HOLIDAY — Donations so far for boys ages 4 to 9: one medical kit, one Tonka helicopter, one Tonka police car, one Play-Doh set. For girls: one cake pop kit, one art kit, one manicure set, one block set.
"That won't last 10 minutes," said the Rev. Dan Campbell, director of Metropolitan Ministries in Pasco, as he strolled past bare shelves Wednesday. Volunteers have signed up about 20 percent more needy families than last year, yet donations are down by about 10 percent....
12/10/13 Local Government
NEW PORT RICHEY — It's a project that's never been done before in Pasco County. A county park and a public school side by side, with residents and students sharing a public library, theater, track, fields and tennis courts.
"You've got to try to think out of the box if you want to be innovative," senior assistant county attorney David Goldstein told School Board members and Pasco County commissioners who met in a joint workshop Tuesday to discuss the project. Goldstein spent the past three months hammering out an agreement with the county, the School District and Wheelock Capital, owners of the Starkey Ranch development for the proposed park and school site....
12/10/13 Human Interest
PORT RICHEY — When Typhoon Haiyan slammed into her native country, Girlie Garnada spent the next day in tears as she watched the horrifying images on television.
"Seeing those bodies on the side of the road, I couldn't imagine if I was there," she said.
Her immediate family was spared, but she wondered what happened to some other relatives.
Finally she saw a familiar face: her husband's cousin, Annaliz Kwan, the former mayor of the city of Guinan, pleading for aid....
Being in court could have been traumatic for the 12-year-old girl. Her mother wore jail stripes. Her father, who battled substance abuse, talked about trying to get clean. Attorneys debated who should have custody of the girl and her sister.
Details were unpleasant, but the girl drew comfort from Myki and George, gentle tail-wagging therapy dogs approved by veteran Circuit Judge Lynn Tepper....
11/15/13 Local Government
ST. LEO — One thing at time.
That's how St. Leo town commissioners will handle two separate annexation issues that have caused tension between the town and its wealthiest neighborhood on one hand and the town and Pasco County officials on the other.
Lake Jovita, part of which is in the town, wants out of. The Iafrate family, who own a 179-acre swath of land that abuts the south side of the town, wants in....
11/15/13 Local Government
DADE CITY — To some, it might seem to be no more than administrative trivia not worth a fight. But a recent vote to split one city job into two positions has Dade City leaders debating weightier issues such as openness in government.
"We don't want to be perceived as sneaky or sly," said Commissioner Scott Black, who expressed concern over a formal vote to split the duties of City Clerk Jim Class into two jobs, with Class remaining as finance director. What worried Black is that the vote was taken during a workshop rather than a regular meeting, a move he says could be illegal, at worst, or unethical, at best....
WESLEY CHAPEL — The three young men were trying to be chivalrous.
Three female friends had called for help about 3 a.m. after a flat tire left them stranded in the dark on Interstate 75. Nagy Ferguson, Kenneth Collins and Jerrick Vann jumped in Collins' Honda Civic and rode to the rescue.
They found the women, Erica Berry, 22, Mariya Peterman, 17, and Ferguson's girlfriend, 19-year-old Brittany Vaughn, stopped on the southbound side of the freeway, in the emergency lane. The men parked in front of the women's car, turned on the emergency blinkers and got to work changing the tire. ...
ST. LEO — Like his lovable, dim-witted character, Forrest Gump, Winston Groom Jr. keeps his composure no matter how awkward the circumstances.
Even when he's getting soaked in iced tea.
"It's all right," the famed novelist drawled sweetly to a flustered server who committed the faux pas with the pitcher. He took the napkins offered to him and calmly wiped up the spill, not missing a beat....
11/08/13 Local Government
Four firms have submitted proposals to design and build a central Pasco County Courthouse, and a committee is expected to choose one early next year if the county decides to move forward with the project.
The committee, composed of representatives from the Pasco County Sheriff's Office, county government and the Sixth Judicial Circuit, set a timetable for firms to submit detailed proposals that include cost estimates. Members will set up another meeting for early February to make a decision....
New state rules that allow stormwater permits for some developments to be approved with little scrutiny have Pasco County officials wondering whether they should provide more oversight.
"If there's a problem 10 to 20 years from now, we'll end up being the one who's going to fix it," County Attorney Jeffrey Steinsnyder told commissioners at a recent workshop.
In the past, the Southwest Florida Water Management District, also known as Swiftmud, reviewed all permit applications. Each of the state's five water management districts had its own rules. But this year, a law approved in 2012 kicked in and created statewide rules....
Pasco-Hernando Community College's new Porter campus features high rise design and three-story parking garage11/04/13College
WESLEY CHAPEL — Robert Judson remembers when a Pasco-Hernando Community College campus was only a dream.
"Prospective students would ask 'Where is PHCC?' " he said. "Where is the campus? It didn't exist yet. We taught out of storefronts. We taught out of Saint Leo (University)."
Judson, who started with the school in 1972, was one of the original employees. He began as a psychology teacher and counselor and rose through the ranks to become president in 1995. During the 10 years he held that position, Judson helped lay the groundwork for two new campuses, one in Spring Hill that opened in 2010 and the newest, the Porter campus, which is set to open Jan. 13....
DADE CITY — Eighteen years ago, Gail Greenfelder rescued an old Ford repair shop that was slated for demolition.
The result of her work was Kafe Kokopelli. Divided by old French doors, decorated with garlands of dried flowers and vines, a rock fireplace in the corner, stuffed moose and deer heads, and an eclectic array of chairs, the restaurant defied a label.
"We created a place like Cheers," said Greenfelder, who along with her lawyer husband, Glen, was a fixture at the restaurant. "A place where everybody knows your name."...
DADE CITY — Charles Haag regularly got drunk, used drugs and picked fights. That's what his roommate, Justin Lee Naber, told Pasco sheriff's detectives nearly two years ago after they found Haag's body wrapped in a blue tarp and lying at the bottom of a 150-foot ravine.
"He's not nothing like I thought he was," Naber told detectives, who charged the now 27-year-old with second-degree murder in the stabbing death of Haag. "We had more arguments than I know what to do with."...
DADE CITY — Julie Illes was taken with the man who walked through the door of her travel agency in 2010. Daren Randall Trusty claimed he was a Delta Air Lines pilot, that he lived at Saddlebrook Resort, that he was engaged and that his wallet held an American Express Platinum card. She hired him to book trips for her clients.
Seven months later, she found she had been taken for more than $11,000. Authorities said the total amount stolen from Illes and her clients topped $30,000....
NEW PORT RICHEY — Pasco County tourism leaders shouldn't fret because they don't have a big beach or theme park to draw visitors, the county's top economic development official said this week.
"We can substitute imagination and a little bit of guerilla warfare," John Hagen, chief executive officer of the Pasco Economic Development Council, told those attending the county's annual tourism summit. The meeting focuses on efforts to draw more visitors to the county, which sits just north of Pinellas' beaches and Tampa's Busch Gardens. A couple of hours east, Belle's castle and Harry Potter beckon in Orlando....