By MIKE SALINERO | The Tampa Tribune
Published: October 19, 2011
Updated: October 19, 2011 – 6:12 PM

» 3 Comments | Post a Comment


Hillsborough County may soon place a moratorium on Internet sweepstakes cafés, the proliferating strip mall parlors that offer computer games resembling video slot machines.

County commissioners voted 7-0 today to have the county attorney draw up an ordinance that would require the cafes to get county licenses and be regulated by county inspectors. Once the existing cafés are licensed, no new parlors would be allowed to open until May 1, 2012, when the Florida Legislature concludes its regular session.

Commissioners will get a look at the ordinance Nov. 2 and then schedule a public hearing for Nov. 16. They can pass the new regulations at that meeting.

The moratorium motion came from Commissioner Sandy Murman, who considers the cafés illegal gambling houses that need to be shut down. County Sheriff David Gee agrees, and has sent written notice to café operators saying he will prosecute them if they are participating in illegal gambling.

Café owners and lawyers representing them say they are offering a legal sweepstakes in which the winners are predetermined, not chosen as the result of the computer video games. They sell Internet time on computers and patrons get phone cards that allow them to play games that look like slot machines.

Murman put a May 1 end date on the moratorium to see whether the Legislature will act to regulate the sweepstakes cafés. There are several bills already filed, some of which would leave it up to local governments to decide whether to allow the parlors to stay open.

“Let’s take care of our own people in our own county right now and see what happens” with the Legislature, Murman said.

By ROB SHAW | The Tampa Tribune

Published: September 20, 2011


For most of the day, Tampa Bay Water thought it had reached a $30 million settlement Monday over cracking issues at the regional reservoir. It was a decision that upset board members on the losing side because they knew it would mean higher bills for ratepayers.

Then, seven hours after issuing a news release about the 4-3 approval, the agency came out with a retraction. It turns out that agency rules require five of the nine members — two were absent Monday morning — to approve such a measure.


Board members now will have to reconvene Oct. 17, and the approval is “conditional” until that time. An attorney for Pinellas County, and not Tampa Bay Water, discovered the error.

What remains to be seen is whether the vote on the issue at the C.W. Bill Young Regional Reservoir will change.

Mark Sharpe, who missed the session because he was attending a HART board meeting and didn’t realize a vote was being taken, said he would have voted for the settlement with HDR Engineering Inc., giving it enough votes to pass.

“I don’t see people changing their votes, unless there’s a massive citizen outcry,” said board member Neil Brickfield, who was one of the dissenters. “But I’ve seen stranger things happen.”

The proposed settlement means the lawsuit will go away, but $63 million of problems remain.

* * * * *

The $30 million settlement with the company that helped build the defective reservoir is way short of the expected repair cost, a total that will result in ratepayers paying the bulk of the price to fix it.


The offer left Sandy Murman livid.

It disappointed Susan Latvala, who called it flimsy and inadequate.

Sharpe, a Hillsborough County commissioner, compared it to the ugly process of sausage making.

When all was said and done, however, the directors of Tampa Bay Water seemingly had approved a $30 million settlement with HDR Engineering. At least for a few hours.

The move comes as the agency is in the process of planning to pay $100 million to fix cracking problems that it said were caused by faulty work by HDR and other companies which built the reservoir.

The huge gap between those two sums has many directors worried that water customers will be saddled with making up the difference.

“The ratepayers aren’t at fault,” said Murman, a county commissioner from Hillsborough. “We said all along HDR was at fault. But they’re getting away with $30 million. That’s not right.”

Latvala, a Pinellas County commissioner, agreed.

“I don’t think the settlement is enough,” she said. “I was very disappointed.

“It’s wrong what they did to us,” the Pinellas County commissioner said of HDR. “I think it should have gone to trial. And now the ratepayers are going to be left with the rest of that bill.”

Brickfield, also a Pinellas County commissioner, agreed.

“I didn’t vote for it because I thought it was short,” he said. “We have been told by the attorney what a great case we had.”

“This is just an ugly situation from start to finish. It was a poorly managed project,” Sharpe said. “It never should have been built the way it was in the first place.”

Karl Nurse, Ted Schrader, Ann Hildebrand and Bob Consavlo voted for the settlement.

