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Pinellas detectives arrest 32 people linked to drug deals

Detectives arrested 32 suspects during an investigation focused on reducing the number of narcotic sales in and around East Lealman. A statement from the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office said the detectives determined narcotic transactions at three sites in or near St. Petersburg contributed to over 150 fatal and non-fatal overdoses from December 2020 to January 2021. The locations were identified as 2678 Grove Park Ave. N., Unit 1; 2524 50th Ave. N.; and 4819 Haines Road N. The Haines Road site is in St. Petersburg, and the other two locations are in unincorporated Pinellas County, according to the property appraiser. Detectives identified 35 suspects with 69 charges including narcotics sales and possession of cocaine, heroin, fentanyl and methamphetamine. On Wednesday, detectives served search warrants at each of the sites and arrested 17 of the 35 suspects. Fifteen additional suspects were arrested during the operation and charged with narcotic offenses, and 18 suspects still have pending criminal charges, the statement said. The investigation continues.

Coke Florida names new president

Coca-Cola Beverages, a Tampa company that is one of the largest Black-owned businesses in the United States, promoted Thomas Benford to president and chief operating officer. He previously was the company’s executive vice president and chief commercial officer, and has played an instrumental role in the formation, growth, and expansion of Coke Florida, Troy Taylor, chairman and CEO, said in a statement. Coca-Cola Beverages Florida, or Coke Florida, is a family-owned independent Coca-Cola bottler with a sales and distribution territory that covers over 20 million consumers across 47 Florida counties.

City Council chair wants to limit mayor’s spending power

St. Petersburg City Council Chair Ed Montanari plans to introduce a measure intended to limit the dollar value of contracts the mayor could sign without council approval. Montanari said Thursday night that he wants to limit mayoral authority to signing contracts of $50,000 or less. That's half of the current $100,000 threshold that requires Council approval. Montanari said he would propose the lower spending threshold after the Council called for a pause on the selection process for a Tropicana Field redeveloper. On Wednesday, Mayor Rick Kriseman signed a $99,000 contract with HR&A Advisors to provide owner's representative services for the Trop project. The contract originally was for $180,000 when it was proposed in January. After the council declined to act on it Kriseman withdrew it and brought back a revised agreement for $140,000 on April 8 that was deferred by the Council until April 15. After that deferment, city staff reviewed the agreement and determined some services no longer were needed, reducing the fee to $99,000, just under the $100,000 threshold.

New Air BnB listing: The Stanley Cup

The Tampa Bay Lighting are renting out a spare room.  For one night only, you and 5 friends can enjoy an amenity filled evening at Amalie arena with Lord Stanley's Cup.  Booking opens April 19th at noon.  The first lucky fan with $5,000 can secure the April 24th spot. Proceeds benefit the Lighting Foundation.

Model from USF researchers forecasts fate of Piney Point wastewater

A computer model initially developed by the University of South Florida College of Marine Science to track red tide and ocean currents has quickly been adapted and is now being used to support the efforts to understand the transport, transformation and fate of contaminants in wastewater released into Tampa Bay from the retired Piney Point fertilizer plant. This ocean circulation model, along with the larger scale West Florida Coastal Ocean Model, are used to track red tides based on the currents driven by winds, tides and deeper ocean forcing.  These two models were immediately modified to forecast the dispersal of effluent water and its constituents released from Piney Point.  The results are being used to help guide interdisciplinary sampling efforts by a USF team, agency personnel and others in gathering on-the-ground field data to assess the impacts of the spill.   

Tampa International Airport turns 50

The "new" Tampa International Airport opened 50 years ago today, on April 15, 1971. It was the first in the nation to ferry passengers from the terminal to the gate on automated shuttle cars, or “people movers," and also the first American airport designed with jumbo jet capability. For more, click here.

