cost of $2 per person to enter the park. Since it is located more than 3 miles from U.S. 41, walking or riding a bike back from the park in the Florida heat defeats the purpose of the shower. The only other options are bathing in a river or the bay, or sneaking a “shower” from someone’s garden hose.

In addition to the aforementioned desire, the thing the homeless need most is a way or means out of their situation. This can be accomplished through educational services…assistance in getting a GED, job training, resume assistance and technical help. Social Service assistance in acquiring an I.D. or driver’s license, a social security card, or SSI and Social Security benefits is also many times a struggle.

Another big need is pro-bono legal services to assist in outstanding warrants against a person or to assist in possibly getting a past felony expunged from the person’s record in order to find employment. Most businesses will not hire someone with a past felony on their record, even if it is 10 to 20 years in the past. In addition, there is a need for services to assist homeless veterans. These men and women bravely served our country and now are in need of our support. However, no programs as these exist in Southern Hillsborough County.

As far as shelters go, the closest one to this area is in Tampa. The downside is, even if our area homeless are able to find a way to Tampa, the beds are limited and are on a first-come basis. If a person is fortunate to get a bed, it may only be short term and they are then back on the street. Most of the homeless prefer to not leave this area. This is familiar ground — their “home,” and they feel “safe” in this area.

One shelter in Pinellas County called Pinellas Hope is a temporary shelter designed to get the homeless off the streets. The residents are assisted with educational services to train a person in job skills, personal finance, independent living training, along with many other services to help prevent a person from returning to the streets. This is the type of shelter and assistance programs needed in Southern Hillsborough County. Currently, none of the homeless services for Hillsborough County extend south of the Alafia River.

We in Hillsborough County are very fortunate, however, as we have a very sincere and trustworthy advocate assigned to work with the homeless. This is HCSO Community Resource Deputy Luke Hussey. Hussey works to curtail any illegal activities, but also assists in seeking services for homeless persons. He has literally gone into the woods to talk with homeless individuals, taken them food and clothing, and has attempted to find them employment. He is first and foremost an officer of the law, but he is indeed a friend to the homeless and advocate for their needs.

As with anything, you will find a certain percentage of the homeless population who do not want to be helped, prefer to remain off the grid and just want to be left alone. This is particularly true for some of the homeless veterans. Their military training taught them to be tough and self-reliant. This pride prevents them from admitting they need help or from accepting assistance.

Communities in South Hillsborough County need to come together and pull resources to get shelter and much needed services for our homeless neighbors. As the expression says, “Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day; teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime.”

Sandra Murman, county commissioner, District 1 had this to say in regards of working to meet the needs of the homeless:

“Since 2011, I have either initiated, led, or participated in numerous projects, public, private or both, to address chronic homelessness in Hillsborough County, and I remain committed to this cause. We have identified an area of great need in South County of which we must now turn our focus.

“It is up to the entire community in South County to work together to end homelessness. The county knows where homeless camps are and areas where homeless regularly stop.  The challenges we face are that we are still coming out of one of the worst economic downturns which impacted South County more than any other area of Hillsborough County, and with more residents at risk of homelessness because of low income and underemployment, it is a pressing community need that requires our urgent attention to provide food and shelter. Our county team will be putting together an action plan that we will bring back to the community for further discussion. For the first time in decades, our city, our county, the private sector, and stakeholders are tearing down walls and working together to solve homelessness ­— and to do it right, we need to take it one homeless person and one housing unit at a time.”

For more information on assisting the homeless or supporting shelter and needed programs in this area, you can contact any of the local food pantries, Sandra Murman, county commissioner, District 1, (813-272-5470); Tampa Hillsborough Homeless Initiative (813-274-6998); or the Department of Homeless Services (813-272-1184).

A famous quote attributed to John Bradford (circa 1510-1555) renders so very true in the case of homelessness: “There but for the grace of God, go I.”