Jerry Seeber, general manager of Tampa Bay Water, said the agency doesn’t want to get involved in a protracted and costly legal battle.

“I think it’s important for Tampa Bay Water to focus on getting the reservoir fixed,” Seeber said. “We all rely on that every day for the water we use.”

Tampa Bay Water filed a federal lawsuit in 2008 against HDR after cracking was found in the liner of the reservoir.

* * * * *

The trial was to have begun in July, but was delayed until this month. Under terms of the settlement, HDR admits no wrongdoing and must pay the sum within 30 days.

The $30 million settlement is the last piece of the litigation puzzle in the reservoir case. Last year, the agency settled with two other companies — one for $6 million and another for $750,000.

The settlement comes as Tampa Bay Water prepares to undertake a $162 million repair and expansion of the reservoir. Of that total, $100 million is to fix the cracking problem and $62 million is to expand it by 3 billion gallons.

Construction could begin in about a year.

Seeber said it’s too early to tell how much extra customers will have to pay to compensate for the difference between the nearly $37 million in recovered damages and the $100 million price tag for the fix.

Early estimates, he said, are that rates might increase from 10 cents to 15 cents per thousand gallons.

Legal costs alone have soared to $8 million related to the reservoir, according to Seeber. Half of that amount is just for expert witnesses.

Published: August 24, 2011
Updated: August 24, 2011 – 5:08 PM


Tampa — Hillsborough County’s after-school program may get a reprieve.

Commissioners agreed unanimously this afternoon to have county officials draw up a plan that would add 19 parks that would provide recreational programs after school – more than the 11 regional centers commissioners had approved for their 2012 budget after agreeing to discontinue full-time staffing at 31 recreation centers.

County officials will come back to the commission on Sept. 8 with standards to determine the success of the program – including having a minimum of 25 children per site — and how they will communicate to parents that the program, which they were told was being discontinued, is back on.

Under the plan, commissioners would receive a 6-month report on how the program is performing and would re-evaluate the program after the end of the school year, in time to inform parents so they can make plans before the start of the next school year.

The maximum cost for attending the program would be reduced from $48 to $38 with a $20 fee for children who meet income guidelines for free or reduced cost school lunches. Commissioner Ken Hagan, who proposed continuing the after-school program at 30 recreation centers, said lowering the fee will attract more participants.

County administrators and parks director Mark Thornton have argued the current program is too expensive at $7.5 million, and declining enrollment has exacerbated the problem. Participation has shrunk to about 1,900 kids from 5,600 enrollees in 2008. The slide started after commissioners approved a sliding fee scale for what had been a free program.

Hagan argued that if the county can increase numbers, the program will be self-sufficient.

But commissioners Kevin Beckner, Sandy Murman and chairman Al Higginbotham wanted some benchmarks to determine whether the plug should be pulled on the program.

By Craig Pittman, Times Staff Writer
Posted: Aug 15, 2011 10:27 AM

CLEARWATER — Despite their misgivings about the impact on their rates, Tampa Bay Water’s board voted unanimously Monday to sign a $156 million contract to fix its cracked reservoir and expand it from 15.5 billion gallons to 18.5 billion gallons.

The construction work by a Nebraska-based firm, Kiewit Infrastructure Group, is now scheduled to begin late next summer, with completion in 2014. The work will require draining the reservoir and instead relying on the utility’s other water sources, such as the frequently troubled desalination plant, which produces the most expensive water in the regional system.

One board member, Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandy Murman, said she supported fixing the reservoir but worried about the impact on the rates. Tampa Bay Water provides wholesale water to utilities in Pinellas, Pasco and Hillsborough counties, which pass along any rate increase to their customers.

“We’ve had a series of bad results from big projects,” Murman said. “I want to cross all the T’s and dot all the i’s so we have a smooth landing on this. But I think we’re taking the cart before the horse.”

Murman said she worried about proceeding with the repairs of the reservoir before a trial next month of the utility’s lawsuit against HDR Engineering over the cause of the cracks. Tampa Bay Water contends HDR’s design of the reservoir was flawed, while HDR points the finger at the company that handled construction.

The utility’s finance director, Koni Cassini, told Murman that the worst-case scenario would require a 10 to 15 cents per 1,000 gallon rate hike — but if that happened, she said, she would spread the increase over several years to lessen the sting.

