Thursday, July 19, 2018
News Roundup

Afternoon Update: Home-price optimism; grand jury to probe licensing board; FDLE confiscates PTC phones; sting nets stolen guns, drugs

Here's what you may have missed, and what you need to know as you start winding down.

TAMPA BAY HOME PRICES IN 2016 SOARED, BUT WILL 2017 BE AS STRONG?

In 2016, Tampa Bay's residential real estate market enjoyed a banner year. Single-family home prices in the four-county area soared nearly 14 percent compared to 2015. That was the biggest year-over-year gain in at least six years and the largest increase of any major metro area in the state, according to newly released figures from Florida Realtors.

CONSTRUCTION LICENSING BOARD TO BE FOCUS OF GRAND JURY PROBE

Pinellas' top prosecutor has decided to open a criminal investigation into the county's construction licensing board, embroiled for weeks in controversy since a Times' series raised questions about the agency's conduct. Pinellas-Pasco State's Attorney Bernie McCabe said he began the process of convening a grand jury after the board rejected hiring an interim director from outside the agency and instead chose to hand the reigns to a longtime agency employee.

STATE INVESTIGATORS CONFISCATE PTC CELLPHONES

Florida Department of Law Enforcement agents have taken possession of seven Public Transportation Commission cellphones as it steps up an investigation into whether public records were deliberately deleted from the devices. The phones were used by PTC staffers, including former executive director Kyle Cockream.

UNDERCOVER OPERATION NETS 66 GUNS IN THREE MONTHS, SOME STOLEN

Over the past 14 weeks, Hillsborough sheriff's detectives arrested 51 people and seized 66 guns — 42 handguns, 15 rifles and nine shotguns. The effort netted about four pounds of drugs, mostly marijuana, methamphetamine and crack and powder cocaine. And it resulted in 188 drug and gun-related charges. Sheriff David Gee said that a reliable way to predict violent crime trends is to gauge the number of firearms on the street and the number of aggravated assaults.

FLORIDA'S CFO RESIGNS FOR JOB AT FLORIDA ATLANTIC

Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater announced that he's resigning from his Cabinet position to return to Palm Beach County and take a job as the CFO of Florida Atlantic University. Atwater was elected Florida's CFO in 2010 and won re-election in 2014. He cannot seek a third term but still had about 23 months left in office.

LOOKING FOR SOMETHING TO DO THIS WEEKEND?

The entertainment options are varied, beginning today with the Florida State Fair, which runs through Feb. 20. It's Student Day for Hillsborough students, but those with free tickets must be accompanied by an adult after 6 p.m. Saturday brings the Sant' Yago Illuminated Knight Parade in Ybor City and Rick Wallenda's high-wire walk at St. Petersburg's Sundial. There's also movies, music, a Hello Kitty truck and zombies. Check out all the happenings on the Times' Things to Do page.

EXPECT A SUNNY, DRY WEEKEND ACROSS TAMPA BAY

After low temperatures drop back slightly into the 60s overnight, the stretch of clear, sunny weather sticks around through the weekend and into Valentine's Day on Tuesday, forecasters say. For detailed forecast information, go to the Times' Weather page.

VASILEVSKIY IN GOAL AS LIGHTNING TRAVEL TO MINNESOTA TONIGHT

With goalie Ben Bishop being on a roll, and coming off a shutout, you would have thought he might get the start tonight for the Lightning in a measuring-stick game against the Western Conference-leading Minnesota Wild. Instead, Andrei Vasilevskiy starts, hoping to keep Tampa Bay's two-game winning streak alive. Keep up with the game with our live blog from the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn.

GET READY FOR SPRING TRAINING

Baseball season starts early in Florida. Whether you're a fan of one of the teams that trains in the Sunshine State, a resident planning a day trip or a visitor here on vacation, you'll find everything you need to know to plan a day at the park with our interactive page. From stadium locations to contact information, reporting dates, schedules, ticket information and more, we're your one-stop resource for the Grapefruit League.