Tom Hinkebein, a resident of Sun City Center, is the president of the Sun City Center Men’s Chorus, a volunteer with the Rotary Club of Sun City Center on the annual Meals of Hope Project and a volunteer at the St. Anne Food Pantry in Ruskin.


Commissioner Murman quoted in this Tampa Bay Times article on growth:


Experts chart path for Hillsborough to grow smarter before sprawl takes over

Steve Contorno


Published: December 15, 2017

Updated: December 15, 2017 at 09:05 PM


TAMPA — Nearly 600,000 more people will live in Hillsborough County by 2040, and if elected officials and county planners don’t take bold steps now, the population boom will turn the county into the soulless sprawl of Anywhere, U.S.A.

That’s the message county leaders heard Friday from a panel of urban planning experts who recently studied Hillsborough’s population trends and growth blueprints.

At the county’s request, the Urban Land Institute, an organization focused on responsible growth, sent a team of advisers to Hillsborough this past week to offer solutions to the region’s persistent growth issues. As part of their research, they interviewed 95 people, from elected officials to business and environmental leaders, and reviewed the county’s land policies.

The advisers focused on a stretch along the Interstate 4 corridor between east Tampa and Plant City as a prime location to implement smarter growth policies.

With both Tampa and Orlando booming, it’s just a matter of time before developers start putting bulldozers into the ground on the route connecting the two areas. If the county acts now, it can guide the construction to prevent further stresses on the region’s roads and promote dense, community-centric building, the institute’s panelists said.

On its current trajectory, Hillsborough and Tampa make up one of the least dense regions in the country when measured against competing cities like Charlotte, N.C., and Austin, Texas.

“The county really needs to see this as an inflection point,” said Alan Razak, a Philadelphia-based real estate developer and consultant and one of the institute’s advisers. “This isn’t a choice. Change is going to happen. It’s how you manage that change.”

The group of advisers suggested the county plan to develop three communities along the interstate. They would be dense (condominiums and apartments, no single-family houses) and walkable (no bigger than a mile radius). They would have space for commercial storefronts and offices, but no industrial facilities. They would have their own individual characteristics that give residents and workers a sense of place.

Think Dunedin, not Carrollwood.

These three small communities would support more than 55,000 jobs and 33,000 people.

The advisers offered suggestions on how to make it happen:

  • Hold the Urban Service Area — where government functions such as roads and utilities are concentrated and development is encouraged — at its existing boundary for five to eight years.
  • During that time, plan for the future and how leaders want the communities to look.
  • When the time is right, extend the urban service boundary strategically. Incentivize growth that matches the plan, like redevelopment, and discourage construction that further stresses existing road, stormwater, fire and school systems.
  • Plan for transit expansion as communities become more dense.
  • Require growth to pay for itself with fees that factor in the cost of new construction on county resources and infrastructure systems.

“You will be under enormous pressure over the next 25 years to expand the (urban service) boundary. Don’t do it,” Razak said. “You have a precious resource here that you don’t want to squander because if you lose it, you’re gone.”

The presentation won praise from commissioners across the political spectrum.

Commissioner Pat Kemp, a Democrat, called it a “watershed for us.” Republican Commissioner Victor Crist said he was skeptical of the exercise at first but thought the results were “well-balanced” and “realistic.”

The next step is action. In the past, county commissioners have been very good at collecting input but less so at executing it.

Commissioner Sandy Murman said it was on the board to make it happen.

“This is a long-term thing we have to commit ourselves to,” she said. “We’ve allowed sprawl without having those centers of influence.”





Commissioner Murman quoted in this Florida Politics article on Hurricane Irma evacuations and curfews:


Hillsborough Commissioners want Legislature to address who has curfew power


20 hours ago


Nearly three months after Hillsborough County Administrator Mike Merrill and Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn engaged in a verbal skirmish about who had the power to call for an emergency curfew in Tampa, County Commissioners would like local state legislators to weigh in.


