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Julie Kliegman, Times Staff Writer

Julie Kliegman

Julie Kliegman covers Tarpon Springs, Oldsmar, Palm Harbor and East Lake. Previously, she wrote for PolitiFact and PolitiFact Florida. The New Jersey native came to the Times in July 2013 after earning a bachelor's degree in journalism and Spanish from Northwestern University.

Phone: (727) 445-4159

E-mail: jkliegman@tampabay.com

Twitter: @jmkliegman

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  1. Pinellas County, water management to restore Mobbly Bayou

    Wetlands

    OLDSMAR — County and water management officials expect construction to start soon on restoring Mobbly Bayou, a project that has been in the works since 2006.

    "Tampa Bay is one of the premier estuaries and bays in the state," said Philip Rhinesmith, a Southwest Florida Water Management District senior environmental scientist. "This project really shows the initiative within Pinellas County to restore areas for not only habitat protection but also for recreational use."...

    The project for Mobbly Bayou in Oldsmar is expected to take about 18 months and will include filling of mosquito ditches.
  2. Tarpon Springs catches decades-old mistake in charter

    Local

    TARPON SPRINGS — For the past month, city officials have been talking about getting rid of a city rule limiting tax increases. But whatever they decide won't change the fact that the rule has been effectively useless since voters approved it nearly 20 years ago.

    Why? Because the change in 1995 was in direct conflict with a state law passed in 1973.

    And in the ultimate irony, the lawyer who figured out in 2014 that it was illegal was the city attorney who helped craft it in 1995....

    Tarpon Springs Mayor David Archie was surprised by the nearly 20-year-old invalid rule.
  3. Replay Amusement Museum brings video game, pinball nostalgia to Tarpon Springs (w/video)

    Retail

    TARPON SPRINGS — Dodge ghosts with Ms. Pac-Man and smack pinballs until your fingers go numb, but don't call it an arcade. Visitors won't pay by the quarter at Brian and Becky's Replay Amusement Museum, opening today (Oct. 3).

    The historic district storefront features more than 80 arcade games, from the household names to the rarities, as well as 40 vintage pinball machines.

    "You play tic-tac-toe only so many times. Pinball is wild," said Brian Cheaney, 36. "You can play 10,000 balls and you're going to get 10,000 different games. That's really our jewel of this place."...

    Brian Cheaney plays pinball Monday at the Replay Amusement Museum that he and his wife are opening in Tarpon Springs. Collecting machines started as a hobby, then turned into a business.
  4. Park Boulevard bridge to close for repairs Sept. 29

    Roads

    SEMINOLE — Drivers coming to and from Redington Shores and Indian Shores are in for a longer trip as of Sept. 29, when Pinellas County is set to close the Park Boulevard bridge for a month during construction.

    The drawbridge will stay open while workers repair and upgrade the machinery underneath so boats can still pass through the waterway, as required by the U.S. Coast Guard. The Penny for Pinellas-funded project will cost $840,972, the county estimates....

    Pinellas County plans to close the Park Boulevard bridge on Sept. 29 for maintenance until Oct. 28. A county engineer said the repairs, which the county estimates will cost $840,972, should mean fewer drawbridge breakdowns in the future.
  5. Condo owners being forced out look to legislators for help

    Legislature

    Condo owners statewide say they're being forced from their homes by bulk buyers and former Rep. Keith Fitzgerald, D-Sarasota, was one of few who saw it coming.

    "Either I'm onto something, or I'm crazy," he thought of his lone vote in opposition to a 2007 condo law change.

    Seven years later, Fitzgerald is far from alone. Legislators, lawyers, the governor and his challenger's campaign recently called for change to protect condo owners....

  6. Controversial townhouses to add to Oldsmar's residential growth

    Real Estate

    OLDSMAR —When Nicole Wade moved into a new house on Cypress Bend 14 years ago with her husband and children, a large swath of green space lay beyond their back yard, just outside the confines of the Woods at Forest Lakes community.

    One day, Wade figured, a convenience store or gas station might crop up on that land at the intersection of Pine Avenue N and Forest Lakes Boulevard. Instead, the City Council voted to rezone the parcel last year and 26 two-story townhouses are about to rise in her poolside view....

