You Paid For It: Pinellas Co. shuts down for Tropicana Field event

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Pinellas County government shut down Monday so that more than a thousand county workers could gather at Tropicana Field, for what amounted to an on the time clock pep rally for Pinellas government—a rally You Paid For.

“Certainly, part of motivating the team is to come together and have a little bit of fun,” said Pinellas County Administrator Mark Woodward.  “But, it’s very serious, too. We talk about our accomplishments and we talk about the future.”

In county offices all over Pinellas, citizens were greeted by locked doors with signs indicating they were closed for “in-service training.” At the Pinellas County Utilities Department, a sign indicated that offices were closed due to Presidents’ Day, even though that is not one of Pinellas County’s recognized holidays.

Even County Commission Chair Janet Long seemed a little confused about that. “I think you know this is a national holiday today,” Long told 8 On Your Side.  “So, the courthouse is officially closed for the most part and if they weren’t here, they’d be home with their families.”

The county courthouse was closed, but it had nothing to do with Presidents’ Day and everything to do with the in-service training at the Trop. That meant building contractors couldn’t pull permits, building inspections ground to a halt and even Animal Services shut down so people couldn’t adopt pets or obtain county licenses for ones they already have.

Terry Krischner found out the hard way when he showed up at Pinellas County Animal Services to purchase a tag for his newly adopted puppy.

“Yeah it caught me off guard,” Krischner said.  “I saw that [sign] and thought geez, maybe they’re not in business anymore.”

There wasn’t any skill-building going on at the Trop., but the County Administrator did offer a Powerpoint  presentation of the county’s vision, mission and goals for employees . His attempts to generate enthusiastic responses often fell flat, even when he mentioned one of his goals was to boost salaries for county workers.

Woodard said the cost of hosting training at the Trop. was minimal, about $3500-$4000 for water, snacks and security. He wasn’t counting the expense of county salaries, which we estimate conservatively at $12 per hour for each attendee, which comes out to about $100,000 for the workers who attended .

Woodard filled the morning with entertainment from the county staff choir, awards given to county commissioners, as well as merit awards for select employees, and even a few games that drew contestants from the crowd.

The Trop. training session broke up just before noon. County workers were then supposed to return to their offices, mostly in northern Pinellas as much as a 45 minute to one hour drive away, and form smaller training groups for a few hours after lunch.

“This is a day of training it’s an opportunity for those teams to come together with the office doors closed and strategize and do their planning for the year,” Woodard said.

Before closing the Tropicana Field training session, Woodard announced that he looked forward to seeing county workers at Sand Key in a few months for the annual picnic. That’s when county offices once again shut down, and workers take another work day off, with pay, for more morale building.

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