The issue goes back to the days leading up the arrival of Hurricane Irma in the Tampa Bay area, which was predicted to bring major damage to the region.

On Sunday morning, Sept. 10, hours before Irma’s expected arrival, Buckhorn and Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan declared a curfew would begin in Tampa Sunday at 6 p.m., and would not be lifted until he and other city officials deemed it safe after the storm passed.


“If you are out on the streets after six o’clock, we are going to challenge you and find out what you’re doing out there,” said Dugan. “We are relying on the good people of Tampa to tell us what’s going on in their neighborhoods, and to point out who doesn’t belong in their neighborhoods.”


Five hours later, however, Merrill held his own news conference saying: “I have not called for a mandatory curfew. We urge residents to get to a safe place, to shelter in place.”


Buckhorn didn’t back down; a curfew was in place as Irma hit late Sunday night into Monday morning. After daybreak Monday, the city of Tampa said the curfew was no longer in effect.


At Wednesday’s Board of County Commission meeting, county attorney Chip Fletcher said that he had been in consultation with the city attorney’s office in Tampa regarding mandatory evacuations, another issue where there was a conflict between the city and county leading up to Irma’s arrival. He said issues were less clear when it came to the power of ordering curfews.


Commissioner Les Miller, who served in Tallahassee for more than a decade before coming on the board in 2010, said he remembered that the Legislature had enacted specific rules after a similar incident happened in Tampa in 2005. He said this was the time to go back to the Hillsborough County legislative delegation to review those statutes to make sure they’re complementing each other.


“We might not be the only county that’s having these issue,” Miller said. “We could be working out an agreement with all the mayors and the emergency management policy group, but who’s to say that two years from now, when there’s a new mayor, the same issue does not come about?”

The board then approved a motion proposed by Miller to have the board write a letter to the Hillsborough legislative delegation to review all statutes that deal with emergency management policies and operations dealing with issues like curfews.

Another conflicting issue that took place between the county and city occurred Friday, Sept. 8, when Buckhorn called for a mandatory evacuation in Tampa of residents of Zone A. At the time, Hillsborough County had only issued a voluntary evacuation for special-needs residents of that zone.

The announcement directed people to the county’s shelters. Unfortunately, Hillsborough hadn’t opened their general population shelters yet.

Fletcher said that it’s now “clear” that the county has the ultimate emergency management authority when it comes to ordering evacuations.

Commissioner Sandy Murman said that it was important to get this policy right, saying she was getting her hair done in South Tampa that Friday afternoon when she learned that the city had called for an evacuation, “and I knew full well that the shelters weren’t open.”


“That’s when confusion starts,” she said. “People need to know they have a place to go.”

The issue was brought up initially at Wednesday’s meeting by a member of the general public.

“I’m not pleased how that was communicated to the public,” said Gerald White. “We all need to be on the same page during a crisis.”


“It was a little embarrassing and very confusing what took place,” Commissioner Victor Crist acknowledged.


Commissioner Murman mentioned in this Florida Politics article on BOCC:


Hillsborough Commission Democrats question lack of diversity in 2 local organizations


19 hours ago


Hillsborough County demographics are changing more and more every year, but two prestigious boards in the region are represented almost exclusively by white men (or white-led) organizations.

Take the Tampa Bay Partnership.

CEO Rick Homans and Dave Sobush, the agency’s director of policy and research, came before the Hillsborough County Commission Wednesday to present some key findings of its recently published “Regional Competitiveness Report,” written by the Partnership in collaboration with United Way Suncoast, the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay, and other regional business and philanthropic partners.


Commissioner Les Miller joined some of his colleagues in praising the men for presenting an “excellent report,” but he also was taken aback by the lack of racial diversity on groups involved in producing it.


Reviewing a list of officials involved with the report, Miller noted only one black person was on the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay Board of Trustees, and just one black with the Tampa Bay Partnership Council of Governors, and none with the other groups associated with the report.

