Tuesday, December 12, 2017
News Roundup

Crush of patients create parking problems at Port Richey methadone clinic

PORT RICHEY — Each morning Frank Mesko watches as droves of people seek treatment at the methadone clinic across the street from his home.

He was never a fan of Operation PAR moving into his neighborhood on Washington Street, just east of U.S. 19, five years ago. But he is growing weary of the influx of patients who arrive each morning for their methadone, designed to wean them off their addiction to opiates.

The problem is parking.

In recent months, Mesko said, the overflow from Operation PAR's parking lot has gotten out of hand. Mesko said patients park in the right-of-way and often turn around in his driveway when they pass the clinic. He grew so fed up with the parking situation recently that he picked up the phone and called police.

"Every morning they're lined up waiting," Mesko said. "It just doesn't belong in a residential neighborhood."

Other residents have complained, and even employees of the nonprofit clinic have called law enforcement for help with the parking problems, according to Port Richey police Chief Dave Brown.

"They have called us when they felt like they couldn't control the situation," Brown said. "I've been there personally and seen their employees in the parking lot trying to direct traffic."

In an effort to get the situation under control, Brown said his officers have been writing parking tickets when someone parks in the public-right-way on the tight two-lane road. One Sunday three weeks ago, Brown said, he used his police loudspeaker to warn the clinic's patients that tickets would be issued. Even so, he said, officers wrote more than 20 citations that day.

"I understand they need to get their medications and they have a right to do that," Brown said. "But they can't do that by parking illegally."

Employees at the clinic declined to comment last week, and calls to Operation PAR for this story went unreturned.

The complaints have reached City Council. At a recent board meeting, council member Nancy Britton criticized the Operation PAR facility.

"They seem as though they've outgrown the space, which is sad, but true," Britton said. "It's not fair to the residents over there that have to deal with that every day. It's horrific that it's there and makes it even worse now that we are dealing with these issues."

Operation PAR was a lightning rod in 2007 when it submitted plans to the city to move into facility at 7720 Washington St. after outgrowing a previous location on Ridge Road. Residents were vocal in their opposition, but Port Richey building officials said Operation PAR met the commercial zoning requirements of the property.

At the time, Britton resigned herself to Operation PAR moving in. "There nothing we can do," she said in 2007. "They have a right to be there." And Operation PAR has fought in court for that right in other jurisdictions.

Last month, Operation PAR settled a federal lawsuit with Hernando County after commissioners there denied a permit for a clinic in Spring Hill. The settlement came after Hernando's insurance company reported that the county would likely lose the lawsuit if it went to court.

It's unclear when Operation PAR may open its doors in Hernando. But that new facility could alleviate some of the demand on the Port Richey clinic. Marvin Coleman, Operation PAR vice president of community and business relations, has previously told the Times that more than 100 patients travel from Hernando to Port Richey to get their treatments.

Until then, the city is working with Operation PAR to improve the parking conditions, according to City Manager Tom O'Neill.

"I've met with the staff there and they want to do everything they can to help," O'Neill said. "I think they get overwhelmed with the number of people that come. And then it just mushrooms. They've always been cooperative in trying to keep this situation out of the neighborhood."

Comments
The Bucsí problem isnít how they finish; itís how they start

The Bucsí problem isnít how they finish; itís how they start

For the second straight week, the Buccaneers had the ball in the final minutes of a tie game.For the second straight week, they could not finish.As disappointing as that might be, they have a larger problem, and one that has existed all season: The B...
Updated: 2 hours ago

Lottery resultsLottery numbers drawn after 9 p.m. are no longer available by our deadlines. For results, go to tampabay.com/lottery.Pick 2, 3, 4, 5Tues., Dec. 12, midday:90 578 4984e_SRit30459Tues., Dec. 12, evening:85 659 2558e_SRit95745Fantasy 5Tue...
Updated: 7 minutes ago
St. Pete losing two assistant police chiefs; one will join Rays

St. Pete losing two assistant police chiefs; one will join Rays

ST. PETERSBURG ó Two assistant police chiefs are stepping down next month, leaving two of the three of the second-in-command jobs vacant at the St. Petersburg Police Department.Assistant Chief Jim Previtera announced this week that he will resign fro...
Updated: 8 minutes ago
Tax package would lower top tax rate for wealthy Americans

Tax package would lower top tax rate for wealthy Americans

WASHINGTON ó Congressional Republicans on Tuesday rushed toward a deal on a massive tax package that would reduce the top tax rate for wealthy Americans to 37 percent and slash the corporate rate to a level slightly higher than what businesses and co...
Updated: 18 minutes ago
GMs-turned-pundits believe now may be the time for Rays to sell

GMs-turned-pundits believe now may be the time for Rays to sell

LAKE BUENA VISTA ó The Rays have been doing a lot of talking, making another small deal Tuesday while still working toward bigger ones of a still-being-determined degree.And there have been a lot of baseball people at the winter meetings talking abou...
Updated: 19 minutes ago
Jewish heritage shines brightly

Jewish heritage shines brightly

Photos by EVE EDELHEIT | TimesMembers of Congregation Bínai Israel of St. Petersburg, above, celebrate lighting the largest menorah in St. Petersburg on Tuesday, the first evening of Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights. The festival celebrate...
Updated: 20 minutes ago

Updated: 24 minutes ago
Trump signs $700 billion military budget into law

Trump signs $700 billion military budget into law

WASHINGTON ó President Donald Trump on Tuesday signed into law a sweeping defense policy bill that authorizes a $700 billion budget for the military, including additional spending on missile defense programs to counter North Koreaís growing nuclear w...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Shark-dragging video case results in three arrests

Shark-dragging video case results in three arrests

In what a state wildlife commission official called "a fairly unique case," investigators on Tuesday charged three men in connection with a viral video that showed anglers dragging a shark behind a boat on a rope.PREVIOUS COVERAGE: FWC identifies boa...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Unexpected visit, gifts

Unexpected visit, gifts

GABRIELLA ANGOTTI-JONES | TimesFrancisco Cervantes, a kindergarten student at Wimauma Elementary School, high-fives Santa Jim on Tuesday while Ryan Sealy, Cervantesí teacher, looks on. Amazon, which has a major distribution center in neighboring ...
Updated: 1 hour ago