Tuesday, May 22, 2018
News Roundup

Pinellas commissioners split over Cross Bar Ranch sale

Pasco County's bid to buy back over 12,000 acres of undeveloped land met with a mixed reaction from Pinellas commissioners Tuesday, half of whom said they weren't prepared to sell.

The land, known as the Cross Bar Ranch, is in central Pasco but was bought by Pinellas County in the mid-1970s in the midst of heavy competition for water sources. Untouched by development and mainly used for agricultural purposes, it hosts 17 wellheads, now owned by Tampa Bay Water, which supply Pinellas, Pasco, Hillsborough, Tampa, St. Petersburg and New Port Richey with 14 million to 16 million gallons of water a day.

More than 30 years after the land was sold, Pasco commissioners are making a second bid to buy back the land using money from the Penny for Pasco tax. Their intention, they say, is to build a series of trails linking the Cross Bar to other environmental preserves. They also want to eliminate the possibility of Pinellas one day deciding to sell it to developers.

At a meeting Tuesday, Pinellas commissioners were split on whether to sell. Three of the seven commissioners — Karen Seel, Janet Long and Norm Roche — said they did not want Pinellas to relinquish ownership of a major source of drinking water.

"The No. 1 issue if you pick up any magazine, the Economist, Newsweek, Time magazine, (it) is going to be water. And that is why we need to keep this land just out of abundance of caution," Seel said.

To assuage Pasco's fears of development, Seel proposed granting Pasco the first right to buy the land if Pinellas ever does sell.

"I have a different perspective," said Commissioner Susan Latvala, who has been the main proponent of selling, a step she said would dissolve some of the bad blood between the two counties over the decades-old sale.

"Several of you have referred to water being the biggest issue. Yeah, it is. And Tampa Bay Water solved that," she said. Arguments that the regional water utility could fall apart are "such a far-fetched stretch."

Florida is trying to cut down on pumping ground water, Latvala added. If Tampa Bay Water ever disbanded and Pinellas was left to fend for itself, it's unlikely the county would win the state's approval to pump more water out of the Cross Bar Ranch.

Agreeing with Latvala, Commissioner Ken Welch said the ranch had served its purpose. "This really is a home rule issue to me," he said. "If another county owned a chunk of land in Pinellas County, I think we'd be trying to acquire it as well."

Sandwiched in the middle of a divided board, Commissioner Charlie Justice said he needed more information about the ranch before making up his mind. Commissioner John Morroni did not attend Tuesday's meeting.

Comments
Pasco delays take-back of SunWest Park

Pasco delays take-back of SunWest Park

NEW PORT RICHEY — The publicly owned SunWest Park is still in private hands.At least for now.On Tuesday, Pasco County commissioners delayed voting on a plan to take over operations of the publicly owned lakefront park near Aripeka that would have all...
Updated: 4 minutes ago
Weeki Wachee High student arrested after posting fake school shooting threat, sheriff says

Weeki Wachee High student arrested after posting fake school shooting threat, sheriff says

WEEKI WACHEE — A Weeki Wachee High School student was arrested Tuesday after creating a fake social media post threatening a school shooting, according to the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office, who said she told them she did it so she could "get out o...
Updated: 9 minutes ago
Rays call up top prospect Willy Adames – for now

Rays call up top prospect Willy Adames – for now

The Rays have called up top prospect INF Willy Adames – though likely for a short stay.INF Joey Wendle was placed on the paternity list Tuesday, which can last three days.Adames is likely to head back to Triple-A Durham when Wendle returns.Adam...
Updated: 14 minutes ago
Deputies: 10th-grader brings loaded gun to Bradenton high school

Deputies: 10th-grader brings loaded gun to Bradenton high school

A Bradenton Bayshore High School student faces charges after he brought a gun on campus on Tuesday, according to the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office.Around 11:45 a.m., school resource officers were alerted by school staff that the student, a 10th-gra...
Updated: 14 minutes ago
Police swarm Panama City street in apparent shootout

Police swarm Panama City street in apparent shootout

PANAMA CITY BEACH — Multiple law enforcement agencies have surrounded a Panama City apartment building where an active shooter is barricaded inside.City spokeswoman Caitlyn Lawrence says it’s still an active situation. The suspect has been firing on ...
Updated: 21 minutes ago

Updated: 27 minutes ago
Here’s why there are so many coyotes and why they are spreading so fast

Here’s why there are so many coyotes and why they are spreading so fast

For eons, coyotes roamed what is now the western United States, with its wide-open plains. Then came European settlers, who cut down forests for farms and ranches in a steady east-west march. Along the way, they killed large predators such as pumas a...
Updated: 29 minutes ago
For starters: Rays vs. Red Sox, with Faria on the mound

For starters: Rays vs. Red Sox, with Faria on the mound

UPDATE, 3:27: Here is the Rays lineup, would just called up top prospect Willy Adames:Robertson 2bCron 1bDuffy dhRamos cAdames ssField rfArroyo 3bRefsnyder lfSmith cfFaria pDEVELOPING: The Rays are back home after a long, eventful and ultimately succ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
FedEx driver, 22, dies in crash on Interstate 4

FedEx driver, 22, dies in crash on Interstate 4

TAMPA — A 22-year-old FedEx driver died on Interstate 4 Tuesday when a tire blew out on his freight truck, which veered into the path of a Chevrolet Volt, state troopers said. Two teen girls in the Volt survived the 10:21 a.m. crash. A photo shows ci...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Many Americans still cannot afford a $400 set back

Many Americans still cannot afford a $400 set back

Could you pay an unexpected $400 expense?More than four in 10 Americans said they couldn’t without borrowing money or selling something, according to the Federal Reserves Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households released Tuesday.That’s ac...
Updated: 1 hour ago