Homans noted that there was a literal price to serve on those boards – $50,000 for the Council of Governors and a $25,000 fee to be on the Leadership Council.

“Quite frankly, we are actively seeking a diverse representation on that board, and any help you can provide us in securing some of those folks would be much appreciated,” Homans said, adding that it was “critical” to reach out to all members of the community.

“I don’t know if the people that you have there can really articulate the issues we have in Hillsborough County,” Miller said, acknowledging the fiscal realities required to be on those boards.

Homans emphasized that the data in the report was a result of community organizations throughout the Bay area providing input.

Later during the meeting, Visit Tampa Bay CEO and President Santiago Corrada addressed the board, where he said that the county is enjoying another record-setting year for tourism.


He said one of the more surprising developments was how stellar September was for bed taxes in September, despite the perceived negative impact of Hurricane Irma. Bed taxes were up 30 percent that month, with the spike attributed in part by so many South Floridians attempting to escape the wrath of Hurricane Irma, believing the storm couldn’t change direction and hit the region.

That’s when the other Democrat on the seven-person board, Pat Kemp, asked Corrada about the fact that Visit Tampa Bay has 26 board members, but only two who are women. “I really think it needs to start reflecting our community,” she told Corrada.


“We’ve been focused on it,” Corrada replied. “That is one of the instances where we need to improve,” adding that those two will soon be departing, one because of retirement and the other is relocating.

Kemp and Commission Chair Sandy Murman said that they would make sure to get the word out to qualified females in the industry about that need.


Commissioner Miller did say that Visit Tampa Bay has a multicultural advisory board that helps bring in conferences and conventions tied explicitly to minorities.

U.S. Census Bureau information from earlier this year shows that 51.3 percent of Hillsborough’s 1.376 million residents are female. Twenty-eight percent are Hispanic; 18 percent are black.


Commissioner Murman mentioned in this Tampa Bay Times article on BOCC:


Hillsborough commissioners call out two major local business organizations for lack of diversity

Steve Contorno


Published: December 6, 2017

Updated: December 6, 2017 at 08:51 PM


TAMPA — Hillsborough County commissioners called out two prominent local business organizations Wednesday, citing a lack of diversity among their leadership.

The Tampa Bay Partnership, a coalition of business leaders, needs more African-American representation, said Commissioner Les Miller, the board’s lone black member. The organization’s council of governors, he pointed out, has one black member out of 22.

Visit Tampa Bay, a nonprofit the county pays for tourism marketing, could use more women, said Commissioner Pat Kemp. There are two women on the board of directors, a panel with 26 members, she noted.

In both instances, Miller and Kemp said the organizations were not representative of the communities they serve.

“I’m saying this because the work that you’re doing must be inclusive of the people throughout this entire county,” Miller said. “I don’t feel that you have the total segment of the community sitting there, working with you to talk about the issues that are facing this entire community, this entire county right now.”

Leaders of various local organizations often update Hillsborough County commissioners during the board’s semi-monthly meeting. They are usually thanked and excused without sparking much response from commissioners.

But not Wednesday. Tampa Bay Partnership president and CEO Rick Homans and his staff presented the organization’s 2018 Regional Competitiveness Report, a stark statistical analysis of the area’s strengths and shortcomings.

Among the findings: Hillsborough isn’t keeping or attracting enough talented workers, there’s an education gap, labor force participation is low, many earn wages at the poverty level and transit options don’t match the size of the community.

It was after the presentation that Miller voiced his concerns.

Homans acknowledged the lack of diversity on the organization’s leadership teams. The council of governors is an exclusive group of the region’s top business executives and requires a $50,000 membership fee. The leadership council costs $25,000 to join. Of its 21 members, Miller could identify only one black person.

“Quite frankly, we are actively seeking a diverse representation on that board,” Homans said. He added that the organization reached out to many diverse voices to put together its competitiveness report.

