YIR_boys_MG_2260-2This past year will always be an important year to me. This is the year my third and final son Rhett McKinley Gilmore was born. Being a business owner, wife and mother has been a highlight and I look forward to the challenges, joys and surprises each day brings. As our household settles into the chaos of adding a third sibling, I am honored to have the opportunity to bring Rhett to work and networking and business events in the community. Maybe you have seen us out and about?

But, 2014 wasn’t just an important year personally; it was also an important year for our community. Let’s call it the year of hope. Hope for the future, hope for businesses and hope for residents who are finally feeling a little relief in the bottom line and feeling secure to spend a little more.

Look around at the construction, from roads, master-planned communities, businesses and employers; we have a lot to appreciate in S.E. Hillsborough County. And with the growth, comes more opportunities for residents.

Amazon opening its two giant distribution centers in Ruskin and Lakeland brought thousands of good-paying jobs, Bass Pro Shops is building its superstore and neighboring Topgolf is already open for enjoyment. USAA has its newest headquarters under construction and in Riverview, both St. Joseph’s Hospital South and the YMCA promise for more opportunities for the Big Bend corridor.

Fresh Market is a welcome addition on Lithia Pinecrest Rd. And Wawa and Thornton’s are still popping up all over the community.

With the growth and jobs, come new residents, new opportunities and new restaurants. For every business that closes, a new sign emerges for new businesses coming to our area. Nordstrom Rack, Ford’s Garage, to name a few.

The Osprey Observer team is pleased to continue to print positive news and have the opportunity to be the homegrown, hometown community newspaper. We thank our readers, our advertisers and all local businesses in our community for the support and confidence to keep local news alive.

‘Like’ us on Facebook (OspreyObserverFans), follow us on Instagram (@OspreyObserver), visit us on www.ospreyobserver.com or e-mail me at editor@ospreyobserver.com and let us know what we are missing.

Wishing you all the best!

Marie Gilmore,

Managing Editor

YIR_Screen Shot 2014-12-22 at 12.38.17 PMTampa Bay Readies For 2014 Hurricane Season With Expo

By Tamas Mondovics

As it is done each year, local emergency agencies and government officials promoted their annual alertness and preparedness campaigns ahead of and during the 2014 Atlantic hurricane season, which has once again passed without making much of an impact on residents living in the Tampa Bay area.                                      

While the Eastern Pacific proved to be extremely hectic, the National Weather Channel on weather.com acknowledged that the Atlantic hurricane season was the sparsest since 1997, quieter than average, calling the season as “one of contrasts and paradoxes.”                                                                                           

The Atlantic basin saw nine tropical cyclones formed in 2014, eight of which were named a Tropical Depression. Hurricane Arthur was the strongest hurricane to make landfall on the U.S. mainland in six years, reaching eastern North Carolina late on July 3 with 100-mph winds.                                                            

Despite producing barely half as many storms as in 2013, this season was almost twice as energetic, packing in a much stronger storm-power-punch.

Original story, printed June 2014:

Are You Ready Tampa Bay? It is a question that is quite familiar to most Hillsborough County residents and it is also the theme of the 2014 Tampa Bay Hurricane Expo at the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI).

The question will ultimately be answered in the case of a major hurricane actually making its way into the Tampa Bay, which has not been the case for some time, causing some residents to take their preparedness lightly and their status for granted.

“With the tropics showing an increased activity, this is not the time to become complacent,” said NOAA meteorologist Tyler Fleming of the agency’s Ruskin office just weeks before last year’s hurricane season. “It only takes one storm to change people’s lives forever.”

National Hurricane Preparedness Week 2014 runs from May 25 through May 31.

To help Bay area residents get ready, Hillsborough County and the City of Tampa has joined forces with MOSI to host the annual expo as a means to educate families and help them be prepared should a major storm hit the area.

According to county officials, the event scheduled for Saturday, May 31 will start at 9 a.m. and will run until 2 p.m. at 4801 E. Fowler Ave. in Tampa, featuring plenty of children activities, exhibits and more.

This year’s theme, Are You Ready Tampa Bay?, will focus on the importance of taking actions before a major disaster to ensure residents can recover successfully and thrive after a storm.

In addition to the list of guest speakers, other planned activities include safety demonstrations, emergency vehicle displays, vendors of safety products, personal disaster preparedness and home retrofit products will be on hand to demonstrate how to be ready.