The board voted in June to raise its rates 3 cents a month per 1,000 gallons of water used, or just under a quarter for the typical user of 8,000 gallons a month. The increase is to cover the cost of running the desalination plant harder than usual during the two years when the reservoir is being repaired. That will require spending more on power and chemicals for the desal plant.

In addition to the $156 million for the repair and expansion, Tampa Bay Water is putting aside about $6 million to cover any unforeseen expenses during work, which is expected to be completed in 2014.

In addition to hoping to recoup some of the costs of the work from its lawsuit against HDR, Tampa Bay Water’s board is asking the Southwest Florida Water Management District to cover half the cost. But that state agency is facing a 36 percent budget cut mandated by Gov. Rick Scott and the state Legislature.

The utility opened the $144 million C.W. Bill Young Regional Reservoir in June 2005 to store water skimmed from the Alafia River, Hillsborough River and Tampa Bypass Canal. The reservoir, named for the longtime congressman from Pinellas County, covers about 1,100 acres in Hillsborough County.

The reservoir’s walls consist of an earthen embankment as wide as a football field at its base, averaging about 50 feet high. An impermeable membrane buried in the embankment prevents leaks.

The embankment’s top layer, a mixture of soil and cement to prevent erosion, began cracking in December 2006. Some cracks were up to 400 feet long and up to 15½ inches deep. Workers patched the cracks, but the patches didn’t last.

An investigation found water is getting trapped between the soil-cement lining and the membrane. As long as the reservoir is full, the trapped water remains stable. When the utility draws down the reservoir, though, pressure increases on trapped water in some areas, producing cracks and soil erosion.

The cracks have not been deemed a safety hazard to the structure, but utility officials say if they don’t fix their underlying cause then conditions could get worse. But HDR officials contend the problem is not that serious, and could be solved with a simple monitoring and maintenance program that would cost less than $1 million a year.

Kiewit’s proposal called for digging out and replacing the soil cement and the membrane beneath it. The reason, Kiewit’s design manager, Trent Dreese, said earlier this year is that they believe the cracks showed a weakening of the reservoir wall and “additional failures are likely during drawdown” of the water for the repair.

As for the expansion, Kennedy said the only change that would be visible was that the walls would be about 10 feet higher.

By TED JACKOVICS | The Tampa Tribune
Published: August 14, 2011


TAMPA Victor Crist stunned colleagues on the Hillsborough County Commission and the county’s aviation authority when he proposed cooperative efforts among the area’s seaports and airports that typically compete.

“We need to take a look at how we could benefit the region by thinking differently and cooperatively,” Crist said this year. “The only obstacle would be those who want to hold on to their power.

“We must take baby steps,” he said, proposing discussion of cooperative, regional prospects before endorsing changes to how things are run today.

Crist is in front of elected officials and program managers who generally are reluctant to discuss the politically sensitive topic of rearranging their turf and operations.

Managers point to competitive realities that elected officials create.

But political and fiscal realities require leaders to change the way they think, said Ronnie Duncan, chairman of the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority. “The world is different today than yesterday,” Duncan said. “Congress is debating the nation’s budget, and the House already has made clear that less federal money will be available for transportation projects than in recent years.

“All of us from Tampa Bay to California are going to have to do things differently, and that’s not a bad thing.

“What happens in Pinellas stays in Pinellas; what happens in Hillsborough stays in Hillsborough, but that has to change. We have to have those kinds of (regional) discussions.”

Some regional initiatives have been in place for years, such as the Tampa Bay Partnership, which oversees economic development opportunities for eight counties.

The Pinellas and Hillsborough visitors’ bureaus share some marketing initiatives, and the county’s two transit systems purchase buses and equipment under joint contracts to save money.

In 2007, the state Legislature created TBARTA to develop and implement transportation plans in seven counties. But Gov. Rick Scott in May vetoed the re-appropriation of $950,000 to support TBARTA – about 25 percent of its annual budget.

Duncan said TBARTA’s regional mission is needed more than ever, and a new budget will be crafted this month to go into effect in October. “What TBARTA brings is the ability to have a regional discussion,” Duncan said.