Miller wasn’t sold. Commissioner Victor Crist agreed, saying that inclusive input “plays directly into the problems that we need to solve here.”

Visit Tampa Bay president and chief executive Santiago Corrada came to Wednesday’s meeting to announce record tourism numbers, which puts the county on pace to pass for the first time $30 million in hotel bed tax collections. His presentation all but earned him high-fives from most of the commission.

But when Kemp questioned the lack of females on his advisory board, Corrada agreed it was a problem. He noted that of the two women on the board, one is leaving and one is retiring.

“We’ve been focused on it,” Corrada said. “We will continue to focus because you’re absolutely right, that’s one of the instances where we need to improve.”

Keeping with the theme, commissioners also voted 6-0 to ask the county’s Commission on the Status of Women to work with the county attorney’s office to review Hillsborough’s sexual harassment policies.

The request came from Commissioner Sandy Murman in direct response to the highly publicized sexual harassment and sexual assault scandals by men in Hollywood, Washington, D.C., and workplaces across the country.


Commissioner Murman quoted in this Tampa Bay Times article on the new BOCC Chairman:


Murman again named Hillsborough chair two years after controversial ouster over transportation


By Steve Contorno

Published: November 16, 2017


TAMPA — Two years after her unexpected ouster, Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandy Murman is once again the board’s chairwoman.

The seven-member commission chose Murman on Thursday over Victor Crist, who has never led the board during his seven years in office. Murman cast the clinching vote for herself.

“I did not see that coming,” Murman said after she was selected. Murman represents District 1, which spans from Keystone to Ruskin and includes south Tampa and most of the county’s coastal regions.

The chair conducts the bi-monthly meetings, but their vote doesn’t hold additional weight and they cannot make decisions without their colleague’s approval. However, it comes with a 10 percent pay bump and stately duties like ribbon cuttings that can be beneficial during campaign season.

Murman and Crist are running for reelection in 2018, with both looking to jump from their single-member districts to county-wide seats. Commissioners make $99,997.

Despite the ceremonial nature of the job, the process of selecting the chairperson can be rife with infighting and behind-the-scenes jockeying.

Murman was on the wrong end of the political upheaval in November 2015 during a contentious debate over raising the sales tax to pay for transportation projects. On the eve of a critical vote, Murman, then the board chairwoman, surprised her colleagues with an alternative plan to pay for the needed upgrades without a tax increase. The proposed sales tax increase ultimately failed.

A week after that 2015 vote, Murman was denied a second term as the board’s leader. She was visibly displeased at the outcome, declining to open a gift from her colleagues. Commissioner Al Higginbotham accused his colleagues of a coordinated effort to punish Murman.


Commissioners instead named Les Miller chair. That decision was not without controversy, either. Miller is a Democrat and the board then and now is led by a five to two Republican majority. The decision to elevate Miller angered prominent local GOP donors.

This time, Miller nominated Murman to chairperson, with Commissioners Pat Kemp and Higginbotham concurring. Murman voted for herself. Commissioners Stacy White, Ken Hagan and Crist did not vote for her.

“A lot of people call it a ceremonial position, but it’s not,” Miller said. “You represent this county and the 4 million people in it. And I think that we need someone that’s going to guide this ship in the right direction.”

Commissioners selected Crist as vice chairman over Miller and named White, the outgoing chairman, as chaplin.

Despite the divided vote, the outcome was reached quickly and without debate. When the meeting ended, Murman cried out, “What just happened?” As he left the dais, Crist kissed Murman on the top of the head.

Murman, a Republican, was first elected to the county commission in 2010 and most recently won reelection in 2016. She previously served eight years in the Florida House of Representatives.

In the next year, commissioners face a vote on how to pay for a ballpark in Tampa if the Tampa Bay Rays decide to move to Ybor City, as well as decisions on affordable housing and how to thwart increasing encroachment from Tallahassee on local government powers.

