Tuesday, June 19, 2018
News Roundup

Port Richey passes resolution suspending city manager over DUI charge

PORT RICHEY — City Manager Tom O'Neill's suspension stemming from an August DUI charge is official.

But the unanimous City Council vote last week on a resolution outlining his unpaid leave came days after O'Neill had already returned from his suspension — an oversight that didn't sit well with some on council.

"It's way too late as far as I'm concerned," said council member Terry Rowe.

In September, the council voted to suspend O'Neill for 30 days and he agreed to enter substance abuse treatment, stemming from a July 13 traffic stop when a New Port Richey police officer found O'Neill asleep behind the wheel of his sport utility vehicle. He was unable to perform field sobriety exercises.

The board delayed his suspension until November so the city could complete its budget and hold hearings on a water rate increase. Rowe voted against the suspension, saying he thought O'Neill should have been fired.

The plan was for council to vote upon a resolution making the stipulations of the unpaid leave official prior to the beginning of O'Neill's suspension which began Nov. 4. During a Nov. 26 council meeting — while O'Neill was on leave — Rowe pointed out that the resolution had not come before the board.

So on Tuesday — as O'Neill attended his first regular council meeting since his return — the resolution passed.

O'Neill was not arrested the night of the traffic stop. After a story detailing the incident in the Tampa Bay Times, the State Attorney's Office opened an investigation. A dashboard camera video of the incident surfaced showing O'Neill with his arms draped over paramedics' shoulders as he was helped to the back of his SUV. An investigation revealed he had a blood alcohol level of 0.367 — more than four times the level at which Florida law presumes a driver impaired. He was charged in August with driving under the influence. The case is pending.

In other news, the council also addressed several complaints from residents with sticker shock over bills reflecting new, higher water rates. The majority of complaints came from residents using irrigation meters whose bills have skyrocketed hundreds of dollars in some cases.

The council voted unanimously to allow a one-time reprieve for customers reducing their Nov. 15 bills to the lowest tier irrigation rate, in hopes that users will cut back on consumption.

O'Neill said many of the city's biggest water consumers are not adhering to state watering restrictions. One customer, O'Neill told the council, used 66,000 gallons during the billing period — a rate three times that allowed by the state.

"I was astounded personally when I heard that," O'Neill said.

O'Neill said he hopes the one-time relief on residents' bills will allow customers to look closer at their water use and opt for more conservation. Mayor Eloise Taylor also recommended the city look into entering into a reclaimed water program for residents.

Comments
Rays DFA Rob Refsnyder to make room for Kevin Kiermaier

Rays DFA Rob Refsnyder to make room for Kevin Kiermaier

The Rays made official after Monday's game that CF Kevin Kiermaier would be activated on Tuesday.And to make room on the 40- and 25 man rosters, they designated for assignment OF Rob Refsnyder.Acquired from the Indians for cash considerations just be...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Rays journal: A 4-0 lead disappears in loss at Houston

Rays journal: A 4-0 lead disappears in loss at Houston

HOUSTON — The Rays brought up several of their top prospects so they can get as much experience as possible.And Monday that included seeing how the relentless defending champion Astros worked their way back from an early four-run deficit to sco...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Devil Rays manager Lou Piniella pondered upside-down pitching in 2005

Devil Rays manager Lou Piniella pondered upside-down pitching in 2005

HOUSTON — Well before the idea of using a reliever to open games, as the Rays did against the Astros Monday for the 12th time, and then bringing in a starter was even a gleam in the eyes of the current Rays staff, former manager Lou Piniella wa...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Nazi or not? Tattoo sparks Twitter storm over wounded New Port Richey veteran

Nazi or not? Tattoo sparks Twitter storm over wounded New Port Richey veteran

The federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency is pushing back against a social media post implying that a combat-wounded New Port Richey veteran has a Nazi symbol tattooed on his arm.In a tweet Monday afternoon, ICE officials denied the vete...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Pinellas protesters: Stop separating families at the border

Pinellas protesters: Stop separating families at the border

Protests were held on both ends of Pinellas County on Monday in opposition to the Trump administration’s policy of separating children from their parents as they seek asylum at the U.S. border."Children are not pawns," "No kids in cages" and "I would...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Deadly Sunday for swimmers in bay area waters

Deadly Sunday for swimmers in bay area waters

Two people drowned and another suffered life-threatening injuries in the waters of Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico on Sunday.Investigators said all three cases appear to be accidents, but the incidents stand as a reminder that summer, with vacation ...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Private Florida firm buys Rent-A-Center in $1 billion deal

Private Florida firm buys Rent-A-Center in $1 billion deal

An Orlando private equity firm has purchased lease-to-own business Rent-A-Center in a deal valued at more than $1 billion.Vintage Capital Management put a bid in for the company on Friday: $15 per share, $1 per share above its previous offer. Rent-A-...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Report: 40 percent of Florida property will be ‘highly exposed’ to flooding

Report: 40 percent of Florida property will be ‘highly exposed’ to flooding

One of Florida’s biggest draws is also one if its biggest liabilities — its coastline. A new report projects that Florida is at the greatest risk of any state for tidal flooding caused by rising sea levels. And Tampa Bay faces some of the greatest ri...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Pinellas deputies arrest Mississippi man 31 years after sexual battery

Pinellas deputies arrest Mississippi man 31 years after sexual battery

SEMINOLE — She was 22 when deputies said a man forced her at knifepoint into the woods off Seminole Boulevard and sexually battered her in February 1987.The case went cold, but now the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office said it has arrested the man it ...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Iceland World Cup Fever … catch it!

Iceland World Cup Fever … catch it!

TAMPA — Iceland isn't what it used to be. Literally. The Nordic island country is shrinking, what with global warming. Iceland's glaciers are getting smaller. If you took all that ice and laid it end to end, well, you clearly have nothing bette...
Updated: 7 hours ago