With flooding being the number one danger for Tampa Bay area residents, it is noteworthy that earlier this month many communities in Florida saw the effects of severe weather, including flooding, which prompted the State Emergency Response Team (SERT) to encourage Floridians to use caution around flooding and standing water resulting from the heavy rains in the Florida Panhandle.

Accordingly, Floridians should continue to take precautions to ensure safety during and after severe weather, and to protect life, then property. Heed all instructions from local emergency management officials and always dial 911 during an emergency.

“We urge residents and visitors in affected areas to take precautions to protect themselves and their families from potential health risks presented by floodwaters,” said Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Bryan W. Koon.

Should it occur, the first Atlantic cyclone of the 2014 will be named Arthur according to a six-year rotation cycle. The 2014 list of hurricane names will be used again in 2020. The only time that there is a change in the list is if a storm is so deadly or costly that the future use of its name on a different storm would be inappropriate for reasons of sensitivity.

For more information visit www.nhc.noaa.gov/prepare/, www.FloridaDisaster.org. or

www.tampabayhurricaneexpo.com/newsinfo.cfm.

YIR_Animal Services_get_image.aspAnimal Coalition Of Tampa Begins Cleanup After Arson Fire

By Sandra Meyer

ACT is still waiting for insurance to be settled in order to begin the rebuilding process.

The Lemon Street temporary clinic now is being used to perform spay and neuter surgeries as well as a shot clinic. Both of these services take place Monday through Saturday.

A lack of space and a greater community need found it opening up another temporary spot in the parking lot of the Gilchrist facility where they perform wellness exams by appointment Monday through Friday.

Original story, printed June 2014:

On Saturday, April 28, a fire at Animal Coalition took the lives of three beloved cats and destroyed at least 70 percent of the building.  The fire was found to be arson and a suspect is in jail after being tied to the fire by DNA evidence.

ACT is a 501(c)(3) organization that has performed over 80,000 low cost spay and neuter surgeries for residents of Tampa area communities. It also provides affordable pet medicines and animal health services and participates in the Hillsborough County’s voucher program for income-qualified families.

Due to the extensive damage, it may be several months before ACT can return to the Gilchrist Ave. location. The staff worked quickly to find a temporary facility to offer its services at 1719 W. Lemon St. in Tampa while the original location is rebuilt. On Friday, May 9, the Shot Clinic reopened for shots and medications only. Clinic hours for shots are 10:30 a.m.–1:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and no appointment is necessary.

Besides damage to the building, there was a loss of important medical equipment and supplies that will have to be replaced.  ACT has set up a donation site at www.phoenixfund. actampa.org to help rebuild its facility and replace equipment destroyed in the fire. Recently ACT took part in the first Give Day Tampa Bay on Tuesday, May 6, which was hosted by the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay. The foundation called on the community to donate to a local charity during a 24 hour time period. During this time, Tampa Electric (TECO) presented ACT with a $10,000 check to help with repairs.

Executive Director of ACT, Linda Hamilton said, “We want to make our appreciation known to our employees and to the public. We could not have survived without them. We are humbled and appreciative of all offers and support, and will reach out as we know more about what we need. “

For more information on ACT and its services as well as updates on repairs, visit www.actampa.org or on Facebook, search Animal Coalition of Tampa. ACT can be reached at 250-3900.

Big Developments Planned For 500 Acre Boy Scout Camp Alafia

By Tamas Mondovics

There was no shortage of new developments attracting the attention of area residents in 2014 including Camp Alafia, a project by The Gulf Ridge Council, Boy Scouts of America. Located in the heart of Lithia near the FishHawk Ranch communities, the 500-acre land has been used by local scouts for the past four decades. 

Gulf Ridge Council, officials launched a campaign last year to raise the necessary funds in order to further develop the property that would enhance the scout’s and visitors’ camping and exploring experiences.

With continued fundraising events and generosity from members of the community, the project is expected to be completed later this year. 

Original story, printed May 2014:

Boy Scouts living in FishHawk and nearby communities will soon have the opportunity to experience the great outdoors and hone their skills, while exploring more than 500 acres of pristine land along three miles of the Alafia River promising to evoke memories of pioneer days in Florida.

The Gulf Ridge Council, Boy Scouts of America (BSA) is now seeking $1.5 million in funding support to develop Camp Alafia in Lithia including a canoe and kayak outpost, camping facilities with running water for bathrooms, BB rifle and archery range as well as hiking, horseback riding and many other outdoor exploring activities.