Murman anticipates the ongoing transportation quandary will dominate the dialogue once again, and she hopes the board has put past quarrels behind them.

“We’ve had our peaks and valleys,” Murman said. “We started out so collegial. All of the sudden it turned. I think we’re swinging back to the old collegial ways.”



Commissioner Murman quoted in this Osprey Observer article on South County YMCA:


November 6, 2017

YMCA Breaks Ground On $16 Million Spurlino Family YMCA At Big Bend Road

By Tamas Mondovics

Community leaders including county commissioners, local business owners and close to 200 guests gathered last month for the groundbreaking of YMCA’s long anticipated facility in Gibsonton.

The Spurlino Family YMCA at 9650 Old Big Bend Rd. in Gibsonton, a $16.4 million project, is the result of a long process and partnership between the Hillsborough Board of County Commissioners and a joint-use lease agreement with the Tampa Metropolitan Area YMCA.

Special dignitaries in attendance included Hillsborough County Commissioners Sandra Murman and Ken Hagan, both major supporters of the Y.

The new facility will be named after its lead donor, the Spurlino Family YMCA at Big Bend Rd. and will include approximately 32,500 sq. ft. of indoor space as well as an outdoor aquatic center, a much-welcomed addition to the growing SouthShore community to enjoy.

Expressing support of the project, Murman emphasized that the new facility will serve the community for years to come.

“I never dreamed that we can have such a great facility here,” Murman said. “What a remarkable and outstanding thing we can do for the residents in South County by investing in this facility.”

Murman added that every dollar put into the community will get much in return.


“We’re going to get healthy living programs for our seniors and adults,” she said. “We’re going to get programs for our children to keep them out of trouble.”

To promote the necessity of the project Y officials said that the new facility will strengthen the South County community in a number of ways including: promoting economic development by providing over 125 jobs, reducing accidental drowning, improving high school graduation rates, helping reduce obesity epidemic in adults and children as well as teaching children life skills through summer and sports camps.

“Seniors will get a sense of home where they can exercise, socialize and celebrate health,” said Y spokesperson Lalita Llerena, who added that addition benefits at all Y facilities includes the strengthening and supporting of cancer survivors and their families, improving the quality of life for residents.

Y officials are confident that the new facility will create a community hub, bringing together diverse groups of people for a common good.

The Spurlino Family YMCA at Big Bend Road’s anticipated completion date is late fall 2018. For more information about the project, please visit the new Y’s Facebook page, which tracks the construction progress with pictures and updates. Also, visit


Commissioner Murman quoted in this Observer article on FCC:


Firehouse Cultural Center looks to the future with expansion plans

MITCH TRAPHAGEN PHOTO Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandra Murman and Firehouse Cultural Center Executive Director Georgia Vahue speaking at the Oct. 23 ribbon-cutting ceremony for the center’s expansion.


Art and culture are more than pastimes or pretty things to look at. Both can bring diverse people together as neighbors and serve as the foundation to bind communities together. They also mean jobs and money: A 2016 study commissioned by the Arts Council of Hillsborough County found that nearly 15,000 fulltime-equivalent jobs are supported by the nonprofit arts sector, contributing $433 million to the local economy.

A part of those numbers is the growing presence of the Firehouse Cultural Center in Ruskin. The center, which opened in 2012 in a closed Hillsborough County fire station, as the brainchild of a cadre of dedicated, community-minded volunteers, began full-time programming in 2013, has served more than 30,000 people in the local area through a vast array of programming, including arts, education and entertainment, designed to reach nearly every demographic in the region. That was in 2016 alone.

Georgia Vahue, the cultural center’s first and only executive director, came to the center from running a cultural center in the New York City area. She appreciated not only the vastly different dynamics involved in coming from a much more densely populated area, but also the opportunities she had to be among the first to bring the arts to the southern part of the metro Tampa Bay area. Soon the center became a full-time presence, expanding the reach through educational programs for all ages and interests, and entertainment opportunities where none existed in the past. Today, the Firehouse Cultural Center has a strong relationship with the Straz Performing Arts Center in downtown Tampa and even has its own radio station at 101.9 FM.

