Saturday, February 17, 2018
News Roundup

Donation will fund July Fourth party in Tarpon Springs

TARPON SPRINGS — There may not be fireworks, but at least there's a party.

City commissioners decided Tuesday night to sponsor a family-style "patriotic picnic in the park" on July 4 in lieu of the annual fireworks display at Fred Howard Park.

Commissioners decided earlier this month the $22,500 budgeted for fireworks should go toward a new emergency radio station, but they said they'd consider other ideas to celebrate the day if a sponsor came forward.

At Tuesday's meeting, they got their wish.

Global Tower, which is buying a cell phone tower from Ridan Industries, offered a $5,000 donation to the city if it could expedite a lease agreement so the company, which manages wireless communication facilities, could meet a closing deadline. Transfer of the lease required city approval.

"It just fell into place," said Mark LeCouris, interim city manager.

Global Tower will continue to pay $30,000 annually to lease the space and honor all other terms of the original lease agreement, LeCouris said.

Commissioners said they liked the idea of an old-fashioned picnic, with volunteers grilling hamburgers and kids competing in watermelon seed-spitting contests.

The celebration would be held at Craig Park on Spring Bayou. Plans also include athletic games, kids' activities and free entertainment at the band shell.

Commissioners had expressed concern about trying to find money in the budget for a July Fourth event, with budget constraints looming due to declining property tax revenue.

Craig Park was selected as a location to keep from interfering with plans to reconstruct two bridges at Fred Howard Park this summer.

LeCouris also addressed a rumor circulating among city residents the past few weeks: that they had voted several years ago for the city to pay for fireworks each Independence Day.

"I call it the urban legend of the fireworks designation," LeCouris said.

In fact, residents voted down a city charter amendment in 2005 that would have required the city to set aside $1 for each resident to pay for pyrotechnics. A year later, residents did vote that the city should fund the event, but it was a nonbinding poll.

In other news from Tuesday's commission meeting, the board got an earful from both sides on issues relating to Jack Willie's Tarpon Turtle Grill and Marina, which sits on Lake Tarpon.

More than a dozen residents of the next-door Lake Tarpon Sail and Tennis Club came out in opposition of a proposed restaurant parking expansion.

In recent weeks, neighbors have complained about excessive noise, trash and late-night disruptions coming from the Turtle, which reopened two years ago after being rebuilt.

Neighbor Ed Mazur said the problems go beyond noise and trash. He cited drunken driving, assault and disorderly conduct complaints about patrons.

Mazur, who submitted a notebook full of material to commissioners, said he hired private investigators to determine how many seats the restaurant has. Their count came to more than 300, on two separate occasions. But the city only approved a 150-seat restaurant, he said.

After the meeting, restaurant owner Don Alvino said the Turtle seats 240, no more and no less than when it first opened.

Alvino said the original application showed 150 seats because that's the minimum required to obtain a liquor license. He said he believes his restaurant is in compliance with city and state regulations.

Planning and zoning director Renea Vincent explained that commissioners never specified a seat limitation when they approved the site plan and a previous parking lot expansion.

The city's land development code could be interpreted such that the original parking expansion would have allowed for more seats, Vincent said. But the restaurant would still need to apply for a new building permit to comply with building codes and should do so "post haste," she said.

Vincent said she would also consult with the city attorney to determine whether the Turtle needed to supply a new site plan.

LeCouris said city staff members would review each complaint brought before the board.

"We're going to sit down as a staff with the city attorney and go over each and every issue that's been brought up, and have a course of action on how were going to deal with it," LeCouris said Wednesday.

LeCouris said he and the city attorney would also meet with the Turtle's owner and attorney to discuss the nuisance complaints.

Rita Farlow can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4260.

Hundreds rally against gun violence in downtown St. Pete

Hundreds rally against gun violence in downtown St. Pete

ST. PETERSBURG — A red heart-shaped balloon rose above crowd of several hundred people that had gathered at Williams Park on Saturday evening to mourn last week’s school shooting in Broward County and to protest gun violence.Below the balloon, signs ...
Updated: 19 minutes ago

Man found dead in flaming mobile home

TAMPA — Firefighters found a man dead inside a burned-down mobile home Saturday.Tampa Fire Rescue got a call just after 4:30 p.m. that a single-wide mobile home at the 100 block of East Linebaugh Avenue was in flames.The man’s identity was not releas...
Updated: 2 hours ago
‘I’m going to watch you bleed’: Nikolas Cruz threatened ex’s new boyfriend, report says

‘I’m going to watch you bleed’: Nikolas Cruz threatened ex’s new boyfriend, report says

Warning: This story quotes graphic material.Before he killed 17 people at a South Florida high school, Nikolas Cruz repeatedly threatened an ex-classmate who had started dating his former girlfriend, according to a report in Buzzfeed News."I’m going ...
Updated: 3 hours ago

Police find dead man in Tampa apartment

TAMPA — Police found a dead man inside an apartment in the 5200 block of Sonora Court Friday after 3 p.m.Who the man is or how long he’s been dead is not yet clear, police said. The victim appears to have been killed in some sort of "homicidal violen...
Updated: 3 hours ago

Police up patrols at two Pinellas Park schools after Snapchat threat

PINELLAS PARK — Police said they will have a heightened presence at two Pinellas Park schools after a school shooting threat was shared on social media.A post Friday on social media app Snapchat threatened a possible school shooting Tuesday, accordin...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Prosecutor: Death penalty was ‘designed’ for cases like Florida school shooting

Prosecutor: Death penalty was ‘designed’ for cases like Florida school shooting

The 17 counts of premeditated murder against Nikolas Cruz are the type of case "the death penalty was designed for," according to the Florida prosecutor in charge of trying the confessed school shooter.But Michael Satz, the longtime Broward state att...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Florida, angry and grieving, takes gun protest to streets

Florida, angry and grieving, takes gun protest to streets

PARKLAND, Fla. — Thousands of angry students, parents and residents demanded stricter gun control laws Saturday as new details were revealed about the suspect accused of shooting and killed 17 people in a Florida high school. The rally, held in downt...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Divided Congress unable to act on guns, immigration despite public pressure

Divided Congress unable to act on guns, immigration despite public pressure

It’s been five years since the guns and immigration debate collided at the same time on Capitol Hill. This time, the results were even more unproductive.In early 2013, weeks after a gunman killed 20 students and six educators at an elementary school ...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Trumpeter is the highlight of a concert featuring ‘West Side Story’ themes

Trumpeter is the highlight of a concert featuring ‘West Side Story’ themes

TAMPA — Leonard Bernstein would have turned 100 this year. The Florida Orchestra performed two of his works Friday, the second of which paired the dances from West Side Story with the overture to Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet.The orche...
Updated: 6 hours ago

Woman hit, killed Friday along Memorial Highway

TOWN ’N COUNTRY — A woman died after she was hit by a minivan along Memorial Highway on Friday night, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.The 53-year-old woman, whose identity was not released, was trying to cross Memorial Highway f...
Updated: 6 hours ago