St. Lucie to host vehicle registration processing seminar

By Contributed Report

FORT PIERCE — The St. Lucie County Tax Collector’s Office will host a free motor vehicle title and registration processing seminar with instructor S. Allen Monello, D.P.A., to inform local dealers of motorist services requirements and changes from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. July 19 at the Havert L. Fenn Center, 2000 Virginia Ave., Fort Pierce.

The event is approved by the Division of Motorist Services for continuing education credit for independent dealers and is endorsed by the Florida Tax Collector Association’s Service Corporation. All attendees will receive a certificate of attendance upon completion of the class.

New and experienced title clerks, business managers and anyone who processes motor vehicle titles and tags are welcome to register for the seminar by calling St. Lucie County Tax Collector Customer Service Supervisor Bertha McCray at 772-462-3567. Lunch will be provided at the limited-seating event.

Article source: http://www.tcpalm.com/news/st-lucie-county/motor-vehicle-title-registration-processing-seminar-slated-for-fort-pierce-364405f8-a933-3d27-e053-0-384612391.html

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Paid parking might return to Fort Pierce | Map

Fort Pierce is considering charging for downtown parking.

By Keona Gardner of TCPalm

FORT PIERCE — How much would people pay to park in downtown or the beach area — $1? $1.50? $1.75?

A Tampa consultant recommends the city install parking meters in high-traffic areas downtown and near the beach to encourage people to visit, and use the money for parking garages or lots.

The 39-page report gave no recommendations on how much the city should charge, but it showed that for two hours’ parking, drivers pay $1 in West Palm Beach, $1.50 in Delray Beach and $1.75 in Fort Lauderdale.

Parking now is free on any Fort Pierce city property.

The City Commission will discuss the report at 9 a.m. Wednesday.

“Within the downtown core, the city controls a finite number of parking spaces and needs to manage the allocation of that scare resource carefully,” consultants wrote.

The report also recommends downtown business owners require employees to park in the city garage, at Avenue A and U.S. 1, to free up an unknown number of parking spaces. Employees could be shuttled to and from their jobs if business owners and the city work with community transit to provide shuttles, the report states.

To add more parking for the beach area, the city could build a parking garage or lot on the southwest corner of South Ocean Drive and St. Lucie Court, consultants wrote.

The location was chosen to provide direct access to the beach, according to the report.

In May, the city signed a one-year, $48,000 lease for three vacant lots on Seaway Drive, just west of the Square Grouper restaurant construction site, for free public parking.

Construction is to start Tuesday to convert the grassy lots to 102 unpaved spots, said City Engineer Jack Andrews.

Handicapped spaces will be paved, he said.

Fort Pierce resident Jessica Nivens said she would be willing to pay for parking at the beach and in downtown.

“If the money is used to keep the garage and the lots clean and to build something for children, I would support that. But the public has to get something out of it other than a lot,” Nivens said Monday while at Jetty Park with her daughter.

City resident Dan Revell said he would support paying for parking if meters provided more than two hours.

“When you are out fishing, you are out there for more than two hours,” Revell said Monday while fishing at Jetty Park. “If you are fishing and you have something on the line but you have to stop and feed the meter, that would be a pain.”

IF YOU GO

What: Fort Pierce City Commission workshop on parking

When: 9 a.m. Wednesday

Where: City Hall, 100 N. U.S. 1

Go here to see the map below in a browser window.

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Article source: http://www.tcpalm.com/news/shaping-our-future/roads/consultant-fort-pierce-should-charge-for-parking-in-downtown-at-beach-334d3dda-ad89-054e-e053-010000-384774611.html

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Fort Pierce Police chief seeks help from Department of Justice to reform department


Fort Pierce Police Chief Diane Hobley-Burney speaks to demonstrators at the Fort Pierce Police Department on April 26, 2016, in the wake of the Demarcus Semers killing. (FILE PHOTO)

By Nicole Rodriguez of TCPalm

FORT PIERCE — Police Chief Diane Hobley-Burney has enlisted the help of the U.S. Department of Justice to reform her agency, which is long known for internal turmoil and a strained relationship with citizens of the northwest part of the city.

Two DOJ representatives were in Fort Pierce on Tuesday, at the chief’s request, to meet with her and other city officials to evaluate the Police Department and determine whether it qualifies for the federal Collaborative Reform Initiative for Technical Assistance for agencies “with significant law enforcement-related issues.”

According to citizens, the Police Department needs an overhaul, and seeking out the DOJ is Hobley-Burney’s way of delivering on promises to improve the department and build trust with the community, she said Tuesday.