The Gulf Ridge Council, BSA encompasses eight counties in West Florida serving more than 20,000 youth in 127 Cub Scout packs, 142 Boy Scout and Varsity Scout troops, 27 Venturing Crews and 37 Learning for Life units.

The entrance to the planned seven-acre camp site is currently located near the corner of FishHawk Blvd. and Lithia Pinecrest Rd. directly across the road from Beef O’Brady’s restaurant.

According to Gulf Ridge Council, Boy Scouts of America Vice President for Fund Development Grant E. Martin, the Council acquired the land (500+ acres) from the Wayne Thomas family in 1973, which is now used by the scouts for primitive camping.

“The full potential of Camp Alafia, which is situated in one of the most densely populated regions of the state, has never been realized,” Martin said as he talked about developing the land to offer more modern style camping options and to be a community used resource for local church, nonprofit and corporate organizations to utilize.

“With so much development in the area it just makes sense to do it now and make use of this property in a much larger extent, while serving thousands of young scouts.”

The camp has room for 150-200 scouts per day and the Council has no doubt of its full use.

Martin, himself a former Eagle Scout (1979), emphasized that the project is both exciting as well as special for him. He was one of the first Scouts to camp on the property in the 1970s, returning just a few years ago to camp with his son’s Scout troop; learning the same survival skills, teaching how to build lean-to shelters, eating off the land and working together with others.

“Our hope is to transform this camp into an outdoor facility that will not only benefit our scouts, but also other youth groups associated with our chartered partners and surrounding community neighborhoods,” Martin said.

Funds raised so far reached a little more than $300,000, but the Council is confident that with the generous support of the community and through individual donations, its financial goal will be met.

The project is said to take about six to seven months to complete and is hoped to be open by the fall of 2015.

For more information, contact Grant Martin 872-2691 ext, 121 or e-mail gmartin@boyscouting.com.

The Fresh Market Draws Hundreds Of Customers On Opening Day

By Tamas Mondovics

While hardly a surprise, the crowd that flocked to the brand new Fresh Market specialty grocery store on opening day gave little doubt to store officials of the community’s approval.

According to store officials, since its opening in April, the store has seen a steady flow of shoppers that are seeking to find variety of freshly baked specialty breads, pies, spices, ethnic foods and, of course, cheeses, and mostly organic products as well as the close to 1,000 Fresh Market brand items.

As the 36th store in the state (seventh in the Tampa area) Fresh Market boasted of bringing nearly 100 new jobs to the area along with its commitment to become an active member of the community.

Original story, printed April 2014:

After a year-long construction culminated into approximately eight weeks of stocking shelves with thousands of products, The Fresh Market specialty grocery store has finally opened its 36th store in Florida—seventh in the Tampa area—earlier this month in Valrico.

If the large crowd of excited shoppers waiting for their brand new, neighborhood organic food market and premium quality local produce store to open was any indication of the community’s approval, management has nothing to worry about.

Much to the pleasant surprise of management and staff, hundreds of guests filled the 25,000 sq. ft. store within minutes of opening.

“We are very excited about serving the community,” said Store Manager Darren Drenner. “We were expecting a great turnout for our grand opening, which we have clearly underestimated. Residents know our name and we are confident that the store is a great addition to the community, but this morning’s turnout and the interest in our store is far more than we had expected.”

With the focus on a “fresh” take on the grocery shopping experience, customers were immediately greeted by the store’s traditional old-world charm, fresh cut flowers, meats and produce.

Guests enjoyed multiple stations to sample products including fresh brewed coffee.

The market located at 3468 Lithia Pinecrest Rd. is open daily from 8 a.m. – 9 p.m. inside the Lithia Crossings Plaza adjacent to Stein Mart, and boasts of a large variety of freshly baked specialty breads, pies, spices, ethnic foods and cheeses, along with mostly organic products as well as the close to 1,000 Fresh Market brand items.

“Its all about the quality and the freshness,” said Fresh Market District Manager Dave Watkins. Also pleased with the large crowd and the overwhelming welcome, Watkins said that the community’s positive response was there right from the start.

“Our stores always get good support and this community is no different,” he said. “They have been there for us from the get go.”

Bloomingdale area resident Vicky Schoneberger said that the store grand opening was her “Black Friday of Foodies.”