Its 16 board members are from a 6,000-square-mile area that encompasses two Florida Department of Transportation districts, two highway toll authorities, three regional planning councils, five metropolitan planning organizations, seven transit service operators and 42 cities.

But it’s the need to trim costs that appears to be driving discussions of regional cooperation.

Republican state Sen. Jack Latvala of St. Petersburg, chairman of the Florida Senate Transportation Committee, this year began exploring how the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority and the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority might be combined.

Latvala is scheduled to address HART on the issue this month.

“The push for regional plans for transit is becoming a nationwide topic,” said Alison Hewitt, HART board chairwoman, citing initiatives in the Atlanta and Washington-Arlington, Va., areas among those at the forefront. “But we have to be careful we don’t lose service for our patrons in the quest to combine services.”

Every opportunity to work more closely on a regional basis raises potential problems that must be sorted out, in particular who wins, who loses, who pays, who gains.


In June, Crist congratulated the new administration at Tampa International Airport on “working diligently to reach across the barriers, whether they be the bay or … silos or turfs that exist within our geographic area.”

His comments took place during a meeting when the aviation authority board approved the airport’s first comprehensive financial-incentive program to recruit airlines to enhance international and domestic service.

That could make recruiting for Pinellas’ airport a little more difficult, Pinellas County officials acknowledge. Historically, the two airports seldom pursued the same service, and the Pinellas visitors’ bureau has opened a $250,000 pot of money that Tampa International could apply to use to generate international flights serving Pinellas hoteliers.

Years ago, Pinellas was unsuccessful in recruiting Southwest Airlines, which chose Tampa International – a departure from its small-airport strategy – in part because Southwest officials were concerned about traffic congestion at the Pinellas airport.

Pinellas was disappointed more recently when the federal government designated Tampa as the area’s destination for Cuba charter flights.

Still, traffic is growing at the Pinellas airport, which last year completed a $21 million terminal renovation project and serves a sizable general aviation and UPS air cargo service. It also hosts the nation’s largest U.S. Coast Guard Air Station.

A third of Tampa International’s passengers are from Hillsborough County, and nearly the same percentage – 31.5 percent of its 19 million annual ridership – is from Pinellas, a 2007 report found.

However, the aviation authority board governing Tampa International is represented only by Hillsborough interests.

That factor has not been an issue, but Crist said he wouldn’t oppose representatives from other counties serving on the authority board if those counties would accept representatives from Hillsborough on their boards.

Aviation authority board member Steve Burton said he encourages regional cooperation, but would leave the issue of board membership to the state Legislature, which created the authority.


Even more than the area’s commercial airports, the region’s two major seaports, Port Manatee and the Port of Tampa, have been competitors, with Tampa handling five times more cargo tonnage and all of the region’s cruise passengers.

Crist’s recommendation to seek common ground between the two ports as well as consider the role of the Port of St. Petersburg, which has no cargo or cruise passengers, drew a sharp response from fellow Commissioner Sandy Murman in an April county commission meeting.

“The other ports that you’re talking about, collaboration is good, but honestly, you don’t want to pick up somebody’s deficit,” Murman said. “Things aren’t just as good as some people think they are at other ports, so we have to go about this very cautiously because we are doing so well.”

Crist suggests the strengths of the Manatee and Tampa ports should be considered under the same authority.

Much undeveloped land surrounds Port Manatee, which could be more ideal for cargo than the Tampa port, which has urban neighbors. And Tampa should continue to develop its profitable, cleaner cargo-container business, he said.

St. Petersburg’s port, which leisure boaters use, might host smaller, boutique cruise ships if a market could be developed, Crist suggested.

Mass transit

Transit operations through the Tampa Bay region face myriad challenges.

Hillsborough County voters defeated a sales tax proposal in November that would have funded the area’s first light-rail system and serve as the forerunner for rail in nearby counties.

“The fact is, the Pinellas and Hillsborough transit systems are on life support,” Duncan said. “I think people realize we can’t keep running buses where they carry five passengers where they want to go.”

Latvala is expected to further energize merger or collaboration plans for HART and PSTA this month.

Pinellas County is moving forward with its plan to seek federal money for rail and/or fast bus service that would connect to Hillsborough County via the Howard Frankland Bridge.