“I heard the voice of the people. They want to enhance the relationship that we have and I want to do everything possible to do that,” Hobley-Burney said after meeting with DOJ officials. She started as police chief just more than a year ago.

Fresh on people’s minds is the officer-involved fatal shooting of Demarcus Semer on North 19th Street on April 23. During a traffic stop, two Fort Pierce police officers tried to stop Semer as he attempted to flee in his vehicle, according to the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office. Semer was shot outside his vehicle and died. The Sheriff’s Office was asked to investigate the shooting by Fort Pierce police.

The shooting caused outrage in the community, with some demanding an outside investigation by the Department of Justice. Mayor Linda Hudson last month wrote to the federal agency that the City Commission had unanimously voted to ask the DOJ to start its own investigation into the fatal shooting.

But the DOJ was not in town to investigate the case, Hobley-Burney said.

“We have not discussed it at any given point because that is an investigation that is ongoing,” she said.

Still, the DOJ is keeping a close eye on the case, said Noble Wray, chief of Policing Practices and Accountability Initiative, who was visiting Tuesday.

Wray said it could have an impact on the Justice Department’s recommendations for the Fort Pierce Police Department, if it assists Fort Pierce, he said.

“In any community that we come in when we’re doing an assessment, if there is a high-profile incident, we will understand that,” Wray said. “That may inform some of our findings and recommendations, but from the (Community Oriented Policing Services) office, we don’t actually come in and do an investigation.”

The DOJ is expected to make a decision within a few weeks whether to assist Fort Pierce, and if it does, could begin work in the city immediately after, Wray said.

There would be no cost to Fort Pierce, he said.

The purpose of the program is to improve trust between agencies and the communities they serve. It’s a long-term strategy that identifies problems and then offers recommendations on how to resolve them. Contractors overseen by a DOJ official will work with the Police Department for approximately two years, Wray said.

“The process itself is a very inclusive process. We get into the community. There will be listening sessions and focus groups,” Wray said. “We do the same internally, talking to rank-and-file officers and union chiefs. We do a serious analysis of the department — policies, procedures, recruitment, hiring.”

While in town, Wray and his partner also met with Fort Pierce City Manager Nick Mimms and about 22 citizens at City Hall, he said.

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Article source: http://www.tcpalm.com/news/crime/st-lucie-county/fort-pierce-police-chief-seeks-help-from-department-of-justice-to-overhaul-department-365d773d-2682--384761731.html

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Ousted Fort Pierce mayor candidate vows to press his case in court





By Keona Gardner of TCPalm

FORT PIERCE — James Britt has only one course of action after failing to qualify in the mayor’s race: He can go to court.

The retired Marine qualified Friday morning for the mayor’s race and had his paperwork stamped by City Clerk Linda Cox. But she disqualified him an hour after the noon deadline.

Britt said he plans to file a lawsuit challenging the city’s ruling.

“I’m getting back on the horse,” said Britt, 48. “I’m not easy to intimidate.”

Meanwhile, Mayor Linda Hudson won re-election unopposed to her second term.

Britt was disqualified because his check for campaign fees didn’t have his campaign treasurer’s signature.

The city will return Britt’s $342 election-assessment fee but not his nonrefundable $25 qualifying fee, Cox said.

Asked how the city could cash a check while claiming it didn’t have the correct signature, Cox said she was unsure.

“That’s a good question,” Cox said. “I don’t know.”

Cox, who watched Britt complete the paperwork, did not catch the error until after the qualifying period had ended.

“The bottom line with elections is my role is simply ministerial,” Cox said. “It is the candidate’s responsibility to make sure the information filed is correct.”

According to the Florida elections qualifying-officer handbook, the city clerk is the qualifying officer and responsible for reviewing a candidates’ paperwork for completeness but “the qualifying officer may not determine whether the contents of the qualifying papers are accurate.”

“I’m not supposed to tell people if it is right or wrong,” Cox said. “I am not to certify if the paperwork is correct.”

Cox said she won’t make or recommend the City Commission change how elections are handled.

Officials of the Florida Division of Elections declined to comment, referring questions to Cox.

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Article source: http://www.tcpalm.com/news/politics/elections/local/ousted-fort-pierce-mayor-candidate-vows-to-press-his-case-in-court-360af278-3758-2504-e053-0100007fe-384597091.html

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Motorcyclists conduct ‘Patriotic Ride’ on Sunday around Fort Pierce mosque


Inside the Islamic Center of Fort Pierce, where Orlando shooter Omar Mateen prayed as early as Friday. (NICOLE RODRIGUEZ/TREASURE COAST NEWSPAPERS)

By Elliott Jones of TCPalm

ST. LUCIE COUNTY — Lewis Smith is a retired Marine sergeant who served in the conflicts in Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003.

