Author Archive: Charlie Barnett

Florida to get tax holiday on school and hurricane supplies

Back-to-school shoppers and hurricane-tested Floridians will be able to take advantage of sales-tax “holidays” when they prepare for the new school year and the upcoming storm season.

On Wednesday, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a tax package (HB 7123), featuring the school tax and disaster-preparedness holidays, and relief for business owners that rent storm-impacted farmers and commercial space.

With hurricane season coming on June 1, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the bill as attending the annual Hurricane Conference of Governor in West Palm Beach.

Mentioning the Floridians became hurricane “battled-tested” after hurricanes Michael last year, Irma in 2017, and Matthew in 2016, DeSantis said that they hoped not to have to use that experience this year.

He also said that he has used emergency powers to assist local officials to quickly access a federal program which provides cash advances that can be used to rebuild government buildings, schools, and certain non-profit facilities.

The package of tax was approved early this month when the  legislative session of  2019 ended. While being promoted as providing 121 million dollars in tax breaks, it is projected to decrease state and local revenue by 87 million dollars in the fiscal year of 2019-2020.

The business community backed the package while the amount of tax savings is lower than in prior years.

Gov. Ron DeSantis received the tax package last Tuesday and announced plans to sign the bill, providing a seven-day “holiday” for disaster preparation from May 31, one day before the six-month hurricane season starts.

However, during the tax holiday, sales taxes will not be collected on the items like non-electric food storage coolers which sell for $30 or less; self-powered light sources which cost $20 or less; portable generators that cost $750 or less; and self-powered radios, ground anchor systems, tarpaulins, and weather-band radios which cost $50 or less.

The holiday is projected to save $5.5 million for shoppers in state and local taxes.

 

 

Florida’s Best 18 Golf Holes (part 2)

 

  1. Ocean Links at Amelia Island Plantation

While almost these Bobby Weed-designed course holes look like typical Lowcountry golf, stately live oaks and skirting wild marshes, Ocean Links and four others border the broad Atlantic beachfront. Club selection on this hole is always tricky, open to the breezes.

  1. Championship course, Bay Hill Club and Lodge

Championship course in Bay Hill Club and Lodge is always considered as a highlight hole during the annual stop of PGA Tour on Arnie’s home course, with the long, narrow fairway wrapping around a lake from tee to green. Players here have to decide how much water to cut off for twice.

  1. Blue Monster at the Doral Golf Resort and Spa 

Palm Trees at this dogleg’s right-hand corner left block out drives right or through the fairway which ends up behind them. It is best to play a draw from the tee. The position of the fairway bunkers provides more room for average golfers to drive the ball while the left-fairway bunker with steeper lip is more intimidating for PGA TOUR ones. The left side of the Green slopes down to the left into a chipping area.

  1. Rolling Oaks course at World Woods

If Tom Fazio designed the Pine Barrens golf course to resemble Pine Valley, it is said that he has had Augusta National in his mind at Rolling Oaks. This devilish hole resembles the well-known No. 12 of Augusta – with swirling winds, over water to a narrow green.

  1. Ocean Course at Hammock Resort

Ocean Course is a fairly new course with high profile: Jack Nicklaus designed it as well as the ninth and eighteenth holes all run parallel to the Atlantic Ocean beach. Usually, at the mercy of the wind, this golf hole is extra-tough and requires two hearty blows to get to the sand-protected green.

 

 

Cities in Central Florida among fastest growing in US

When it came to population growth last year, Central Florida cities were some of the fastest growing in the U.S.

According to the figures which were released last Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau, last year, metro Orlando grew by up to 60,000 residents, as large as the number of people that can fit into the Camping World Stadium of this city – the place where college football bowl teams face off in winter of each year. That gave Orlando the fifth-biggest increase in pure numbers of any U.S metro area.

Meanwhile, last year, the Tampa area grew by 51,000 residents, more than the number of fans that can fit into Tropicana Field, where the Tampa Bay Rays of the city play baseball. This number placed its numeric increase at No. 9

Thanks to their growth from mid-2017 to mid-2018, these two metropolises were propelled into the top tier of the fastest growing metro areas of the whole nation.