“I actually took off work this morning just so that I can be here for opening day,” Schoneberger said. ”I love this store and now I have a place close to my home to get all my specialty items.”

Of course, the celebration would not be complete was it not for the “Crack the Parmesan” ceremony held at each grand opening, which replaces a traditional ribbon cutting.

“Parmigiano Reggiano is just one of the many quality items that make The Fresh Market a destination for those who love good food, and the cracking of the 80-pound wheel of parmesan is our way of celebration with our customers as we open the new store,” said The Fresh Market South Zone Vice President of Operations Ken Towery.

The opening of the new store also means close to 100 new jobs and another business that is committed to become an active member of the Valrico, Brandon and surrounding communities.

“We have already established some local partnerships,” Towery said. “This new store will proudly partner with ECHO of Brandon and Nativity Outreach Food Bank by providing regular donations of food. We have also partnered with the Central Florida Chapter of JDRF Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.”

Towery shared his confidence in the new store location, while mentioning the The Fresh Market will aggressively grow within the region and will be opening two more stores in the state this year.

For more information, visit www.thefreshmarket.com.

Fire Rescue To Break Ground On New Bloomingdale Station

By Tamas Mondovics

Construction of a brand-new fire station on Bloomingdale Avenue, which was welcomed by the community, began smoothly in August.

Hillsborough County Fire Rescue officials said that the $2.3 million project, which will replace and relocate the existing South Brandon Fire Station (#7) currently located at 122 W. Bloomingdale Ave., just west of John More Rd., is on time and is expected to be completed as planned, bringing improvements to the station as well as to the way the department responds to service calls.

According to Hillsborough County Fire Rescue Facilities Manager Tim Donahue, if things go as hoped, a new Central Brandon fire station on Pauls Dr. will also become a reality sometime in 2017.

Original story, printed August 2014:

Following a ceremonial groundbreaking this month, Bloomingdale area residents will witness construction crews hard at work on the county’s newest fire station scheduled to be built.

Slated for completion by Spring of 2015, the new 9,300 sq. ft., three-bay fire station will replace the existing South Brandon Fire Station (#7) currently located at 122 W. Bloomingdale Ave., just west of John More Rd., relocating it to the new site at 1292 Bloomingdale Ave., east of Bell Shoals Rd., between the intersections of Springvale Dr. and Hurley Rd.

Funding for the $2.3 million project is through Impact Fees, Unincorporated Area Construction Funds and the Public Safety Improvement Bond Project Funds.

According to Hillsborough County Fire Rescue Facilities Manager Tim Donahue, the new station is the County’s third newest station, including Station #18 in Seffner in 2010 and Station #17 in Ruskin in 2012.

The purchase of the Bloomingdale Ave. property at a cost of $472,000 was unanimously approved by the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners in January 2013, which then prompted the department to meet with local residents for their input.

Before deciding on a brand new location and building project, Hillsborough County Fire Rescue (HCFR) considered the question of whether to rebuild at the original location, but a study conducted by the department as well as an outside consultant indicated that it would be appropriate to relocate the facility to a new site.

Donahue said that the replacement station will be a huge improvement compared to the now 40-year-old South Brandon station for several reasons including cost effectiveness.

“The new station will be much better located to serve our residents,” Donahue said, adding, “Shorter distance to reach each call means improved response time for the Bloomingdale community.”

The station will be operated by a total of 18 firefighters sporting a six-member crew per shift around the clock.

Emphasizing additional reasons for the necessity for a new station, HCFR Chief Ron Rogers said that the station currently serving the community is too small and does not meet the standards for apparatus bay or crew quarters.

Fire Rescue plans to renovate or relocate a total of nine stations throughout the county.

Plans for a new central Brandon fire station to be built on Paul’s Dr. is also in the making and will likely become a reality by the end of 2017.

For more information about HCFR, visit www.hillsboroughcounty.org.

Bloomingdale Regional Public Library Celebrates $2.1M  Expansion

By Tamas Mondovics

One of the year’s most anticipated ribbon cuttings took place in June when, after year-long construction, local officials, including County Commissioner Sandra Murman, along with Joe Stines Director of Public Libraries, Chair of the Tampa-Hillsborough County Public Library Board John McWhirter, and Melody Suarez, President of the Friends of the Library of Tampa-Hillsborough County, Inc., gathered to celebrate the renovation and expansion of the Bloomingdale Regional Library.

