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St. Petersburg Police launch body camera program

A new body worn camera program is underway in the St. Petersburg Police department. The first squads began training in the past week, and the first officers with cameras were on the streets Friday. It will take four to six weeks to get all the officers through the training and issued a camera, a news release said. There also will be in-car cameras in 360 patrol cars by the end of 2021. In October, the St. Petersburg City Council approved a five-year, $6.75 million contract with Axon Enterprises, which is supplying the cameras, all associated hardware and unlimited storage of case recordings on a digital evidence management system.

Pinellas County, Dunedin set to resume talks for Douglas-Hackworth property

A new appraisal on 44 acres of undeveloped land in North Pinellas County positions the county government and city of Dunedin officials to resume negotiations to acquire the property. The local governments this week received certified appraisals for the Gladys Douglas-Hackworth property in the range of between $5.52 million to $5.55 million, according to a news release from the county. With the appraisals now completed, a meeting with representatives for the estate will take place next week to resume negotiations, the news release said. County and city officials also said they will submit a joint application next week to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection for a Florida Communities Trust state grant. They hope that the grant, coupled with an ongoing community fundraising effort, would contribute toward the final acquisition and environmental restoration costs for the property, located on the northeast corner of Virginia Avenue and Keene Road.

New chair at St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership

Melissa Seixas is ending a three-year term as chair of the board of directors of the St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership. Seixas, vice president, Florida government and community relations at Duke Energy Corp., chaired her final Downtown Partnership meeting Thursday. She will be succeeded by Derek Houston, partner and cofounder at Houston Taylor Law in St. Petersburg. Seixas was the first female chair of the Downtown Partnership. During her chairmanship, the Downtown Partnership hired Jason Mathis as CEO in 2018. The organization also grew its membership and its board. "With your vision and hard work we think we've been able to position ourselves very well for the immediate future, to be able to give the thoughtful input our downtown needed That was all part of your vision and plan, the first step being getting Jason here, which has been a great fit," Houston said.

Forward Pinellas launches virtual comment board

Forward Pinellas has launched an interactive virtual comment board where residents and visitors can share their vision for the future of transportation in downtown St. Pete. This is part of the Downtown St. Petersburg Mobility Survey where residents and visitors weighed in on improving transportation downtown. Through the website and comment board, people can also ask questions and stay updated on ways they can help improve mobility, livability and economic vitality while identifying and prioritizing transportation projects – large and small – throughout the study. 

St. Pete offers additional homestead exemption for low-income seniors

The City of St. Petersburg has adopted an ordinance to allow for an additional homestead exemption on property taxes for low-income seniors who maintain long-term residency at their property in St. Pete. St. Pete will now be the third municipality in Pinellas County to allow this additional exemption that will significantly help eligible residents afford to remain in their current homes. Residents can now apply with the Pinellas County Property Appraiser at  for tax year beginning Jan. 1, 2021. The application deadline is March 1 for the tax year in which the applicant wants to qualify. For more details, click here. 

Pinellas County adds 543 Covid-19 cases, 1 new death

The Florida Department of Health reported 543 new cases of Covid-19 in Pinellas County Thursday. There's now a cumulative total of 36,426 confirmed cases in Pinellas since March, when the state began reporting on the pandemic. A total of 942 people in Pinellas have died as a result of the virus, according to the health department, including one new death reported Thursday. The Florida Agency for Health Care Administration said 220 people were hospitalized in Pinellas County Thursday afternoon with a primary diagnosis of Covid, an increase from the 213 people hospitalized on Wednesday with Covid. About 27 percent of the hospital beds in the county remain available. The positivity rate - or percent of people who take a Covid test and test positive - was 6.95 percent on Wednesday and has averaged 6.4 percent over the past two weeks.

Publix Gasparilla Distance Classic moved from February to May

The Gasparilla Distance Classic Association announced Thursday that the 44th Running of the Publix Gasparilla Distance Classic race weekend events, originally scheduled for Feb. 19-21, 2021, will be postponed to Mother's Day Weekend, May 7-9, 2021. Though race organizers had planned to hold the race in February based on a review of Covid numbers in October, the new higher positivity rates prompted them to reschedule. All participants who are currently registered for one or more of the 2021 events will be given the option of running in-person in May or, if they choose, converting their registration to run virtually.

Susana Weymouth named as Chief Development Officer for The Florida Orchestra

Susana Weymouth, executive director of Tampa Bay Businesses for Culture and the Arts (TBBCA), will join The Florida Orchestra in January as Chief Development Officer. Weymouth will lead a team responsible for creating and managing a comprehensive fundraising plan for TFO as it navigates the financial effects of the pandemic and beyond. The orchestra’s operating budget is $11.5 million in a typical year. Weymouth will remain in her role with TBBCA through the end of this year.

Empath, Stratum advance plans for merger

The boards of directors of Empath Health and Stratum Health System have approved the merger of the two organizations. The merger will create the largest not-for-profit health system focused on non-acute care and services in the United States, serving more than 6,000 patients a day, a news release said. During the Covid-19 pandemic, the two nonprofits have worked collaboratively to obtain personal protective equipment, share best practices, and strengthen their overall processes to support their patients and families. To read more about the deal in the Impact section of the St. Pete Catalyst, click here.

Rays invite four teams to become affiliates under new MLB structure

Major League Baseball has revamped its player development structure. Under the new system, 30 MLB franchises will extend invitations to four farm teams each, the Washington Post reported. The Tampa Bay Rays have invited the Durham (North Carolina) Bulls, the Montgomery (Alabama) Biscuits, the Bowling Green (Kentucky) Hot Rods and The Charleston (South Carolina) RiverDogs to join the Rays as affiliates under the new MLB system, a news release said. The Bulls, Biscuits and Hot Rods have been Rays' affiliates. The RiverDogs previously were Rays' affiliates but most recently were affiliated with the New York Yankees. The new MLB player development system begins in 2021.

Raymond James to buy retirement administration firm

Raymond James Financial has an agreement to acquire NWPS Holdings, a Seattle-based independent provider of retirement plan administration, consulting, actuarial and administration services. Financial terms were not disclosed. The deal is expected to close before the end of the year. NWPS, which also does business as Northwest Plan Services, will continue to operate under its current name and its 160 employees will remain at the firm's current locations. The deal is a good strategic fit for the long-term growth strategy at St. Petersburg-based Raymond James (NYSE: RJF), said Paul Reilly, chairman and CEO. 

Covid hospitalizations, positive test results jump in Pinellas County

The Florida Department of Health reported 378 newly confirmed cases of Covid-19 and two additional deaths from the virus in Pinellas County and Wednesday. There is now a cumulative total of 35,883 cases of Covid-19 since March in Pinellas County and 941 people have died as result of the virus. The health department's  latest report showed the positivity rate - or percent of people who took a Covid-19 test and received a positive result - was 9.2 percent on Tuesday. The positivity rate has averaged 6.3 percent over the past two weeks. The Florida Agency for Health Care Administration said 213 people were hospitalized with a primary diagnosis of Covid in Pinellas County hospitals as of Wednesday afternoon. That's up from 198 people hospitalized on Tuesday afternoon. While overall available hospital bed capacity in Pinellas County is 27 percent, three hospitals — St. Anthony's Hospital in St. Petersburg, Morton Plant Hospital in Clearwater and Mease Countryside Hospital in Dunedin — have fewer than 10 percent of their beds available.

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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