07/17/14 Local Government
OLDSMAR — A yearlong dispute ended at Tuesday night's City Council meeting during a bathroom break.
City Manager Bruce Haddock and Jason Schwabe, who represents Palm Harbor and Oldsmar firefighters at the International Association of Firefighters Local 2980, ended the impasse over pension negotiations for Oldsmar's 13 rank-and-file firefighters.
The city initially wanted to freeze its pension plan for current firefighters and switch them over to the Florida Retirement System. They would keep what they have earned so far, but would have to work several more years than planned before retiring in order to get a pension from the state....
OLDSMAR — The City Council voted Tuesday to allow tattoo and piercing businesses downtown.
"I'm excited," said resident Jillian Langley Santiago, who has been working with the city to open a shop on St. Petersburg Drive E, where she has paid rent on a storefront since February. "I'm ready to open my business. We just have to get our other licensing done and open up.
Previously, an ordinance for the downtown area grouped tattoo and piercing businesses with pawnshops and gun shops, which the original ordinance described as signs of "neighborhood deterioration."...
07/15/14 Real Estate
TARPON SPRINGS — Rosanna Corbo, 45, has spent the last decade trying to get her life in order. It's hard to focus, though, when you have to slap cockroaches off the toilet just to sit down.
That's what it's like at Mango Circle, a dilapidated public housing complex off Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. After a short stint in a homeless shelter two years ago, Corbo took to the duplex with an injured rotator cuff that kept her out of work, her two youngest children and an unfinished high school education....
07/10/14 Real Estate
EAST LAKE — More than 50 condominium owners gathered to voice concerns about losing their condominiums Thursday night at East Lake Methodist Church.
State Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, organized the meeting and a bipartisan group of representatives from three counties joined him.
A 2007 loophole in Florida law allows an investor who buys more than 80 percent of the condos in a complex to force other residents to sell at low prices. Residents are on the hook for thousands of dollars in mortgage payments even after moving away....
TARPON SPRINGS — Sponge divers, spanakopita and the annual Epiphany celebration have long added to Tampa Bay's charm, but now the historic Greektown district is getting federal recognition.
The National Park Service has listed the district on its National Register of Historic Places as a traditional cultural property, which is a first for Florida.
"The Tarpon Springs community has functioned as a center of commerce and trade for early Greek immigrants since the 1900s," Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner said in a news release Wednesday....
EAST LAKE — Just before dusk on a hot June night, coach John Duncan lines up about a dozen 12-year-old girls for their next soccer drill under the lights. The first game won't be until October, but that does not stop the team from practicing twice weekly all summer.
Duncan is not paid during the summer, so he, like his girls, is out there for the love of the game.
East Lake Youth Sports Association can breathe easy now after years of struggling to find solid financial footing. At its June 24 meeting, the Pinellas County Commission approved a new property tax to fund the group. Starting Oct. 1, ELYSA will see an estimated $550,000 per year to keep themselves afloat while tackling long-awaited renovations to the Old Keystone Road complex....
07/03/14 Human Interest
DUNEDIN — Fourth of July fireworks start long before colored lights dot the sky and Katy Perry's Firework fades into Bruce Springsteen's Born in the USA.
The 20-minute show Dunedin residents will enjoy from Florida Auto Exchange Stadium is run by Fireworks Displays Unlimited, a Tampa branch of a Miami-based pyrotechnics company.
Fireworks Displays Unlimited orders fireworks from China a year in advance, even before Dunedin and about 20 other cities sign on for Fourth of July shows, lead technician Kim Wawrowicz said....
07/01/14 Local Government
TARPON SPRINGS — This city will be without a Development Services Department come Monday morning.
Director Joseph DiPasqua was forced to resign in May amid months of controversy over proposed Sponge Docks enhancements. Now, principal planner Rodney Chatman and planning director Renea Vincent have filed notice to leave, said City Manager Mark LeCouris.
Chatman already left, and Vincent's last day is Thursday, leaving the city of more than 23,000 with no planning employees. Both are taking planning jobs with Pinellas County....
OLDSMAR — If you're an artist, you don't have to be a starving artist. That's the realization that drew muralist Jillian Langley Santiago to tattooing when she lived in Georgia.
But in Oldsmar, Langley Santiago's passion for the industry is costing her big time. She has paid $800 a month in rent and water bills since February on a St. Petersburg Drive E storefront as she fights for the right to open her own tattoo parlor....
CLEARWATER — Two drownings last week in northern Pinellas County served as grim reminders that some of the country's most picturesque beaches also can be deadly.
Largo resident Isam Rizkallah, 58, jumped from his boat June 10 near Honeymoon Island to rescue his dog. Three days later Gainesville, Ga., resident Ryan Terry drowned 30 yards off Clearwater Beach, near Idlewild Street. In both cases, officials cited strong currents as a factor in their deaths....
TAMPA — Drivers on the Veterans Expressway will pay tolls without stopping or waiting in line at certain exits starting Saturday morning.
Florida's Turnpike Enterprise will bill drivers only by SunPass or toll-by-plate billing at the Hillsborough and Waters avenue ramps, as well as the Anderson mainline toll plaza.
In a few weeks, tolls at Gunn Highway, Hutchison Road and the Sugarwood mainline toll plaza will also go electronic....
BRANDON — Gov. Rick Scott, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and other local officials took part Tuesday afternoon in the ceremonial ground breaking for a 420,000-square-foot facility housing USAA, a financial giant that serves military families.
The company is poised to add 1,215 jobs and invest $164.3 million in Hillsborough County by 2019. The facility is expected to open by the end of 2015....
TAMPA — A Sarasota physician dubbed "one of the most dangerous doctors" by a member of the Florida Board of Medicine faces a one-year suspension and $80,000 fine for improperly diagnosing prostate cancer.
In addition to the suspension and maximum fine allowed in such a case, Ronald Wheeler, a urologist with more than 25 years of experience, faces an evaluation and five years of supervised probation should he accept the board's settlement proposed Friday during a meeting in Tampa....
TAMPA — Tampa's James A. Haley VA Medical Center is taking steps to provide faster care amid an ongoing scandal about secret wait times at a Department of Veterans Affairs hospital in Phoenix.
Haley director Kathleen Fogarty emailed staff and others Friday to describe new methods of ensuring quicker treatment. Staff will contact all veterans on an electronic waiting list in an effort to get them care sooner than 90 days. ...
05/31/14 Economic Development
TAMPA — Hillsborough County expects to see a third straight year of growth in real estate values, a clear sign of economic recovery.
Taxable property values increased between 2012 and 2013 by about 5.79 percent to a base of about $67.7 billion, according to the most recent weekly estimate from the county property appraiser's office.
That comes after a 5.29 percent jump last year and less than a 1 percent increase the year before that....