The ribbon cutting was a conclusion to the effort on the part of all involved, as well as the beginning to a new chapter in the library’s 11-year history now serving residents under an additional 15,000 sq. ft. of space.

The project was funded with ad valorem tax dollars provided through the special library taxing district.

Original story, printed June 2014:

Tampa-Hillsborough County Public Library System representatives, along with members of the Friends of the Library and dozens of library patrons, gathered last month at the Bloomingdale Regional Public Library to celebrate the recent completion of the facility’s expansion.

“This is a special day for all of us,” said Joe Stines, Director of Public Libraries, who welcomed the large crowd as he hosted the official ribbon-cutting ceremony of the year-long project, which began in February 2013 adding 10,000 sq. ft. to the original 15,000-sq.-ft. library.

Melodee Suarez, President of the Friends of the Library of Tampa-Hillsborough County, Inc., commented on the hard work on the part of the Bloomingdale chapter.

“These volunteers donate books and funds to run a number of programs, as well as give freely of their time and experience to enhance the function of all activities,” Suarez said.

Following the ribbon-cutting, attendees enjoyed a tour of the new library, located at 1906 Bloomingdale Ave. in Valrico, built on a seven-acre lot homesteaded by Valrico pioneer John McLean.

The new facility features an enlarged children’s room, a second community room that seats 130 people, an Innovation Studio that includes six computers with creative software, a vending café, a new reading room with collaborative technology and trendy furniture, and an enhanced bookstore operated by the Friends of the Bloomingdale Regional Public Library.

“This library was too small when it opened,” said Eloise Hurst, who during her 27 years working with HCPLC, has seen a lot of changes. “It is finally the library that it should have been when it first opened in 2005.”

The $2.1 million Capital Improvement Project was funded with ad valorem tax dollars provided through the special library taxing district.

Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandra Murman joined the event and spoke highly of the new facility and what she believes it will do for the community.

“Our libraries have experienced an 85 percent increase of online circulation, and we are committed to support our libraries and to stay on the cutting edge of technology,” Murman said. “The future is bright for our libraries. This is just the start of the next 100 years.”

For more information, visit www.thpl.org.

Ryland  Breaks Ground On Shetland Ridge On Former Miniature Horse Farm

By Michelle Caceres

If you are traveling on Lithia Pinecrest Rd. heading south toward River Hills and Lithia, you can’t help but notice the new retention pond and homes already being built by Ryland Homes. The office hours on site are Monday to Friday from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. and on Sunday from 12 Noon-6 p.m. For more information, call 381-3958.

Original story, printed April 2014:

For years, thousands of people a day observed the adorable miniature ponies while driving on Lithia Pinecrest Rd. Owned by Evelyn Smith, the 26-acre property and the creatures that called it home were an iconic part of the landscape.

But times are changing and the ponies now call another someplace else home.

The property, sold to Ryland Homes approximately one year ago, closed last month. The award-winning homebuilder has already begun the demolition of the home that Smith and her husband lived in for decades. The new community’s roadway and infrastructure will soon be installed.

Realtor, Smiley Papenfus, with Signature Realty Associates listed the property for Smith six years ago, when the housing market had come to a screeching halt.

Papenfus, not to be deterred, marketed the property aggressively, installing large signage close to the roadway, taking aerial shots and listing the property on more than 100 Websites. “I was receiving calls from all over the country and worked with 26 clients before Ryland Homes came in with an offer that was approved,” said Papenfus. “Mrs. Smith was very happy with the offer she received.”

Hillsborough County has approved a community that will include 52 single-family homes (zoned two per acre) in the community named Shetland Ridge. The community will feature no CDD fee, a pond, park area, dog park and schools within walking distance. The entrance of Shetland Ridge will be across the street from Foundation Christian Academy.

Smith, who had been running the farm with the help of her sons for more than 20 years after the death of her husband, sold her beloved ponies and purchased a home in Brandon.

For more information about Shetland Ridge, visit www.ryland.com. For more information about buying or selling a home, contact Papenfus at 600-3292 or e-mail him at SmileyPapenfus@gmail.com.

Two Area Amazon Warehouses In Lakeland & Ruskin Create Jobs By Hundreds

By Tamas Mondovics

Amazon’s two new locations in Lakeland and Riverview have been fully operational for YIR_Amazonquite a few months. The holiday season allowed an opportunity for plenty  of part-time positions.