After the Orlando mass shooting, the Port St. Lucie resident and his wife, Mondie, said they felt compelled to speak out.

Smith, 36, a Martin County firefighter, let his motorcycle’s engine do the talking, as did 200 bikers on Sunday as they repeatedly circled a mosque formerly attended by the shooter, Omar Mateen, of Fort Pierce.

The Islamic Center of Fort Pierce, which is in the 1100 block of West Midway Road, also was attended by Moner Mohammad Abu-Salha, 22, the former Indian River County resident who federal authorities identified as the nation’s first suicide bomber.

Organizer Randy Anderton said the event was aimed at drawing attention to the mosque and the mass shooting in Orlando.

At noon on Sunday, bikers from around Florida converged in St. Lucie County to show they do not fear terrorism, Smith said.

“We stand united against those willing to destroy our country and what we stand for,” he said.

The event, said Smith, also was for showing support for the 49 people fatally shot at Orlando gay nightclub Pulse.

The bikers initially gathered at Love’s Truck Stop on South Kings Highway in Fort Pierce. At White City Park, on Midway Road, they met more riders and car drivers. Then at 11:30 a.m., they drove to the mosque and the motorcyclists circled the block the mosque is on about 15 times.

There were no incidents during the ride-by at the mosque, where a few cars were parked, according to St. Lucie County Sheriff’s spokesman Bryan Beaty.

Smith and his wife were riders, not organizers, he said. He learned of the “Patriotic Ride” through a flyer a friend passed to him.

From what Smith could tell, riders came come from all over the state, including Jacksonville, Tampa, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, he said.

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Article source: http://www.tcpalm.com/news/special/orlando-shooting/motorcyclists-from-around-state-had-patriotic-ride-sunday-around-fort-pierce-mosque-where-orlando--3-384595831.html

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Fort Pierce couple arrested after marijuana, cash found in home

Paul James Stowell


Robin Lynn Stowell

By Jan Lindsey, Special to Treasure Coast Newspapers

FORT PIERCE — Two Fort Pierce residents were arrested Thursday when authorities used a warrant to search their home and reportedly seized 441 grams of marijuana and $1,085 in cash.

Paul James Stowell, 32, of the 300 block of South 18th Street, was charged with possession of marijuana with intent to sell, marijuana production, possession of more than 20 grams of marijuana, possession of drug equipment and two counts of sale of marijuana, records show. He was released from the St. Lucie County Jail Friday after posting $38,250 in bond.

His wife, Robin Lynn Stowell, 43, was charged with possession of more than 20 grams of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia, records show. She was released Friday after posting $8,250 in bond.

Deputies used a confidential informant to buy marijuana from Paul Stowell on two occasions Tuesday, according to arrest affidavits.

They served the search warrant at 8 p.m. Thursday.

Article source: http://www.tcpalm.com/news/crime/st-lucie-county/fort-pierce-couple-arrested-after-marijuana-cash-found-in-home-360af20f-3076-3990-e053-0100007fab0f-384312011.html

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Technicality disqualifies only challenger to Hudson in Fort Pierce mayoral race


James Britt Jr.


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By Keona Gardner of TCPalm

FORT PIERCE — Mayor Linda Hudson won re-election on Friday without opposition but not without controversy.

Candidate James Britt Jr., who qualified Friday morning for the Fort Pierce mayoral race and had his paperwork stamped and certified by City Clerk Linda Cox, was disqualified just after the noon deadline.

“This stinks,” said Britt, a retired Marine.

City Attorney Jim Messer said he is investigating; Britt said he will appeal.

The problem, according to Cox, is that Britt’s check for campaign fees didn’t have the signature of his campaign treasurer.

Cox, who watched Britt complete the paperwork, did not catch the error until after the qualifying period ended.

“He (Britt) did all of his paperwork and I believed he qualified and congratulated him,” Cox wrote Friday in an email. “After qualifying, an individual asked to see his (Britt’s) papers, and brought to my attention the problem. I then confirmed with the Supervisor of Elections Office that, in fact, his qualification was invalid.”

The city will return Britt’s $342 election-assessment fee but not his $25 qualifying fee, which is nonrefundable, Cox said in an email.