TRAFFIC UPDATES TO GET HOME SAFELY

As you head out for your evening commute, check out our live blog for the latest traffic updates and road conditions across Tampa Bay.

Afternoon Update is a weekday feature from tampabay.com. Check in Monday through Friday for updates and information on the biggest stories of the day.

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Rays place Wilson Ramos on DL for potential extended absence, seek replacement

Rays place Wilson Ramos on DL for potential extended absence, seek replacement

ST. PETERSBURG – The Rays made the inevitable move Wednesday of placing catcher Wilson Ramos on the disabled list while still looking for a replacement.Ramos, 30, strained his left hamstring Saturday in Minnesota, which forced him out of Tuesda...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Must-see golf history with Seminole’s Brittany Lincicome

Must-see golf history with Seminole’s Brittany Lincicome

Thursday is history.There is no way around it, even for Brittany Lincicome, who loves finding her way around it. That's just her. She played with boys growing up, neighborhood football and basketball, baseball — and golf. I remember when she wa...
Updated: 5 hours ago
At St. Pete rally, protesters call Trump’s remarks on Russia ‘treason’

At St. Pete rally, protesters call Trump’s remarks on Russia ‘treason’

ST. PETERSBURG — Linda and Jack Miller braved the humidity at Demens Landing on Wednesday night for a simple reason:"Treason," said Linda Miller, 66.The St. Petersburg couple joined more than 100 protesters toting signs, pins and megaphones at the "T...
Updated: 6 hours ago
An all-or-nothing All-Star Game

An all-or-nothing All-Star Game

WASHINGTON — Tuesday's All-Star Game was exciting, dramatic, historic — and perfectly representative of the 2018 season, what with the unprecedented power show, display of blazing arms creating a fan club (25 strikeouts), and the emotion ...
Updated: 6 hours ago

Deputies: Masked shooter wounds Dunedin woman in home invasion

DUNEDIN — Deputies are searching for a black-clad gunman who shot and wounded an 18-year-old woman during a home invasion attack Wednesday, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office.The shooting was reported at about 1:03 p.m. at 1144 New Yor...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Hernando deputies: Cave diver fails to resurface at the Eagle’s Nest

Hernando deputies: Cave diver fails to resurface at the Eagle’s Nest

WEEKI WACHEE — A diver exploring the Eagle’s Nest, a notoriously dangerous underwater cave, failed to resurface from a Wednesday night dive, according to the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office.The person was free diving, according to the Sheriff’s Offi...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin launches spacecraft higher than ever

Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin launches spacecraft higher than ever

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin rocket company shot a capsule higher into space Wednesday than it’s ever done before. The New Shepard rocket blasted off from West Texas on the company’s latest test flight. Once the booster separated, t...
Updated: 7 hours ago

Lottery resultsNumbers drawn after 9 p.m. are no longer available by our deadlines. For results, please go to tampabay.com/lottery.Pick 2, 3, 4, 5Wed., July 18, midday:308730160e_SRit11605Wed., July 18, evening:227903781e_SRit60091LottoWed., July 18:...
Updated: 7 hours ago
SEC media days: No answers on Alabama quarterback battle

SEC media days: No answers on Alabama quarterback battle

ATLANTA — Alabama coach Nick Saban had little to say Wednesday about the biggest topic of the offseason.Who will be the Crimson Tide's starting quarterback: Tua Tagovailoa or Jalen Hurts?"I think the number one thing that you will want to ...
Updated: 7 hours ago
New board members at CareerSource Pinellas press for answers

New board members at CareerSource Pinellas press for answers

CLEARWATER— New board members at a troubled job placement center received a call for oversight Wednesday — something all but absent in recent years at the agency."Question, question, question," said CareerSource Pinellas board chair Jack Geller durin...
Updated: 8 hours ago