TBARTA officials continue to hold discussions about prospects for commuter rail service on CSX Transportation tracks.

TBARTA updated its master plan this year to incorporate freight and cargo transportation and highway plans.

Despite Gov. Scott’s rejection in February of Florida’s high-speed rail project between Tampa and Orlando, vendors remain interested in providing capital for infrastructure, Duncan said.

“Is it feasible for a private-sector company to take over a public transit operation?” he said. “We got our balloons deflated with high-speed rail, the Hillsborough light-rail referendum and other things.

“No one wants to give up the power and ownerships of their domains, but the majority of people want leadership to come up with new ways to fund and operate transportation.

“Yet they are distrustful of government to provide that. We have to have those kinds of discussions.”

Commissioner Murman mentioned in this Creative Loafing article on HART:

Posted by Mitch Perry on Mon, Aug 1, 2011 at 11:46 AM

As we’ve noted on various occasions, last November’s rejection of a transit tax in Hillsborough County not only killed the possibility of a light rail system being built anytime soon, but nine months later, there aren’t any plans now over the next 10 years to revisit the issue.

However, members who serve on Hillsborough County’s transit agency, HART, have said that what they can do for now is to concentrate on what they do best – efficient bus service.

But when it came time on Monday to vote to approve a maximum millage rate that the board will consider, which meant voting for a minimal increase in taxes to alleviate a large reduction in service, one Hillsborough County Republican chose to eschew the no-taxes mantra of his party and supported the modest measure, and one did not.

The millage increase would go from .4682 to .5. When the issue came before the board two months ago, both Sandy Murman and Mark Sharpe voted against it.

Murman said again Monday that she couldn’t support the raise, saying she would look like a “hypocrite” after supporting a decrease in the millage last week with her position on the County Commission. “I think we have to dig a little deeper,” she said, adding that asking all of the taxpayers in Hillsborough to raise their millage when only a small percentage utilize their services would be unfair.

But commissioner Kevin Beckner warned that a failure to raise the millage would interfere with the stated goal of the board to increase its basic services, not cut them. He then asked Katharine Eagan, the chief operating officer for HART, what would happen if the board ultimately voted not to increase the millage?

She recited a litany of service cuts that would include, eliminating weekend service in south Hillsborough on weekends, no service out to Brandon hospital on weekends, no Christmas or Thanksgiving service, and fewer rides from Brandon to MacDill Air Force Base.

HART has already cut 1.4 percent of its bus routes since March of 2010, but another reduction would eliminate two to three percent of current routes, or roughly twice as much as what has already been cut.

It was also revealed that the millage increase, which would add $1.8 million to HART’s coffers, would break down to about 41 cents per month to Hillsborough citizens via their property taxes (that’s based on the average household value of $90,420 in 2012).

After listening to Eagan, Hillsborough County Commissioner Mark Sharpe said that he had changed his mind, and would now vote for the tax increase. Calling Commissioner a “kindred spirit,” Sharpe said he understood where she was coming from, but said he couldn’t go along with her in not approving the raise, adding,”My concern is we’d be entering into a death spiral, we’d be fulfilling a prophesy,” by eliminating service routes.

Today’s vote was on setting the maximum millage, but not the final vote locking in the new millage rates.

63 New Jobs and Counting

Commissioner Murman lauded in this Tribune editorial on her small business job-creation program:

Editorial: Public money for private sector jobs


Published: June 20, 2011

It’s a dicey proposition anytime government tries to get involved in creating private sector jobs.

It’s one thing to hire private companies to build roads, buildings and other necessary public projects; it’s another to use tax dollars to actually subsidize private jobs.

Under such scenarios, businesses that receive government aid may benefit, but competitors can suffer, even end up eliminating jobs and making the net effect on the economy negligible.

That is why government usually should avoid tinkering with the marketplace.

But with the county suffering an unemployment rate near 12 percent, it’s understandable that commissioners don’t want to simply sit on their hands.

And the county’s Small Business Job Creation Program provides a cautious but meaningful way to encourage local firms to hire more workers.

It won’t solve the jobless crisis, and county officials should monitor its long-term impact, particularly whether the jobs it creates last and whether it gives some firms an unfair advantage over others.

But the signs are encouraging that it is indeed giving private businesses an incentive to hire more workers.