St. Pete philanthropists support alma mater

Ken and Jeanne Lally provided the lead gift to support an expansion and renovation at Clarkson University’s Cora and Bayard Clarkson Science Center. The Lallys live in St. Petersburg and Ken Lally is the founder and of SimuTech Group Inc., headquartered in Rochester, New York. He’s also a 1979 graduate of Clarkson, with its main campus in Potsdam, New York, and he serves on the Clarkson board of trustees. The expansion and renovation project will add 45,000 square feet to the nearly 110,000 square foot Science Center. The gift from the Lallys directly supports a $5 million investment from New York State’s Higher Education Capital Matching Grant program, a news release said.

Burlington hiring for new store in Largo, donating to High Point Elementary

Burlington Stores, a national retailer, has hired about 65 associates for a store that will open later this week in Largo. The company is still hiring. Interested candidates can learn more about joining the team at    The new store will open Friday at Tri City Plaza, 5280 East Bay Drive, with a ribbon cutting at 6:45 a.m. During the ribbon cutting, Burlington will donate $5,000 to High Point Elementary School, with the funds used to support teachers and their classrooms. Burlington is making the donation through a partnership with The store also has giveaways during the grand opening, with a $5 Burlington gift card for the first 100 customers, 18 years or older, on Friday, and a Burlington umbrella on Saturday.

Forward Pinellas named Planning Organization of the Year

The Florida Department of Transportation has named Forward Pinellas the 2020 Planning Organization of the Year. Announced at the recent virtual Excellence in Transportation Planning Awards ceremony, the Pinellas County planning organization was honored for outstanding achievements that encourage innovation, foster collaboration and partnerships, and demonstrate creative planning techniques.


Tampa investment firm buys Illinois bank

Katz Acquisition Corporation LLC, a Tampa-based bank holding company, has acquired Camp Grove Bancorp, the parent company of Camp Grove State Bank in Camp Grove, Illinois. Financial terms were not disclosed. Camp Grove State Bank had $17.6 million in assets as of Dec. 31. The bank previously was owned by the Hickey family. Dennis Hickey, who was president for the last 31 years, was named market president, and Christopher Barton, a longtime veteran of the Illinois banking community, was named CEO of the bank. Katz Acquisition is chaired by Brian Katz, who will serve on the bank's board of directors. Barack Ferrazzano Kirschbaum & Nagelberg and Shutts & Bowen served as legal advisors for Katz Acquisition. Olsen Palmer was financial advisor to Camp Grove Bancorp with Godfrey Kahn as legal advisor. Camp Grove is about 150 miles from Chicago and about 28 miles from Peoria, Illinois.

St. Pete-Clearwater airport gets Covid funds

The Pinellas County Board of County Commissioners has approved an airport coronavirus response grant program agreement providing $4.8 million in economic relief to St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport (PIE) from the Federal Aviation Administration. About $4.56 million provides reimbursement for airport employee payroll and other operational expenses to combat Covid-19. The grant also includes nearly $245,000 for relief from rent and minimal annual guarantees to airport concessionaires. No local match was required. The funding came from federal legislation approved in December to help sustain eligible airports through the expected gradual recovery of passenger travel.

St. Pete Powerboat Grand Prix set for Labor Day

The St. Pete Powerboat Grand Prix, with powerboat and personal watercraft race teams from across the United States competing across multiple classes of racing, will take place in downtown St. Petersburg Sept. 4 and 5. “We are thrilled to bring P1 Offshore and P1 AquaX racing to the St. Pete Pier for the Labor Day weekend," said Visit St. Pete/Clearwater COO Tim Ramsberger. "We’re extremely pleased with our partnership with Powerboat P1 over the past several several years, and look forward to building the St. Pete race weekend as a signature event for our community."

The St. Pete Catalyst

The Catalyst honors its name by aggregating & curating the sparks that propel the St Pete engine.  It is a modern news platform, powered by community sourced content and augmented with directed coverage.  Bring your news, your perspective and your spark to the St Pete Catalyst and take your seat at the table.

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