“I’m a little disturbed that she (Cox) allowed this to happen,” Britt said. “I signed the paperwork in front of her. She looked it over and told me it was correct. “

Cox said she will review Britt’s paperwork on Monday. On Friday afternoon, Cox said she was out of the office and unable to explain the appeal process.

The Fort Pierce mayoral race is no stranger to controversy.

Four years ago, faulty voting machines resulted in at least two recounts, with the lead changing between Hudson and bail bondsman Vince Gaskins. Hudson was declared the winner about a week after the election.

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Article source: http://www.tcpalm.com/news/politics/elections/local/technicality-disqualifies-only-challenger-to-hudson-in-fort-pierce-mayoral-race-360af278-3757-2504-e-384333051.html

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Controversy again plagues Fort Pierce mayor’s race


James Britt Jr.


Visita href='http://elections.tcpalm.com/' Ask the Candidates/a

By Keona Gardner of TCPalm

FORT PIERCE — Mayor Linda Hudson won re-election on Friday without opposition but not without controversy.

Candidate James Britt Jr., who qualified Friday morning for the Fort Pierce mayoral race and had his paperwork stamped and certified by City Clerk Linda Cox, was disqualified just after the noon deadline.

“This stinks,” said Britt, a retired Marine.

City Attorney Jim Messer said he is investigating; Britt said he will appeal.

The problem, according to Cox, is that Britt’s check for campaign fees didn’t have the signature of his campaign treasurer.

Cox, who watched Britt complete the paperwork, did not catch the error until after the qualifying period ended.

“He (Britt) did all of his paperwork and I believed he qualified and congratulated him,” Cox wrote Friday in an email. “After qualifying, an individual asked to see his (Britt’s) papers, and brought to my attention the problem. I then confirmed with the Supervisor of Elections Office that, in fact, his qualification was invalid.”

The city will return Britt’s $342 election-assessment fee but not his $25 qualifying fee, which is nonrefundable, Cox said in an email.

“I’m a little disturbed that she (Cox) allowed this to happen,” Britt said. “I signed the paperwork in front of her. She looked it over and told me it was correct. “

Cox said she will review Britt’s paperwork on Monday. On Friday afternoon, Cox said she was out of the office and unable to explain the appeal process.

The Fort Pierce mayoral race is no stranger to controversy.

Four years ago, faulty voting machines resulted in at least two recounts, with the lead changing between Hudson and bail bondsman Vince Gaskins. Hudson was declared the winner about a week after the election.

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Article source: http://www.tcpalm.com/news/politics/elections/local/technicality-disqualifies-only-challenger-to-hudson-in-fort-pierce-mayoral-race-360af278-3757-2504-e-384333051.html

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Islamic Center of Fort Pierce hires private security

The Islamic Center of Fort Pierce is seen before afternoon prayers Monday, June 13, on West Midway Road in Fort Pierce. Omar Mateen, the gunman who was responsible for the deaths of 49 people at an Orlando nightclub, last attended the mosque to pray the night before the shooting. (XAVIER MASCAREÑAS/TREASURE COAST NEWSPAPERS)

By Nicole Wiesenthal of TCPalm

ST. LUCIE COUNTY — The Islamic Center of Fort Pierce hired private security Wednesday after it gained national attention as the place where Omar Mateen prayed before killing 49 people at the Pulse nightclub on June 12.

The center hired private security guards for night prayers, installed surveillance systems and organized extra security precautions, a spokesperson said, but only after members lost a weeklong battle with the St. Lucie County Sheriff Office about providing extra security detail.

“This might be the main spot for a hate crime to occur in all the United States,” said Wilfredo Ruiz, the mosque spokesman. “The members are feeling very threatened by the situation and very upset with the hundred and one excuses the sheriff has provided to not provide detail.”

On June 17, St. Lucie County Sheriff Ken Mascara said his department is limited by staffing and prior contracts, not discrimination.

“Placing patrol units at specific locations by special request, even if reimbursed by the requesting party, is evaluated based on staffing levels and can at times limit our ability to maintain our mission and appropriately respond to the entire community,” Tammy Schwab, the Sheriff’s Office administrative assistant, said in an email. “The Islamic Center, as well as other locations in our county will continue to be on an enhanced patrol schedule.”

MORE | From childhood to mass shooting, what happened to Omar Mateen?

But Ruiz said Mascara’s reasons are just excuses, and the center is planning to request a detailed account of all sheriff details done in the past three months to figure out how the office has provided detail in the past and why it can’t provide security for the center, even if the center pays them.

“They were giving excuse after excuse,” Ruiz said. “After almost a week of waiting, we got tired and hired private security.”

