Southwest Florida Roundup
In the event of a power failure, only about half of Tampa’s traffic lights are equipped with backup batteries that can keep the signals operating without a generator for about eight hours.
After that, the traffic lights would go dark, and motorists would be on their own.
Given the potential for confusion and accidents at intersections with out-of-order traffic signals — and to prepare for tropical storms that might cause widespread power outages — Tampa has partnered with solar panel maker Solar Earth on a $45,000 pilot program to embed 84 solar panels in sidewalks near a downtown intersection.
During a power failure, the solar panels would power the nearby intersection’s traffic signals for about three days.
The panels are protected by a hard surface that allows pedestrians to walk on the sidewalk without damaging the panels. The surface also protects them from flooding.
Solar Earth, based in Canada, specializes in “solarizing” sidewalks, roads, parking lots, rooftops and docks to allow the infrastructure to perform its intended purpose while also generating power.
- Amid projections of a 31.8% drop in citrus production for the 2022-23 growing season, the Bartow-based Florida Citrus Commission has cut its marketing and public relations budget by $1 million.
- Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers has reopened its search for a president after two of the three finalists for the job dropped out of consideration, leaving the university with only one choice. FGCU President Mike Martin announced last spring that he planned to resign by the end of 2022, but he has agreed to stay on longer.
- Pinellas County-based Empath Health has opened the Auer Szabo Empath Adult Day Center in St. Petersburg. The center is focused on providing services to veterans and their families.
- Polk County commissioners approved $2.3 million to develop affordable housing for seniors at the Grove Manor Apartments in Winter Haven.
- St. Pete Beach’s 382-room Sirata Beach Resort has been sold for $207 million. Columbia Sussex of Kentucky bought the 13-acre property from Texas-based Crescent Real Estate, which purchased it for $108.2 million in 2017. Columbia Sussex’s other properties include the Marriott Tampa Westshore and the Hilton Clearwater Beach Resort and Spa.
- Matthew Duffy is the new chief risk officer at St. Petersburg’s Neptune Flood. Duffy, a former professional soccer player, had been Neptune’s director of risk management and internal audit.
- New York-based Gary Plastic Packaging will get nearly $1 million in incentives from Pasco County for moving part of its manufacturing operations to Pasco County, where it says it will bring 555 jobs within three years and lease a 279,000-sq.-ft. industrial space in Spring Hill. The company makes promotional products and plastic packaging for the pharmaceutical, dental and electronics industries.
- Construction is expected to start this year on Tampa Heights, a $79-million, seven-story development in Tampa to include a 320- unit apartment and 13,000 square feet of retail. Work on the project in the Tampa Heights Historic District should be completed by December 2024.
- Boat retailer MarineMax plans to build a $30-million, 132,000-sq.-ft. yacht factory near St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport. Also, the Clear-water-based boating company spent $4 million to buy a 1.5-acre waterfront parcel in Tarpon Springs, where it plans to store boats.
- Hertz has agreed to a $168-million settlement following more than 300 lawsuits that claimed the Estero-based rental car company wrongly accused customers of stealing cars that the customers were just renting. Hertz says a system glitch led to the false accusations, which resulted in the arrest of some customers.
- Due to damage at the Charlotte Sports Park from Hurricane Ian, the Tampa Bay Rays will begin spring workouts at Disney World’s ESPN Wide World of Sports complex in February. But they will play the actual spring training games at Tropicana Field.
- About $670,000 in Collier County tourist development tax revenue will go toward pickleball court renovations and other improvements at East Naples Community Park. The park, which has hosted pickleball tournaments including the U.S. Open Pickleball Championships, has 64 courts.
- Avelo Airlines has started offering non-stop service from Sarasota Bradenton International Airport to Raleigh-Durham International Airport in North Carolina.