It was also released by the U.S. Census Bureau that only Texas grew by more people than Florida last year. Moreover, the addition of tens of thousands of new residents to the cities in central Florida will increase the importance of the Interstate 4 corridor’s next election, already the swingiest part of the biggest swing state of the nation. That explosive growth also offers Florida the chances of getting additional congressional seats as well as presidential electors after the 2020 census.

Among these cities, Orlando had the fifth largest increase of the country for metro areas in pure numbers, surpassed by only Houston, Dallas, Atlanta, and Phoenix. Tampa came in at No. 9.

In Tampa, the population growth was totally driven by new arrivals. If there weren’t this inbound migration, Tampa would have lost population because its deaths outnumbered births by almost 900 people. Mostly new arrivals came from U.S. states.

Republican governor appoints Florida’s first chief science officer

Ron DeSantis, Republican Florida Governor, appointed the first chief science officer on Monday, marking what he called the “commitment to science-based solutions” of the state.

DeSantis appointed the biologist Thomas Frazer, who has been the director of the School of Natural Resources and Environment of University of Florida since 2012 and previously worked as the UF Water Institute’s acting director.

In this new position, he will coordinate Florida’s research and scientific work and make sure that the officials have the scientific analysis which they need to tackle the environmental problems of the state.

Frazer’s research has looked at the effects on water of pollution. He has also worked on research about climate change. He has served as the Climate Science Faculty Committee’s chairman. Therefore, climate change will be a part of his mission.

Frazer said that “We have to look at the facts of what is going on in the environment and can we bring science to bear on those changes happening now and in the future?”

Under the predecessor of DeSantis, fellow Republican Rick Scott, some state employees said that they were discouraged from using the terms “global warming” and “climate change.”

When being asked whether he thought that climate change was a threat to the state, DeSantis said the issue was “politicized” but he considered sea-level rise a serious threat.

“My environmental policy is just to do things that benefit Floridians. And the idea that you’re signing up for some type of agenda — I don’t want to … send a signal that that’s what I’m doing because I’m not doing that,” DeSantis said. “This is what we’re going to do. We’re going to do what works.” DeSantis also said that the appointment kept with his promise to make “sound science” a Florida priority.

And Frazer will have his work cut out for him and said he was honored by the appointment. “Our environment and waterways make Florida unique,” he said. “I look forward to working with the governor and the Department of Environmental Protection on ways we can use sound science and research to improve our state’s water quality and protect the environment.”

Tourism Marketing Agency of Florida needs good marketing to dodge House axe

In the year 2018, there are more than 126 million people visited Florida, that marks the eight years in a row this State saw a record number of tourists.

Visitors spent up to more than $115 billion during their stays in Florida, confirming tourism remains the state’s No. 1 industry and supporting about 1.5 million jobs.

Florida has an agency within Enterprise Florida, Inc., – EFI – a non-profit corporation which was created to act as the state’s economic development organization, which serves as a tourism-marketing agency, named Visit Florida.

Visit Florida was created by the Legislature in 1996. It receives an annual allocation from lawmakers and has to be reauthorized every three years. The state Senate and Gov. Ron DeSantis want to refund and reauthorize Visit Florida, however, the House, apparently, has other ideas.

In 2017, House Republicans attempted to abolish EFI as well as Visit Florida. The agency was under fire due to issuing questionable contracts, including a $2.875 million contract with Visit Florida Racing – an auto racing team, a $1 million promotion contract for rapper Pitbull, and an $11.6 million deal to sponsor a cooking show which was hosted by celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse.

After a contentious debate, legislators revised the agency’s reporting requirements such as imposing new rules which dissolved partnerships with local tourism organizations.

Florida Republican Party Chairman Sen. Joe Gruters said that “What Visit Florida does for our economy as challenges come up in all of our local areas, it’s critically important for our success. And when Florida is at its lowest points, they’re there helping prop us back and letting people know we’re back in business.”

Visit Florida is particularly needed these days when the tourism industry of Southwest Florida attempts to recover from its high-publicized bout of red tide and the Panhandle builds out from the devastation of the Hurricane Michael, he also said.

 

 

Florida’s Best 18 Golf Holes (part 1)

 

Florida has more than 1,000 golf courses and picking the best 18 golf holes is no easy task. And playing them might be even harder!