Officials from the Fort Pierce Police Department and St. Lucie County Sheriff Office said they have not received any reports of people threatening or harassing local Muslim individuals, nor have they heard any calls from Muslims expressing concern or fear, but Ruiz said he’s seen local hostility.

“Whenever someone is standing outside, you wait five minutes and someone will drive by and insult them,” Ruiz said. “At the last congregational prayer on Friday, people drove close to members to splash them with water that was accumulating next to the street, and they’re very harassing.”

People had shouted, “Hey, you terrorist, go back to your country,” at one member of the mosque who had been standing outside, Ruiz said.

“There are already members of the Muslim community who have received death threats,” Ruiz said. “There were voice mails left in various mosques, a Muslim died in Orlando, a bomb hoax was reported in Sunrise. It’s hyperactive and we’re just waiting for it to get worse.”

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About Nicole Wiesenthal

Nicole Wiesenthal is a University of Florida journalism student working a reporting internship this summer with TCPalm.com and Treasure Coast Newspapers.

Article source: http://www.tcpalm.com/news/special/orlando-shooting/islamic-center-of-fort-pierce-hires-security-36091be5-a0d4-1115-e053-0100007f6270-384325721.html

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Port Saint Lucie/Fort Pierce Was the Home of Omar Mateen

Port Saint LuciePort Saint Lucie, Florida, may have been known for being the third largest growing city in the nation, and one of the highest unemployment rates, or where the Mets practice. Now it might be different.

It saddens, confuses, and sickens Port Saint Lucie/Fort Pierce residents how someone like Omar Mateen could commit an act of ugliness, such as terrorism, from this beautiful place. Growing up in Port Saint Lucie meant building new communities, like Saint Lucie West or Tradition, or watching US-1 expand its lanes over the years. Port Saint Lucie/Fort Pierce has always been known for attracting large quantities of tourists for its beautiful vast beaches; both public and private. One can recollect living in Port Saint Lucie/Fort Pierce as being by the water during sunny days when it was coral blue; during murky days, when the Indian River Lagoon experienced a pollution catastrophe; and stormy days when the water was as dark as the blustery skies.

Now, the Pulse Orlando nightclub shooting, committed by Mateen, has tainted fond memories of growing up in Port Saint Lucie/Fort Pierce, however, only a little. Police and news vehicles have swarmed Bayshore Boulevard in Port Saint Lucie, where the Mateen family lives. They are investigating the ISIS connections, which are allegedly tied to Mateen destroying innocent lives. The FBI have also been investigating Mateen’s residency in Fort Pierce.

While this shocks residents, it can also widen their perspective. Terrorism, murder, and hate can happen to anybody, anywhere; even from a small town, like Port Saint Lucie/Fort Pierce. Surveillance on anyone who hints at terrorism requires persistent action. CNN and countless other news providers have said this is not the first time Mateen had been watched by authorities but he was let go because of lack of evidence.

One can hope that this horrific act brings people closer as a nation. It is important to have eyes in the front, back, and in all areas around ourselves. Harbored hostile creatures can live in one’s own environment, even as small a town as Port Saint Lucie, where the population is about 200,000; and Fort Pierce, where the population is a little over 43,000.

The act of terrorism causes fear to enjoy freedom so others cannot, fear to love and embrace self-expression, as well as, the fear to live and do as one pleases. Together, as a community, people can stand in the face of terrorism, without judgement of Muslims and without fear. The lives of those lost are mourned in Orlando, Port Saint Lucie/Fort Pierce, nationally, and internationally.

The act of love conquers all, time and again. Many hope that there will no longer be the need to take innocent lives for the world to accept one another. There is still hope that one day America will be known as a place of love and not hate or fear. Today will begin the progress by not inviting fear into peoples’ homes, lives, and hearts. Individuals should speak out and reach out to those who are afflicted from this tragedy and become unified as warriors so the terror might be threatened by hope.

Opinion by Andrea Lopez
Edited by Jeanette Smith

CNN: Omar Mateen pledged allegiance to ISIS, official says
RedState: Orlando Terror Suspect Identified: OMAR MATEEN of Port Saint Lucie; Has Made Threats In Past [VIDEO]
WFTV: Gunman in Pulse deadly shooting called 911 professing allegiance to Islamic State leader

Featured and Top Photos Courtesy of Andrea Lopez – Used With Permission

Article source: https://thepublicslate.com/2016/06/port-saint-luciefort-pierce-was-the-home-of-omar-mateen/

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