Hillsborough Commissioner Sandy Murman, who championed the plan, says it has resulted in plans for at least 63 jobs. “That is like bringing a corporation to town,” she says.

The commission approved the program in March, providing $500,000 that will be used to reimburse small businesses for a portion of the salaries they pay new workers over three months. Businesses are limited to subsidies for three workers, and there is a maximum payout of $3,900 per employee. Only firms with 10 employees or fewer are eligible.

Participating companies must be pre-approved. They must be Hillsborough-based and have been in business two years. Workers must be Hillsborough residents. The firms do not have to agree to keep the workers beyond the three months, and they need only pay minimum wage. But they are not reimbursed by the county until the end of the three months, which ensures the jobs actually are filled and that no abuse occurs.

Murman reports an enthusiastic response. Close to 30 businesses have applied, and just a little more than half the funds remain. City Council member Lisa Montelione understandably would like the city to launch a similar effort.

With the city’s budget shortfall, it may be best to see exactly how the county’s experience plays out.

This little program is not going to suddenly ignite the economy, but it does give businesses that are gaining traction reason to invest in growth. Murman, her fellow commissioners and retiring Economic Development Director Gene Gray deserve credit for fashioning a simple, accountable way to give business a hand, without getting government’s fingerprints all over the place.


Tagged with:

City of Tampa wants Jobs Program

Commissioner Murman mentioned in this Times article on the job creation program:

Tampa council member wants city version of county jobs program

By Richard Danielson, Times Staff Writer

In Print: Sunday, May 22, 2011


TAMPA — Now that Hillsborough County has launched a program to help small businesses that create jobs, new Tampa City Council member Lisa Montelione wonders: Why not us?

“Our smaller businesses do need the help,” said Montelione, whose private-sector experience includes working with her fiance’s three-person construction firm. “The challenge is finding the funds.”

Council members are expected to discuss the idea at a workshop on Thursday, though Montelione already has brought it up with members of Mayor Bob Buckhorn’s administration. City officials need to look at the idea in more detail before deciding whether to add it to Buckhorn’s economic development agenda, Tampa economic development administrator Mark Huey said..

“The city certainly could do a program like that,” Huey said. “It’s really a matter of resource priority and would that be the best thing for us to do at this time, given the economic development challenges and opportunities that we have.”

Hillsborough County started its Small Business Job Creation Program this spring as commissioners discussed a way to exempt some property taxes for businesses that expand or move to the county. (Tampa has a similar property tax exemption program, approved by voters in March, in the works.)

Along with the property tax breaks, Commissioner Sandy Murman was interested in giving incentives to the smallest businesses that might be on the verge of adding employees.

“With unemployment hovering around 11, 12 percent, there’s obviously a great need for jobs in our community,” said Gene Gray, the county’s director of economic development.

Miami-Dade has a similar program, but there’s nothing else like Hillsborough’s program in the Tampa Bay area, Gray said.

Hillsborough’s program pays companies with 10 or fewer workers partial wage reimbursements for adding up to three more employees.

To receive the reimbursement, the businesses must keep the new employees for at least three months. At the end of that time, the companies can get half of what they paid their new hires, up to $3,900 per worker.

To qualify, the companies must be based in the county, must have been in business for at least two years and must agree to participate in county programs designed to foster the growth and health of small businesses. Their new employees also must be county residents.

To pay for the program, Hills­borough officials identified $500,000 that had been set aside in a pool for industry promotion.

As of mid May, 26 businesses had submitted applications for 59 new employees. Gray said the program has the funds to provide partial reimbursement for about 200 employees.

Along with the jobs program, Montelione said, her priorities include helping save the city money by getting city-owned facilities to switch over to energy-efficient technology.

“We have to bring down costs,” and being more energy-efficient is one way to do that, she said. “It used to be, ‘Oh, you’re green. You’re sustainable. You’re a tree hugger.’ No, it’s about saving money.”

As a start, Montelione said she was pleased to see the city install a motion-sensitive control for her office lights. The bad news: It doesn’t turn off the lights for half an hour.

“I don’t need my office lit for half an hour after I’ve left it,” she said. “Ten minutes is probably even too long.”

