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Business Observer Thursday, Dec. 24, 2009 10 years ago

Government Digest 12/25/09

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A look at governmental action from around the Gulf Coast.
by: Jay Brady Government Editor

Management shakeup
ST. PETERSBURG — When Mayor-elect Bill Foster takes office Jan. 4, Deputy Mayor Tish Elston's title changes to city administrator.

Elston will head-up budget, finance and school resource departments as well as take on supervisory responsibilities over other city administrators. The three deputy mayor's will all be retained but have new titles. Deputy Mayor Goliath Davis becomes the city's community enrichment senior administrator and will continue to head the city's business assistance center, codes assistance, community initiatives, housing and community development and special projects.

Davis and Deputy Mayor David Metz will now report directly to Elston rather than the mayor. Metz replaces Mike Connors to become the city's internal services senior administrator. Connors is now public works administrator.

Councilman Grill arrested
CAPE CORAL — District 5 City Councilman Eric Grill, 44, has been arrested by the Lee County sheriff's office on three felony fraud charges tied to his construction business. Grill is accused of taking more than $65,000 from two former clients his Grand Cape Construction, which is now out of business. Grill, who will be arraigned Jan. 19, reportedly plans to plead not guilty to the charges. Grill is out of jail on a $36,000 bail bond. If the state attorney's office files charges, which may take four to five weeks, it is expected that Gov. Charlie Crist would move to suspend Grill. Should he be suspended, the vacancy will be filled by a temporary appointment by a majority vote of the city council.

2035 transportation plan
PASCO COUNTY — The Pasco County Metropolitan Planning Organization adopted the 2035 Cost-Feasible Transportation Plan at its meeting on Dec. 10. The $9.75 billion plan includes $8 billion for highway expansion and $1 billion for transit capital and operating expenses. Please contact the MPO at (727) 847-8140 for more information.

Port Dolphin permit advances
MANATEE COUNTY — The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued a certificate of public necessity and convenience to Port Dolphin Energy Dec. 7 to build and operate an onshore pipeline connecting to its deepwater port 28 miles off the coast of Manatee County. The certificate pushes the company closer to receiving a license to build its deepwater port after getting approval from the U.S. Maritime Administration in October and state approval of the project in September. Once approved, liquefied natural gas tankers would arrive at the Port Dolphin offshore deepwater port and then connect to a new undersea pipeline system that would come onshore at Port Manatee.

Tax-exempt bonds
CHARLOTTE COUNTY — The county is accepting applications for tax-exempt recovery zone facility bonds. Businesses looking to do capital improvements to an existing facility or looking to build a new facility within Charlotte County are encouraged to submit an application. More information is available on the county's economic development Web site www.FloridaEDO.com.

State Farm Florida settles
TALLAHASSEE — The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR) has issued a consent order that resolves the pending litigation between State Farm Florida and the OIR over State Farm Florida's plan to leave the property insurance market.

Under the terms, State Farm Florida will drop no more than 125,000 policies of its 810,416 residential property policies reported as of October 2009. Even after these non-renewals, State Farm Florida will remain the largest private insurer of property insurance risk in the state. The consent order also grants State Farm Florida a 14.8% rate increase for all homeowners' and condominium unit owners policies. The company has been losing $20 million a month.

The consent order concludes a series of events that began with OIR's denial of State Farm Florida's ultimate average rate request of 67.1%. The consent order results in the withdrawal of State Farm Florida's plan to withdraw filed Jan. 27, 2009 and the cancellation of the Jan. 25, 2010 hearing before the division of administrative hearings. State Farm's agents are allowed to enter into servicing agreements to move canceled policyholders into coverage provided by 16 other companies. It is hoped that will keep canceled policyholders out of the underfunded state-run Citizens Property Insurance Corporation.

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