Monday, July 16, 2018
News Roundup

Food flight: Traffic concerns push Irma nutrition aid to Pasco fairgrounds

DADE CITY — The Pasco County Fair Association is used to being a food source. But the typical corn dogs and sugar-coated funnel cakes will be replaced next month with debit cards allowing people to make their own culinary selections at retail stores.

The fairgrounds, on State Road 52 outside Dade City, is the site of a planned Food for Florida distribution program Nov. 5 to 8 for people affected by Hurricane Irma.

The program, a partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is operating in 48 counties declared federal disaster areas after Irma. Known as D-SNAP, the benefits compensate applicants for losses incurred between Sept. 5 and Oct. 4 and are intended as a one-time financial boost to low-income families not already receiving food stamps. Qualifying Irma-related losses include food or income, temporary shelter expenses or damage to homes.

The county and state Department of Children and Families settled on the date and location last week after the county pulled the plug on the initial site, the Land O’Lakes Recreation Center on Collier Parkway.

Pasco County Administrator Dan Biles sent an Oct. 16 letter to DCF terminating a contract approved six days earlier by the commission, which had authorized the agreement but expressed concerns about traffic congestion on Collier. Board members suggested that the event be moved to the vacant site that formerly housed a Super Target store at State Road 54 near the Suncoast Parkway in Lutz. That property, however, was unavailable.

DCF said as many as 82,000 people in 32,000 households could have been served at the Land O’Lakes location over the four days it was to be open to the public.

The recreation center is about a mile north of State Road 54 on four-lane Collier Parkway, a heavily traveled north-south road serving the commuting workforce from abutting neighborhoods, plus motorists headed to two nearby schools, three preschools and a public library branch.

"Unfortunately, we are not comfortable that the event if held in this location will not impact the community in the same manner it has in other locations where it has been held,’’ Biles wrote to DCF

Kevin Guthrie, assistant county administrator for public safety, said the Pasco Sheriff’s Office was concerned about traffic and the capacity of the recreation center. The fairgrounds, he said, has 20 acres of parking available, even though its main access on SR 52 can only carry one lane of traffic in each direction.

"DCF will support the people of Pasco County in any way we can,’’ Jennifer Kuhn, DCF’s regional director, wrote in response to Biles.

However, Kuhn noted that planning for the event began in August; DCF got initial approval to move forward on Sept. 14, and "all parties agreed the Land O’Lakes Recreation Complex was the best location for the anticipated turnout’’ following a Sept. 22 conference call between state and county officials.

"Despite the preparation and collaboration, the final decision to terminate the agreement to host a Pasco County Food for Florida site was not made until five days prior to the site opening to serve local residents,’’ Kuhn wrote.

What changed was the turnout in Plant City, where officials processed nearly 41,000 applications over five days. On Oct. 9, some people said they waited in traffic for two hours to get to the baseball stadium where the event was held. Traffic problems also were reported for the Pinellas County site in Seminole, where the state processed nearly 30,000 applications from Sept. 27 to Oct. 2.

In Broward County, police had to shut down food assistance centers Oct. 14 and 15 after people waiting in snarling lines suffered heat exhaustion, officials said. Media reports about the long lines at South Florida locations prompted U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson to request additional resources from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

"While I am grateful that D-SNAP was approved, I am deeply concerned by news reports of how poorly it is being executed by the state of Florida,’’ Nelson wrote in an Oct. 17 letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue.

Comments
Woman swerves off cliff and survives 7 days trapped on a secluded beach

Woman swerves off cliff and survives 7 days trapped on a secluded beach

Angela Hernandez does not remember much about the accident - plummeting down an oceanside cliff in central California.She does not remember hitting her head, fracturing ribs and her collar bone or losing air from one of her lungs. But the 23-year-ol...
Updated: 11 minutes ago
Tampa provocateur charged in fracas over racist slur returns to corner, claims self-defense

Tampa provocateur charged in fracas over racist slur returns to corner, claims self-defense

TAMPA —Tony Daniel is undeterred.Three days after his arrest on an assault charge, the 60-year-old race-baiting provocateur was back on the same street corner Monday, shouting into a megaphone and holding a large sign with the same racial epithet tha...
Updated: 17 minutes ago
Florida suspends payment to SunPass contractor until tolling system is fixed

Florida suspends payment to SunPass contractor until tolling system is fixed

The Florida Department of Transportation announced today that it will suspend all payments to the SunPass contractor until the electronic tolling system is fixed.In a letter sent to the president of Conduent State & Local Solutions, Inc., David Amori...
Updated: 29 minutes ago
CVS employees call 911 on black woman trying to use a coupon

CVS employees call 911 on black woman trying to use a coupon

Couponing while black?Add it to the list.On Friday, a Chicago woman tried to use a coupon at CVS when a store employee told her the slip was fake and another worker called the police. The incident stands as the latest known example of racial profilin...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Amazon’s Prime Day runs into snags swiftly

Amazon’s Prime Day runs into snags swiftly

NEW YORK — Amazon’s website ran into some snags quickly Monday on its much-hyped Prime Day, an embarrassment for the tech company on the shopping holiday it created.Shoppers clicking on many Prime Day links got only an abashed-looking dog with the wo...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Tune into the only All Star Game that matters

Tune into the only All Star Game that matters

Summer was for beach days and watermelons and shorty pajamas and fighting with my brother over who gets to sleep in front of the fan.And summer was for the MLB All-Star Game.They'll hold the Midsummer Classic on Tuesday night at Washington's National...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Tuesday’s letters: Leave fireworks to the professionals

Nobody is scaring birds with fireworks | Editorial, July 16Leave fireworksto the professionalsThe situation with fireworks has gotten completely out of control. I was at Curtis Hixon Park on the Fourth of July, and numerous people were exploding ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Column: Trump is the ‘blame America first’ president

Column: Trump is the ‘blame America first’ president

President Donald Trump has turned the Republican Party into what Jeane J. Kirkpatrick once contemptuously branded the Democrats: "the blame America first crowd."Even by the upside-down standards of 2018, the sight of a U.S. president standing alongsi...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Trump questions US intel, not Putin, on Russia 2016 meddling

Trump questions US intel, not Putin, on Russia 2016 meddling

HELSINKI — Standing next to Russia’s Vladimir Putin, President Donald Trump openly questioned his own intelligence agencies’ conclusions that Moscow was to blame for meddling in the 2016 U.S. election to Trump’s benefit and seemed to accept Putin’s i...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Police say teen was sexually assaulted in Florida juvenile facility while a staffer watched

Police say teen was sexually assaulted in Florida juvenile facility while a staffer watched

As it happened, officials say, Antoine Travell Davis stood by the cell’s doorway, laughing as a group of delinquent teens sexually assaulted a 15-year-old boy who, just minutes before, was sitting on a couch watching television.Davis is not a minor s...
Updated: 2 hours ago