    Work continues on the Tuscany Woods project in Oldsmar. Tuscany Woods, along with Hayes Park Village and Wellington Estates, is one of Oldsmar’s first signs of post-recession residential development, an official said. Together, the projects will give the city about 150 new housing units.
  7. Tarpon Springs property tax rate expected to stay the same

    Local Government

    TARPON SPRINGS — Property owners can expect the city's tax rate to stay the same for the fifth consecutive year.

    Taxpayers would owe $5.45 for every $1,000 of assessed, taxable value. But many would see larger bills next year because property values in the city in general are rising. Tarpon's increased tax revenue will go toward operating expenses and will also help reduce the city's reliance on reserves, said City Manager Mark LeCouris....

  8. Rep. Zimmermann calls on Gov. Scott to help condo owners

    Real Estate

    DUNEDIN — Condominium owners at Madison Oaks in Palm Harbor could be the latest to lose their homes because of a 2007 loophole in state law.

    Stephanie Krasowski, who started Floridians Against Condo Takeover, and other Madison Oaks residents could lose their deeds and be forced to give up their homes as early as Sept. 5 after a yearlong legal battle. They would join owners of at least 223 condos across Florida who have been forced from their homes, she said....

  9. Tarpon Springs to open third fire station Oct. 1

    Fire

    TARPON SPRINGS — Fire Chief Richard Butcher has heard talk of adding a new fire station north of the Anclote River since he joined the department in 1978.

    Thirty-six years later, city commissioners moved forward with plans to open Station 71 on Oct. 1.

    For years, Fire Rescue has responded too slowly to emergency calls in that area, Butcher said. Only two bridges in town cross the Anclote, so traffic means it often takes 12 or 13 minutes for firefighters to arrive at a scene. That's well above the 7½-minute average the city must maintain for 90 percent of calls....

  10. Tarpon Springs crossbowmaker faces lawsuits over severed thumbs

    Business

    William Meredith raised his friend's crossbow for the first time and fired twice. He moved his target back 15 yards and shot again.

    This time the bow's string cut through his left thumb, shaving off the top half an inch.

    "It was like cutting warm butter," said Meredith, who works in commercial janitorial management in McKinney, Texas.

    He vowed never to pick up a crossbow again. He tries not to even look at them....

  11. East Lake Youth Sports faces challenges under new oversight

    Health

    EAST LAKE — Extra cash is a new phenomenon for East Lake Youth Sports Association. The nonprofit volunteers who once fought to keep up with monthly payments on its fields now eye long-overdue maintenance projects, lower participation fees and a new lacrosse program.

    The change in mind-set came last month when the County Commission approved a recreation tax that will generate an estimated $536,850 in revenue for fiscal year 2015....

  12. Prominent Tarpon couple dies in murder-suicide

    Crime

    TARPON SPRINGS — Residents are shocked by the deaths of a locally prominent couple.

    Tarpon Springs Cultural Center marketing director Genevieve Crosby was shot by her husband Monday in a murder-suicide, the Sevier County (Tenn.) Sheriff's Office said.

    Crosby, 48, and her husband, Richard, 52, were staying with family in a rental cabin near the Smoky Mountains between Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, sheriff's spokesman Capt. Jeff McCarter said. Deputies were called there about 11 a.m....

    The parents and daughter of Genevieve Crosby were on the trip.
  13. Oldsmar's property tax rate to remain flat

    Local Government

    OLDSMAR — Property owners can expect the city's tax rate to stay the same for the seventh consecutive year, according to the proposed budget. The city has not raised the tax rate in 25 years.

    Property owners would still pay $4.05 for every $1,000 of assessed, taxable value. But since property values are projected to rise 7.8 percent overall, many people will see a larger bill.

    The proposed budget of $28.7 million would be a 5.7 percent decrease from fiscal year 2014, which ends Sept. 30. The extra $232,000 in property taxes will go toward the city's reserve funds, said Al Braithwaite, Oldsmar's administrative services director....

  14. Oldsmar, firefighters resolve pension impasse

    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....

  15. Oldsmar council votes to allow tattoo parlors downtown

    Business

    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."...

    Jillian Langley Santiago, paying rent on a downtown Oldsmar storefront since February, is now clear to open her tattoo shop.