Monday, December 11, 2017
News Roundup

Hillsborough voters will decide on tax used to preserve land

TAMPA — Despite two years of outcries over property taxes, Hills­borough County commissioners believe voters still may support the county's tax to preserve environmentally valuable land.

They'll find out for sure in November.

Commissioners voted unanimously Wednesday to ask their lawyers to draft a ballot question about whether to renew the 21-year-old tax that has allowed the county to buy nearly 70 square miles of forests, swamps and beaches.

Voters first approved the tax in 1987, then voted in 1990 to renew it for 20 years. It is set to expire in 2011.

"This is not a new tax," said County Commissioner Jim Norman. "This is an extension of what this community wants to make an investment in."

Supporters of the Environmental Lands Acquisition and Protection Program could have waited two years. But Lutz's Jan Smith, acting chairwoman of the ELAPP General Committee, said the program is running out of money.

"I think we now have $17-million that could be spent," Smith said. "It wouldn't take much to wipe that out."

In total, ELAPP has spent nearly $200-million on land. Kurt Gremley, ELAPP's acquisitions manager, said 42 percent of that came from state grants and other matching sources.

Jan Platt, the former county commissioner who helped launch ELAPP, reminded commissioners that the program grabs its best deals when real estate prices are sagging.

"I have a feeling there are a lot more willing sellers right now," she said.

Last week, pollsters commissioned by environmental groups questioned 400 Hillsborough voters. About 49 percent said they would support renewing ELAPP, 28 percent would oppose it and 20 percent were undecided. After being told more about the program's goals, 68 percent expressed support, with 22 percent opposed, said Will Abberger, with the Trust for Public Land, which supports such programs and helped commission the poll.

A "yes" vote in November would allow the county to borrow up to $200-million for ELAPP purchases, and levy a property tax to pay the debt. Gremley said the current tax limit of 0.25 mills would cover that, but probably would be excessive.

"We're probably going to issue less than half of that because I can't spend it that fast," Gremley said.

Sex predators rules

In other business, commissioners voted unanimously to broaden Hillsborough's law requiring sexual predators to stay 300 feet away from places where children gather.

The changes would expand the law to cover offenders who had committed crimes against children, and those who had been committed to treatment centers following their prison terms.

They also would allow the county to enforce the ordinance through court orders.

Commissioner Brian Blair asked the attorneys to draft the toughest language they could.

"I want it so tough that they (offenders) don't want to live here," Blair said.

Bill Coats can be reached at (813) 269-5309 or [email protected]

Comments
Lions-Buccaneers Turning Point, Week 14: A coach's future hangs in the balance

Lions-Buccaneers Turning Point, Week 14: A coach's future hangs in the balance

TAMPA — The season started in August with “Hard Knocks,” packed bleachers at training camp and cheers for coach Dirk Koetter.It ended Sunday with a 24-21 loss to the Lions, a lot of empty seats and chants of “We want Gruden ba...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Saturday’s sonic booms likely from F-15 fighters, NORAD says

Saturday’s sonic booms likely from F-15 fighters, NORAD says

Those sonic booms heard across the state Saturday afternoon were likely from two F-15 fighter jets protecting President Donald Trump during his visit to Florida, according to the North American Aerospace Defense Command.The jets, which belong to the ...
Updated: 10 minutes ago
Bucs journal: Brent Grimes matches Richard Sherman for INTs since 2013

Bucs journal: Brent Grimes matches Richard Sherman for INTs since 2013

TAMPA — CB Brent Grimes picked up his third interception of the season in Sunday’s loss to the Lions, tying him for the Bucs’ team lead and with another, more impressive group.Since the start of the 2013 season, Grimes has 20 interceptions, tying him...
Updated: 10 minutes ago
Mother, sons lose everything in fire -- except her daughter’s urn

Mother, sons lose everything in fire -- except her daughter’s urn

ST. PETERSBURG — The day after a fire claimed most of Jahmeshia Jackson’s possessions, the 27-year-old mother returned to the house she and her sons had escaped, trying to salvage what she could. She hoped her washer and dryer still worked. But most ...
Updated: 12 minutes ago
Police make arrest in home invasion of 77-year-old South Tampa man

Police make arrest in home invasion of 77-year-old South Tampa man

TAMPA — A 19-year-old was arrested Friday in connection with an armed home invasion in the Hyde Park area, according to Tampa police.Leo Butler, 19, faces a charge of robbery of less than $300. He was still in the county jail on Monday, held in lieu ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
HomeTeam Hot Shot winners: Emily Joseph and Devin Cosser

HomeTeam Hot Shot winners: Emily Joseph and Devin Cosser

HomeTeam Hot ShotsEmily Joseph, NortheastJoseph, a senior, has been a deadly shooter since her sophomore year. But this season she has added to her game. "She’s gotten physically stronger and has gained confidence," coach Will White said. "She used t...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Outback Steakhouse co-founder Chris Sullivan steps off Bloomin’ Brands’ board

Outback Steakhouse co-founder Chris Sullivan steps off Bloomin’ Brands’ board

Chris Sullivan, co-founder of Outback Steakhouse, resigned from the board of the restaurant chain’s parent company last Wednesday, according to a Monday filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The document, filed by Tampa-based Bloomin’ B...
Updated: 2 hours ago

Pets rescued from fire at Tampa apartment complex (with video)

TAMPA — Firefighters rescued a cat and a dog from a blaze Monday that severely damaged an eight-unit apartment building in the Lowry Park area of Tampa.The fire started about 3:30 p.m. inside a two-story building at the Brookshire Townhomes, at 1910 ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Tree trimmer shocked by power line in Clearwater, authorities say

Tree trimmer shocked by power line in Clearwater, authorities say

CLEARWATER — A 38-year-old tree trimmer is in critical condition after he was shocked by a power line Monday, according to Clearwater Fire & Rescue.Ernest Harlen, of Largo, was on a ladder cutting trees with a pole saw when he was shocked just before...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Could report of rift relate to Jameis Winston’s damaged brand?

Could report of rift relate to Jameis Winston’s damaged brand?

TAMPA — What we have at One Buc Place is a game of Clue. The whodunit in this case is the person(s) who put out the information that quarterback Jameis Winston’s relationship with coach Dirk Koetter is on cracked ice.Was it Winston in the weight room...
Updated: 3 hours ago