As for the jobs program, “It’s no surprise that funding is very tight around here,” Montelione said, “so I don’t know how we can make it work, but if we can find a way …”


Tagged with:

Update: Nine Jobs Already Created With

County’s Small Business Job Creation Program

Within the first week of accepting applications for Hillsborough County’s new small business reimbursement incentive program, three local businesses have already been pre-approved to receive reimbursements, allowing them to hire three new employees each. The program is designed to promote job creation in Hillsborough County by offering a wage reimbursement to small businesses owners.

The three local businesses are: Fry and Associates in Plant City, which has been pre-approved to receive $11,700 for three employees; Apollo Beach Air in Apollo Beach, which has been pre-approved to receive $10,400 for three employees; and Absolute Auto Repair in Dover, which has been pre-approved to receive $11,700 also for three employees.  The funding will be provided to the businesses after they fulfill the requirements of the program, including employing the new staff for a minimum of three months.


The three small business owners are excited about the program, as it is helping them hire employees they needed, but perhaps could not afford without assistance.


“We were going to wait and hire in the summer, but, now, we are able to hire now,” said Cathy Kudlinski of Absolute Auto Repair.


The incentive program, proposed by County Commissioner Sandra L. Murman, was approved by the Board of County Commissioners on March 16.


The reimbursement pays small businesses up to 50 percent of three months’ total salary of new jobs created, capped at $3,900 per new employee.  It is estimated that this program will encourage the creation of approximately 200 jobs, offering a total of $500,000 to local small business owners.


To qualify, small business owners have to attend a minimum of four hours of business workshops and/or counseling sessions and meet specific requirements, such as having 10 employees or less; jobs created must be full-time and last the required three-month employment period; businesses must have a Hillsborough County business tax receipt; new employees must be residents of Hillsborough County and businesses must be located in Hillsborough County; and businesses may be reimbursed for up to three created jobs. Additional requirements are listed on the program application.


Small business owners can download an application and more information from the Hillsborough County Small, Minority Business Development Section’s Web page at:  The applications will be accepted on a first-come / first-serve basis until the program funding runs out.


For additional information, contact the Hillsborough County Small, Minority Business Development Section at (813) 914-4028.




Media: The three businesses have agreed to media interviews.  Their contact information is:

  • Yvonne Fry-Fry and Associates (Plant City), Phone: 813-319-9000

  • James Martin-Apollo Beach Air, Phone: 813-645-0381

  • Cathy Kudlinski-Absolute Auto Repair in Dover, Phone: 813-659-1302

Sandy launches part of her Job Creation plan for Hillsborough County today.

March 16, 2011
Incentive Program For Small Business Job Creation Approved

By Hillsborough County Commission
An incentive program proposed by County Commissioner Sandra L. Murman, District 1, to reward small business owners who create jobs was green-lighted today by the Board of County Commissioners.

The small business reimbursement incentive program is designed to promote job creation in Hillsborough County by offering a wage reimbursement to small businesses owners. The reimbursement would pay small businesses up to 50 percent of
three months’ total salary of new jobs created, capped at $3,900 per new employee.  It is estimated that this program will encourage the creation of approximately 200 jobs, offering a total of $500,000 to local small business owners.
“Hillsborough County needs to grow our economic base and we need to improve the opportunities for businesses and entrepreneurs within our region,” said Commissioner Murman. “This initiative will have a real impact on the opportunities for
local growth of the small business sector.”
To qualify, small business owners would have to attend a minimum of four hours of business workshops and/or counseling sessions and meet specific requirements such as having 10 employees or less; jobs created must be full-time and last the required three-month employment period; new employees must be residents of Hillsborough County and businesses must be located in Hillsborough County; and businesses may be reimbursed for up to three created jobs. Additional requirements will be listed on the program application.
The incentive program will start on March 21, 2011.  On that date, small business owners will be able to download an application and more information from the Hillsborough County Small, Minority Business Development Section’s Web page at:  The applications will be accepted on a first-come/first-serve basis until the program funding runs out.

For additional information, contact the County Small, Minority Business Development Section at (813) 914-4028.
Media: for more information, contact Commissioner Sandra L. Murman’s office at (813) 272-5470 or Gene Gray, Utilities and Commerce Administrator, at (813) 272-6210.