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

Despite concerns that buyers are paying too much in some overheated neighborhoods, this is shaping up as a solid year, too - though the heady days of 2016 likely won't be repeated. [BRENDAN FITTERER | Times]

Despite concerns that buyers are paying too much in some overheated neighborhoods, this is shaping up as a solid year, too - though the heady days of 2016 likely won't be repeated. [BRENDAN FITTERER | Times]

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.

Afternoon Update: Home-price optimism; grand jury to probe licensing board; FDLE confiscates PTC phones; sting nets stolen guns, drugs 02/10/17 [Last modified: Friday, February 10, 2017 4:12pm]
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