FORT WALTON BEACH
Police think homeless man was set on fire
Police are investigating after a homeless man in the Panhandle was apparently set on fire. Fort Walton Beach police Detective Frank Van Schmidt says the man was in stable condition Saturday night, although suffering from second-degree burns. Another homeless person found him under a bridge earlier in the day. No arrests have been made. Authorities have not released the 44-year-old victim's name because the investigation is ongoing.
Voter registration deadline is today
Today is the last day for Tampa residents to register to vote in the March 1 city elections. Voters will elect a new mayor from among candidates Bob Buckhorn, Rose Ferlita, Dick Greco, Thomas Scott and Ed Turanchik. They also will elect seven City Council members from a field of 29 candidates, and will consider a referendum on whether to offer property tax exemptions to new or expanded businesses. Early voting begins Feb. 19, and voters who want to vote by absentee ballot have until 5 p.m. Feb. 23 to request a vote-by-mail ballot. For more information from the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections office, visit www.VoteHillsborough.org, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call (813) 744-5900.
Man plans bike trek for hospice
A Sarasota man is preparing for a 7,500-mile bike trip to raise awareness about hospice. J.W. Frye, 27, plans to leave Key West on Feb. 23, and take about six months to reach Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, the northernmost point in the United States. Along the way, Frye will be raising money for hospices and advocating for Medicaid payment of bereavement care for children who have lost loved ones. Frye's mother was cared for by hospice in the final stages of her terminal brain cancer.
Sale of hotel leads some to worry
The sale of a historic Fort Lauderdale hotel has some preservationists worried about its fate. The long-shuttered Escape Hotel opened New Year's Eve 1949 and is one of the remaining midcentury modern architectural survivors on Fort Lauderdale Beach. Developers had promised to save the hotel building and convert it to condos and townhouses, but recently decided their plan wasn't financially feasible and sold the property. A company called Tiffany House LLC purchased the property Dec. 23 for $6.25 million but hasn't made public its plans. The new owners told city officials Friday they're still discussing what to do with the Escape. The president of the Broward Trust for Historic Preservation assures she'll be "watching with eagle eyes."
Bikers visit prison, minister to inmates
A group of leather-clad, ministering bikers spent part of their weekend visiting inmates at the Lowell Correctional Institute, chatting with them about motorcycles and comparing tattoos. Biker Debbie Whisenant said Saturday she usually ends up talking to "the mean ones" because she used to be like them. Whisenant says she was part of a biker gang but that God saved her. The bikers were part of a nondenominational Christian outreach program that visits prisons across the state to show inmates that reform is possible.
Times staff, wires