Original story, printed April 2014:

Area residents anxiously anticipating the opening of two giant Amazon warehouse facilities can now be assured of the timely completion of both fulfillment centers currently being built in Ruskin and Lakeland.

The company is simultaneously building the two centers each measuring one million sq. ft. and promising to create close to 1,000 permanent-plus additional seasonal jobs. The company just announced it would start charging sales tax on Florida purchases starting Thursday, May 1 despite the warehouses openings planned for later next fall. Due to regulatory rules, and hiring dates planned, the retailer is required to start collecting even before the physical warehouses are complete in the state.

Shortly after the land acquisition of its Ruskin warehouse location, Amazon was pleased to announce the location of a second fulfillment center, the construction of which is now well underway at 1760 County Line Rd. just over the Polk County line in Lakeland.

“We look forward to offering more than a thousand great, full-time jobs at our new fulfillment centers,” said Mike Roth, Amazon Vice President of North American fulfillment in the release last October. “We appreciate the state and local elected officials who have helped us make these exciting investments in the state of Florida.”

The Ruskin project is developed by Seefried Development Management, Inc. while Johnson Development Associates, Inc. is developing the Lakeland site. The landlord for both projects is USAA Real Estate Company. The Lakeland site is reportedly creating 385 jobs, two-third of which are expected to be full-time positions.

The two warehouses are located only 20 miles apart, but Amazon officials said that each facility will handle different types of merchandise. The Ruskin fulfillment center is said to be handling smaller consumer goods such as books and electronics, while the Lakeland center will pack and ship large items.

Amazon officials say fulfillment center jobs pay an average of 30 percent more than traditional retail jobs, not including stock grants that full-time employees also receive along with comprehensive benefits, including healthcare starting on day one, 401(k) and company stock awards.

Lindsey did not give details on the timeframe of the projects’ completion either in Lakeland or in Ruskin, but said that both projects will be completed as planned. Interested applicants can visit www.amazonfulfillmentcareers.com.

FishHawk Ranch Dedicates New Park In Honor Of Community’s Founder

By Tamas Mondovics

FishHawk area residents had a chance last summer to honor their community’s founder, Glenn Cross, during a ribbon cutting ceremony that opened a brand new park of his namesake.

The event was held in the presence of family and friends including Cross’ wife Sandy along with son Todd and daughter Kathy (Scott) Nixon, as well as community officials such as CDD II Chairman Ruth Brown, Newland Communities Vice President and General Manager Thomas Panaseny.

CDD II Board and Newland Communities began working on the joint project after the County deemed the one acre site too small for a proposed library. The park, which has since been well used, helped ease the overuse that Park Square’s grass has been getting in recent years.

Cross died in July 24, 2012 as the result of a traffic crash, while on vacation in North Carolina.

Original story, printed June 2014:

FishHawk Ranch development officials and CDD II representatives were joined by residents last month during a ribbon cutting ceremony of the official opening of a new green space park in the heart of the community.

The long-awaited park, which consists of a fenced grass gazebo, drinking fountains, benches, and about a dozen paved overflow parking spaces, is said to provide additional space for families, young and old in the area, a great place to play and enjoy an open field, while honoring the community’s founder, Glen Edward Cross.

The CDD II Board approved acquiring a completed park located across Park Square at the corner of FishHawk Crossing Blvd. and Dorman Rd. during its September 2013 meeting along with paying $310,000 (plus $25,000 in district engineering costs) for a new community amenity said to be valued between $503,000 and $543,300.

According to community development district officials, the park will ease the overuse that Park Square’s grass has been getting in recent years.

“As a community, we are dedicating the park in the memory of its founder Glen Cross,” said CDD II Chairman Ruth Brown. “This park is a tribute to the community’s willingness to work together to help make FishHawk Ranch such a wonderful place to live and work. We want to thank Newland Communities for working with us to make this project come together so quickly.”

Brown was referring to Newland Communities’ role in the project that has donated the site work and construction at no cost to the district, while the district engineer handles the design, permits and surveys.

“It is my honor to have known Glen and I know that this new park, which bears his name, represents the person he was, and his vision of preserving the natural environment,” said Newland Communities Vice President and General Manager Thomas Panaseny.

Cross’ wife Sandy, along with son Todd and daughter Kathy (Scott) Nixon, were also on hand for the official ribbon cutting of the new park.

