08/29/14 Public Safety
LAND O'LAKES — A 15-year-old student at Sunlake High School bragged to a girl that he was carrying weapons, triggering a lockdown Friday morning and flooding the campus with dozens of sheriff's deputies.
The student, though, was not armed and told authorities his comment was "taken out of context," said Pasco sheriff's Capt. James Mallo.
The school remained on lockdown for several hours while deputies and police dogs swept the campus to make sure there was no danger. The lockdown was lifted shortly before 1 p.m., and the student was taken to the juvenile assessment center....
DADE CITY — A former massage therapist and the company he worked for were ordered to pay $47.4 million to a woman who sued after a massage turned into sexual battery more than two years ago.
A Pasco jury of four women and two men deliberated about two hours Thursday after about two days of testimony, the woman's attorneys said.
"The jury was definitely sending a message to spas and massage centers all over the country with this verdict, no question," said Tom Roebig, an attorney for the woman along with his partner, Wil Florin....
Henry Wilson will be a one-termer, just like the incumbent he upset nearly four years ago to win a seat on the Pasco County Commission.
GOP primary opponent Mike Wells soundly defeated Wilson in the winner-take-all contest for commission District 4, according to unofficial results.
"It's been fun from the beginning," Wells said. "I know a lot of people, and it comes down to getting out there and listening to them."...
08/20/14 Public Safety
DADE CITY — Dade City officials aren't the only ones frustrated about trains stopping dead in their tracks in the middle of town.
On Wednesday, Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco added his voice to the chorus of complaints.
In a scathing letter posted on social media and sent to CSX president and CEO Michael J. Ward, Nocco accused the company of "willful neglect" for twice allowing trains to cut off emergency access to the city's east side. ...
08/19/14 Public Safety
DADE CITY — As the freight train chugged through town shortly after dawn Tuesday, crews looked at the ticking clock, stopped the train and walked away, leaving all 129 cars to block multiple intersections.
During the 90 minutes the 8,800-foot train sat on the tracks, bus drivers and parents scrambled to get kids to school on time. Police officers and sheriff's deputies abandoned their usual patrols to help drivers navigate a maze of side streets to the lone clear intersection south of town....
The possible theft of charity funds for the family of the man killed in a January movie theater shooting, which is being investigated by Pasco authorities, totals at least $7,000.
TJ Grimaldi, an attorney for Chad Oulson's widow, Nicole, made it clear that the money sent to his law firm and raised by area restaurants as well as at a Feb. 9 motorcycle rally remains untouched.
"This is an individual that took it upon themselves to openly raise money, inform us of the efforts, inform us that they would be sending the money to us at an appropriate date, and instead that person kept the money for themselves," Grimaldi said. He declined to comment further, but said the total amounts to $7,000 and "there may be more."...
DADE CITY — Attorneys for the man accused in the movie theater shooting of a fellow patron can question a member of the Pasco sheriff's command staff despite the agency's objections, a judge ruled Thursday.
Curtis Reeves' defense team had sent a notice to Col. Jeff Harrington to appear today to be interviewed under oath about what he knows about the Jan. 13 shooting outside the Cobb Grove 16 Theatres in Wesley Chapel. Harrington, a top deputy to Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco, responded when deputies were called to the theater, where authorities say Reeves, a 71-year-old retired Tampa police captain, fatally shot 43-year-old Chad Oulson after an argument about texting....
08/14/14 Economic Development
TRINITY — Seven months ago, the vacant Trinity Town Center seemed to have regained its footing amid years of recession and the financial woes of its developer, an ex-convict named Bill Planes.
Signs announced that Harr's Surf & Turf Market was coming soon. A new president flashing a bright smile assured residents that they would have a center bustling with restaurants, shops and entertainment....
LAND O'LAKES — Four school-based clinics have saved the Pasco County School District so much in health care costs since they opened in 2011 that officials want to expand the program.
"We think there's some pent-up demand," said Kevin Shibley the district's executive director for administration.
School Board members learned Tuesday at a workshop that the four clinics, in Land O'Lakes, Dade City, New Port Richey and Hudson, have saved the district $9.2 million over the past three years. Annual claims filed with the district's insurance carrier, Florida Blue, also have decreased from 186,000 before the clinics opened to 137,649 this past year. Employees have also saved a total of $2.7 million on health care....
08/08/14 Local Government
SAN ANTONIO — When it comes to a solution about how to handle truck traffic going to Saint Leo University's future warehouse, the three entities involved appear to be no closer than when they began.
Pompanic Street, the two-lane road at the center of the controversy, is the proposed entrance road for the university's plant operations building, which it plans to build on land bought several years ago from the Benedictine nuns....
Defense attorneys' efforts to question high-ranking Pasco sheriff's officials in the Wesley Chapel movie theater shooting are being met with resistance from the law enforcement agency.
Attorneys for Curtis Reeves, the 71-year-old retired Tampa police captain accused of second-degree murder in the shooting of a fellow moviegoer, had subpoenaed Pasco Col. Jeff Harrington for an Aug. 15 deposition....
The two Republicans vying to represent District 4 on the Pasco County Commission say the race boils down to one thing: leadership.
"I've truly seen how one leader can make a difference," said challenger Mike Wells, 42, a real estate agent, former regional manager for Enterprise Rent-A-Car and son of property appraiser Mike Wells Sr. "I commit I will be that leader and stand up to problems and turn those problems into opportunities."...
LACOOCHEE — A company that makes motorcycle windshields in impoverished Lacoochee is seeking to expand its operations.
MadStad Engineering, tucked beside an old nightclub on U.S. 301 in northeast Pasco County, wants to buy 2.39 acres across the highway from state Sen. Wilton Simpson, an egg farmer and businessman.
The company, which employs eight, is running out of room to make its popular after-market windshields, which owner Mark Stadnyk says have less turbulence than those that come with bikes....
08/02/14 Local Government
NEW PORT RICHEY — Pasco County needs one success story.
If the county can complete just one project to improve its blighted west side, county planners believe, it could serve as the spark that ultimately restores vitality to an area known for rundown homes, vacant stores and unsightly signs cluttering the U.S. 19.
"We plan to show residents we mean what we say when we put these plans in place," said senior planner Melanie Kendrick, one of the architects of a redevelopment plan for the area written a couple of years ago....
07/31/14 Local Government
ST. LEO — A tiny street at the center of a big fuss in two small towns could soon be upgraded in order to handle trucks from Saint Leo University's controversial proposed warehouse.
Commissioners for the town of St. Leo tentatively agreed to use road impact fees to improve two-lane Pompanic Street, which would serve as the entrance to the proposed 16,000-square-foot warehouse to be built at the west end of the Saint Leo University campus. The street, which sits adjacent to Lake Jovita, boasts many stately, old homes....