Monday, June 18, 2018
News Roundup

Scientologists give Clearwater dates for Flag Building dedication, other events

CLEARWATER — The Church of Scientology notified city officials Monday of plans to dedicate its new Flag Building on Nov. 17 in a private event the church says will draw 10,000 Scientologists to downtown Clearwater.

That day will highlight more than a week of celebrations for the church, which has requested street and sidewalk closures, police protection and other city services through an application for a special events permit.

Most problematic is the church's request to close a major downtown thoroughfare — Fort Harrison Avenue — for most of the weekend of Nov. 15-17. Fort Harrison is a north-south street through downtown that normally carries heavy beach-bound traffic on weekends.

The church also asked that Clearwater police erect a temporary fence "to create a perimeter" to keep uninvited guests at a distance from the Flag Building that Sunday.

Closing one of the city's busiest streets for the bulk of the weekend "may be a stretch," said Mayor George Cretekos.

"My guess is that people always ask for more than they expect to get," he said. "We need to make sure that beach traffic remains as unimpeded as possible."

For weeks, city officials could only guess when the church planned to cut the ribbon on its massive Flag Building, a seven-story, $145 million neo-Mediterreanean structure that occupies an entire downtown block. Construction began in 1998, but was delayed for years, eventually drawing a $435,000 fine from the city.

A city planning committee will review the church's new application Wednesday. Originally, the church tentatively scheduled the Flag Building dedication for early October, but then delayed it.

"At least we have some idea now of what they're requesting," Cretekos said.

Normally, the city requires a month's notice to review a special events application, but it will attempt to expedite review of the church's application, said Christopher Hubbard, the city's special events committee chairman.

A church spokeswoman didn't respond to requests for comment Monday.

The new application asks that Fort Harrison Avenue be closed from 6 p.m. Friday, Nov. 15, until 5 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 17.

A church film crew has also requested that street lights and traffic signals be temporarily removed at Pierce Street and Fort Harrison, the corner where the Flag Building is located.

City officials, including City Manager Bill Horne, have been cool to that idea in recent months. Church officials have said they would pay for the temporary removal — a cost the city estimates would be in the six figures.

At the 1 p.m. Flag Building dedication on Nov. 17, guests will fill the sidewalks and both Pierce Street and S Fort Harrison Avenue. The church wants to close surrounding sidewalks, as they will "be virtually impassable," according to the application.

The church also plans to use amplified sound and video screens so that its members can hear and see the proceedings from wherever they are in the vicinity of the Flag Building.

Many events during the week of celebration will occur in a 150,000-square-foot tent the church has erected. Although sketchy on the details, the church application states that it plans seminars and banquets through Nov. 23 as well as "presentation" events in the tent on the two days prior to the dedication. The first sidewalk closure requested is Nov. 8.

The city will work with the church to accommodate its request, Cretekos said, "but we have an obligation to the entire city also."

Charlie Frago can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4159. You can follow him on Twitter @CharlieFrago

Comments
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: 4 minutes ago
Rays’ Lou Piniella pondered upside-down pitching in 2005

Rays’ 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: 15 minutes 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: 1 hour 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: 2 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: 2 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: 3 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: 3 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: 3 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: 4 hours ago
Tampa police seek driver who struck pedestrian and drove off

Tampa police seek driver who struck pedestrian and drove off

TAMPA — Police are seeking the public’s help in locating the driver who fatally struck a pedestrian on Sunday night and then drove off.The incident took place at 9:15 p.m. near the intersection of N Nebraska Avenue and E Linebaugh Avenue.No details a...
Updated: 4 hours ago