“We are humbled and honored to attend this event,” Todd said, adding that his father was a man of integrity, honor and commitment, who tried to pass such traits along to his children and, who was about finishing the race while making sure that everyone was a winner.

Cross leaves behind a legacy of having a hand in developing the Tampa Bay area including the areas of Town and Country, Carrollwood, and eastern Hillsborough County, including Riverview and FishHawk, such as FishHawk Ranch of Newland Communities.

County 911 Dispatchers Recognized During Annual Telecommunicators Week

By Tamas Mondovics

Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office and Hillsborough County Fire Rescue dispatchers received some well-deserved recognition last year during the annual National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week, a celebration honoring their hard work and dedication.

Often referred to them as unsung, behind-the-scene heroes, dispatchers field thousands of 911 calls, dispatch first responders and handle other emergency communications tasks.

Operators continually care for their assignments at Sheriff’s Office Communication Bureau located at the Sheriff’s Operation Center, 2008 E. 8th Ave. in Ybor City, as well as those at the Hillsborough County Fire Rescue Emergency Dispatch Center located at 2711 E. Hanna Ave. in Tampa. 

Original story, printed May 2014:

Each year Sheriff’s deputies, detectives, firefighters and emergency technicians respond to thousands of calls as they solve crimes, make arrests, save lives and ultimately help make a difference in their communities.

But while these heroes most often find themselves in the spotlight, none of what they do would be possible was it not for the talented, dedicated, hardworking operators who field thousands of 911 calls, dispatch first responders and handle other emergency communications tasks.

These unsung, behind-the-scene heroes were recognized and appreciated last month during the annual National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week held April 13-19.

The designation was first conceived by Patricia Anderson of the Contra Costa County, Calif. Sheriff’s Office in 1981 and was observed only by that agency for three years before other agencies began to follow suit.

The week-long event locally focused on the operators at Sheriff’s Office Communication Bureau at the Sheriff’s Operation Center at 2008 E. 8th Ave. in Ybor City as well as those at the Hillsborough County Fire Rescue Emergency Dispatch Center located at 2711 E. Hanna Ave. in Tampa.

Each year, by Presidential proclamation, the nation honors these operators while offering dispatchers the opportunity to take credit for the critical work they perform, and for communities to recognize the specialized skills that dispatchers provide.

While, they may be called everyday heroes, the work that 911 dispatchers perform is by no means mundane, requiring control, stamina and determination to provide the level of care necessary for every call and to give lifesaving instructions.

HCSO Communication Bureau Director and 28-year veteran with the Sheriff’s Office Brad Herron spoke highly of his crew of about 25 operators that work around the clock handling approximately 1.5 million calls, a third of which are 911 calls.

“This is a busy job, you either love it or hate it,” Herron said. “We are in fact the first, first responders. We answer calls for the media, EMS, fire and of course all law enforcement type calls that sometimes include active shootings or stabbings or burglary and robbery incidents, which requires a lot of focus and control on the part of our operator.”

Herron emphasized the need of self-dedication on the part of the dispatcher as a vital element of performing successfully, with the reward of knowing that someone is getting help.

“That is the reward which keeps people here,” he said.

Along with quality supervisors Wendy Young and Stephen Pike, Herron thanked everyone who contributed food and other gifts as a way of showing their support for the work of operators at the Communication Bureau.

The same was also true in the case of all operators that work for the Hillsborough County Fire Rescue.

“As first responders, 911 dispatchers are a vital link in making sure the correct help is dispatched to fire and medical emergencies in Hillsborough County,” said Hillsborough County Fire Rescue Information Officer Ronnie Rivera.  “They are the heart of fire rescue.”

Hillsborough County Fire Rescue dispatchers go through more than 1,000 hours of training to gain certification by the National Academy of Emergency Medical and Fire Dispatch and to successfully complete a probationary period within the first year of employment.

When asked what helps her maintain focus to handle the inseparable stress that often accompany the calls, HCFR dispatcher Debbie Danish, a 12-year veteran, did not hesitate to answer.

“Every day is different and some days are rough,” Danish said, but added, “Helping people and doing my job, being there for them in their time of need and distress is what keeps me here.”

For more information on Hillsborough County Fire Rescue, visit www.HillsboroughCounty.org/FireRescue.

For information about the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office visit www.hcso.tampa.fl.us.