It is not difficult to construct a course with 18 longest holes in Florida, however, a good golf course must have a balance between good long and short holes – those with tricky doglegs or deep bunkers and those with lots of water. There is the list of Florida’s Best 18 Golf Holes in my opinion.

  1. New Course, Grand Cypress Resort

Jack Nicklaus designed this resort to the famed Old Course of Scotland at St. Andrews. Although it’s difficult to recreate North Sea conditions in the center of Florida, this first hole is a faithful rendition. Wide and short open, it’s the second shot across Swilcan Burn’s local variation which calls for precision.

  1. Belleview Biltmore Golf Club

Designed by Donald Ross, this jewel of a course is a centerpiece of the historic resort. This second hole, narrow, long, and tightly guarded by ponds and trees, set the tone. The tiny crowned green will repel all but the best accurate approach shots.

  1. Wanamaker course at PGA Village

The PGA of America’s excellent golf facility boasts up to three Championship courses by Pete Dye and Tom Fazio at PGA Golf Club. It has a six-hole short course, the PGA Museum of Golf, and the PGA Center for Golf Learning and Performance. Wanamaker course is a classic layout of Florida: rolling terrain with a lot of palms, palmettos, and wetlands. This third hole calls for carrying over water from the tee to a heavily bunkered, rolling green and divided fairway.

  1. Pine Barrens at World Woods

Pine Barrens at World Woods is a great design of Tom Fazio. It utilizes scrubby, sandy waste areas like Pine Valley of New Jersey. This par-five allows a safe route, but golf players who would like to challenge the sandy wasteland can get home in two for an eagle with 2 strong shots.

 

Florida waters are testing entirely free of red tide organism

 

The coastal waters of Florida are testing of the organism which causes red tide completely free for the first time since September 2017.

According to the report of The Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission of Florida (FWC), Karenia Brevis algae was not present in any water samples which were collected around the state in the past week.

A patchy, continuous bloom of red tide which lasted more than one year impacted the state’s wildlife, coastal industries, and tourism.

The bloom of red tide has tapered off since the recent months but only remained at high concentrations in the isolated areas. The last algae’s bloom concentrations were detected on Jan. 31 in Monroe County’s waters off.

A background concentration (1,000 cells of Karenia Brevis per liter of water) was detected in one water sample of Collier County last week. There were reports about fish kills in Collier County over the past week but not anywhere else in the state of Florida. The most recent sample map of FWC shows that red tide is not present at all water test sites in the state.

All waters off Anna Maria and Manatee County tested free of red tide again. The last red tide trace in the area was a background concentration of Longboat Pass on 28 of Jan. Respiratory irritation was reported in Pinellas County as well as Lee and Manatee counties.

Short-term red tide tracking maps which were produced by the Florida Wildlife Research Institute and the College of Marine Science at the South Florida University predict that waters in the west Florida shelf and the Tampa Bay region will remain red-tide-free over the next two days. FWC will deliver the next statewide red tide status report on Friday.

For more information, please call 866-300-9399 whenever and wherever in Florida to be issued the latest red tide status report. Please call 727-552-2448 if you are outside Florida.

 

Panama City Beach to Become the Center of Soccer in the Southeast

 

Panama City Beach is looking ahead to the summer of 2019 with great plans to open the world-class Panama City Beach Sports Complex, which is managed by Sports Facilities Management (SFM). It is a brand-new $37 million complex, which will offer visitors a place to enjoy various sports and activities including soccer. Panama City Beach, destined to be the soccer center in the Southeast, will host more than 700 soccer teams for over 15 tournaments beginning in August.

This project was due to a study in 2008 and 2013, which regarded the need for rectangular fields. The complex’s market study and design began in 2015. The concept of the complex was approved in 2015. Then, 10 acres for the access road was purchased. St. Joe Company finalized the land transfer agreement for this project in 2016. The final design was completed in 2018. Land clearing and road construction began in April of 2018. Bay County approved the bid and the ceremonial groundbreaking for this complex was on June 13, 2018.

