- New Florida Gov Signs Order to Fight Algae, Red Tide
- Florida Roofer Arrested for Stealing Nearly $50K from Homeowners, Insurance Fraud
- Michelle Cordova
- Poll: Most Floridians Say They're Prepared for Hurricanes, But Not Covered for Flood
- Dust from Sahara Desert Moves West, Puts Brakes on Atlantic Hurricanes
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Wednesday, January 16 2019
Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis began following up on a campaign promise to make the environment a priority by signing an order last week seeking to tackle Florida’s problems with blue-green algae in its rivers and red tide off its coast.
DeSantis signed the order in Bonita Springs in southwest Florida, one of the areas where slimy algae have coated waterways because of pollutants flowing downstream from Lake Okeechobee.
“I pledged I would take action, and today we are taking action,” DeSantis said. “What we’ve done is really, really strong … I think this is something that can unite all Floridians.”
DeSantis said he will seek $2.5 billion over the next four years for Everglades restoration and water resources. The order not only touches on algae problems, but rising sea levels and the ongoing battle with Georgia over water diverted for Atlanta’s use instead of flowing downstream to Apalachicola Bay. The reduction of fresh water entering the bay has hurt the region’s oyster industry.
He didn’t say where the money would come from, and his office didn’t immediately respond when asked about the funding. Late in the day, DeSantis demanded the resignations of all nine members of the South Florida Water Management District, which oversees the Everglades area. The board in November extended a lease with sugar farmers for land needed for a reservoir that is key to water purification efforts, angering DeSantis.
While critics often said DeSantis’ predecessor, U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, ignored science and rising sea levels, DeSantis addressed it on his second full day in office. He is creating an Office of Resiliency tasked with protecting coastal communities and wildlife from sea level rise.
“As we’ve seen things like increased flooding (and) rising waters, we want to make sure that Florida is doing what it needs to do to protect its communities,” DeSantis said.
The order also directs the Department of Environmental Protection, Department of Health and the tourism agency Visit Florida to work together to address algae problems. He is creating the Blue-Green Algae Task Force and the Office of Environmental Accountability and Transparency and a new position called chief science officer. It wasn’t immediately clear whether the new offices and position would be under the umbrella of another agency and when and how they’d be filled.
One of the priorities will be to reduce nutrients flowing into Lake Okeechobee and to treat them before they flow downstream, where algae feeds off the pollutants.
Senate Democratic Leader Audrey Gibson had several questions about the DeSantis order.
“Will he turn to the Trump Administration? Or will he be seeking help from the Legislature? Can our state budget handle this increase? Is the plan to cut into other programs to raise the needed funds? Will Floridians lose services in one area to offset the costs for water cleanup?” Gibson said in a press release.
She did, however, praise the intent behind the order.
“We share the urgency for cleaning up our water and our environment; it’s been a top priority of ours for many years. The policies of the past administration have taken a terrible toll on our natural resources, to say nothing of the impact on our marine life,” Gibson said. “But an executive order has to have more than just lofty goals, or admirable pursuits. It has to have the details we need to judge whether these goals are doable.”
Friday, January 04 2019
A Florida roofing company owner was arrested last month after allegedly attempting to defraud multiple homeowners out of more than $49,000 and working without workers’ compensation insurance, according to a statement from Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis.
Terry Wayne LaCoste, owner of Terry W. LaCoste Weathertight Systems, Inc. and David E. Gilliland, Inc., was arrested after the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation Fraud received a tip from the Pinellas County Consumer Protection, Clearwater Police Department and the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office regarding complaints against LaCoste.
Investigations revealed that LaCoste allegedly victimized a total of six homeowners by making them pay deposits up-front for roofing work. LaCoste either never started on the job or never finished the contracted work. In total, the victims had a financial loss of $49,447 combined.
The investigation also revealed that LaCoste was working without the proper workers’ compensation insurance coverage.
LaCoste was arrested on Dec. 18 and transported to the Pinellas County Jail without incident. He faces charges of organized scheme to defraud, theft/misappropriation of construction funds, and working without workers’ compensation insurance coverage. If convicted on all charges, LaCoste faces up to 15 years in prison.
“Fraud like this also steals work from honest businesses and drives up insurance rates for everyone,” Patronis said. “Remember to always verify before you buy and ensure that the contractor you’re hiring is reputable and has the proper insurance coverage before allowing them to start work on your property.”