And now they are planning an expansion to an empty building, formerly a hair salon, across the street on 1st Avenue N.E. in Ruskin. The plans for the building include meeting the growing needs and demand for the arts, education and entertainment resulting from a rapidly growing South Hillsborough population. The 501(c)3 nonprofit center is working towards a $350,000 fundraising goal.

On Oct. 23, the public was invited to join with the center’s board of directors, county representatives, and center patrons to celebrate a ribbon-cutting for their new, increased presence and future, larger capacity for serving the region.

MITCH TRAPHAGEN PHOTO As if to prove the regional footprint of the Firehouse Cultural Center, the ribbon-cutting was an event for three area chambers of commerce: SouthShore, Riverview and Sun City Center.


Speakers at the event included Bruce Marsh, president of the FCC board of directors and one of the original founders; Janice Bayruns, vice president of the FCC board of directors; Lorrin Sheppard, chief financial officer of the Straz Center for the Performing Arts; Dr. Allen Witt, Hillsborough Community College; Martine Collier, executive director Arts Council Hillsborough County; and Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandra Murman.

“This is an investment — a long term investment,” Commissioner Murman said. “I am very honored to be a part of this.” The commissioner has supported the center since the beginning.

The event also included a performance by young musical theater students.

For more information about the Firehouse Cultural Center and how you can help, become a member or take part in their programming, visit




Commissioner Murman quoted in this Tampa Bay Times article on stadium site:


Crist angry he had no say in proposed Tampa ballpark site before it went public


Wednesday, October 25, 2017 3:34pm

But that’s not all who were surprised.

Commissioner Victor Crist was livid Wednesday that he learned about the plan through the media. Crist said it was a violation of protocol for Hagan to unveil a location as a county plan and present it to the Rays without first getting the approval of the entire commission.

Crist’s fear is that this has been branded publicly as Hillsborough County’s plan, when the county commission hasn’t even seen it, let alone vote on it.

“This has had no vetting of the county commission. This has had no vetting of public input,” Crist said. “This whole thing has been done in a vacuum behind the scenes, out of the sunshine and that is not how the Board of County Commissioners operates.”

Crist pointed out that Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn told reporters that he, too, was caught off guard by Hagan’s announcement. County Administrator Mike Merrill told the Tampa Bay Timesthat he wasn’t given a warning by Hagan either, but said, “That’s his prerogative.”

Hagan informed reporters Tuesday that the county had solidified site control of 14 acres in the area between the Channel District and Ybor City through a nonprofit that will be run by Tampa lawyer Ron Christaldi and businessman Charles Sykes.

Crist said he met with Christaldi the day before, along with Rays President Brian Auld. The Ybor site never came up. Instead, during the conversation, which included about 12 other people, Crist talked about the merits of the Tampa Greyhound Track for a ballpark.

Why didn’t Christaldi or Auld clue him in? Crist wondered.

“You can find this whole thing breaks down quickly just because it was handled inappropriately,” said Crist, who opined that his colleagues were just as upset.

But if they are, they declined to lash out, as Crist did.

Commissioners Al Higginbotham, Les Miller and Sandy Murman said they weren’t expecting an announcement Tuesday but nevetheless had no problem with Hagan making public the preferred site.

In a vote last year, the board formally designated Hagan the commission’s point person to lead the site search with other community and business leaders, and to negotiate with the Rays and landowners.

“We gave him that authority and to my knowledge he did exactly what we asked him to do,” Miller said.

Murman said, though, it is important to note that no deal has been struck — “We’d have to approve that,” she said — and she expects a conversation on the board soon.

“It’s a process,” Murman said, “and we’re in the conceptual stage.”

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