According to Mr. J.D. Wood, SFM General Manager of the Panama City Beach Sports Complex, this Sports Complex is a full-service venue with 13 brand-new fields, two of which are new championship fields. They are so excited to start with a big lineup of new soccer events and also look forward to the new teams and visitors coming to Panama City Beach in 2019 and beyond. And they are so lucky to have some good partners helping to develop an event calendar which will bring a lot of new visitors to the Panama City Beach and that will do so much for the city’s local economy with National, State and Regional soccer events in non-summer months.

Besides soccer, the flexible design of Panama City Beach Sports Complex will also allow for football, lacrosse, baseball, softball, rugby, and almost any other event. Details of the opening will be announced closer to August.

The coldest weather of the year is coming to South Florida

The lowest temperatures of the year are coming to South Florida, in time for the Supermoon lunar eclipse on this Sunday night and the Martin Luther King Jr. parade and holiday next Monday.

According to Paxton Fell, National Weather Service meteorologist in the Miami office, Broward, Miami-Dade, and the Florida east coast may have temperatures in the upper 40s on Monday morning. She said that the wind chill would make it become even more wintering.

Building seas and gusty winds will make weather conditions hazardous on the waters, with rip tides, too. However, the most polar bear of tourists may want to swim on Monday when the high is expected to increase to the mid-60s. Temperatures from 30s to 40s are expected in the Lake Okeechobee region.

All of this is added to Winter Storm Harvey, which has wrecked holiday weekend travel plans. According to the Weather Channel, Harvey has just led to winter storm warnings or watches for Chicago, Boston, Milwaukee, Providence, Hartford, Pittsburgh, Buffalo, Albany, Des Moines, and Cleveland. The Weather Channel also said that major flight delays and some cancellations are expected this weekend at the major Northeast hubs such as Boston-Logan, JFK, Newark, LaGuardia, Dulles, Philadelphia, and Reagan National airports. Some other significant delays are also possible on Saturday at Kansas City, Chicago O’Hare Airport and other airports in the Ohio Valley, Midwest, and interior Northeast.

In fact, temperatures in the 40s don’t sound too bad in South Florida. Fell also said that in spite of what feels like a chillier January than usual for South Florida, they’re not setting any cold records. Even though there have been some colder days this month, they’re actually running 2.1 degrees above normal.

According to the National Weather Service, the average monthly temperature for January is about 70.1 degrees, and right now it is at 72.2 before the coming chill.

 

 Missing New York dog discovered 1,100 miles away in Florida after leaving home following owner’s death

 

A dog has been found recently more than 1,100 miles far from home after disappearing during 18 months following his owner’s death in a gun accident.

The dog is a brown and white husky, named Sinatra. It went missing from Brooklyn, New York, last year, then somehow got to the town of Seffner, Florida, where he was found by Rose Verill, a 13-year-old boy. The Verills family first looked for the dog’s owners by using an identification chip read by a vet with the help of a friend, Jeanne Baldi.

However, the vet could just identify some information: the name “Willis Les” and a phone number which was one digit short. Therefore, Ms. Baldi began searching online for anyone who slightly matched the information they had gleaned. She found a man named Lesmore Willis on Facebook and sent a message to him. To her shock, Mr. Willis replied that he had indeed lost a dog.

They quickly realized that both the dog found in Florida and the one he had lost had the same problem with the right foot and confirmed by exchanging photographs.

Ms. Baldi said she never imagined that her Facebook would solve the matter, especially because she saw that Mr. Willis lived so far away.

Neither does Ms. Baldi, or Mr. Willis, have any idea about how Sinatra managed to travel the 1,100 miles from New York to Florida.

But when the dog’s owners were found, a new tragedy came out. Sinatra had originally been a present for Mr. Willis’s daughter Zion on her 14th birthday. She was an animal lover and avid dancer and started her own dog-walking business since still being a teenager. Sadly, two years later, Zion was killed in a gun accident while visiting a friend’s house. Sinatra disappeared the following year to compound the loss.

Mr. Willis was inconsolable when losing the dog because it was a strong connection to his late daughter. The Willis had put up flyers and searched for Sinatra across New York but had given up ever seeing him again.

But the much-loved Sinatra will soon be reunited with his family after friends of Ms. Baldi agreed to take him back to the Willis family.