State House | District 38
The departure of House Speaker Will Weatherford due to term limits leaves an opening for a new face in state politics. Two longtime locals are vying to represent east Pasco. Republican Danny Burgess, an attorney who served as Zephyrhills' youngest mayor, hopes to keep the seat in GOP hands. Beverly Ledbetter, a retired social studies teacher who has experience on state boards, hopes to win the seat for the Democrats. By Lisa Buie, Times staff writer...
NEW PORT RICHEY — Opponents voiced concern about the threat of crime, the burden on government and the risk from disease, even the deadly Ebola virus. Supporters pleaded for the cause of lost children.
The national debate over immigration arrived in the Pasco County community of Holiday on Wednesday. The spark: a proposal by Gulf Coast Jewish Family and Community Services to expand its temporary housing for immigrant boys to help respond to the flood of children crossing the border from South and Central America....
WESLEY CHAPEL — Site plans for Pasco County's first outlet mall have been given the official go-ahead from government planners, with an expected opening just before the 2015 holiday shopping season.
Simon Property Group, the world's largest mall operator, has been negotiating with county planners since April to bring the 1.1 million-square-foot Tampa Premium Outlets to 100 acres at Interstate 75 and State Road 56. It will be similar to Ellenton Premium Outlets in Manatee County....
10/07/14 Local Government
DADE CITY — Pasco County commissioners voted Tuesday to endorse Greenlight Pinellas.
After a discussion that questioned the proper role of outside elected officials in Pinellas County's affairs, commissioners approved supporting the project by a 3-2 vote.
"We will benefit from their better transportation network," said Commissioner Kathryn Starkey, who moved to endorse the referendum that would raise the sales tax 1 cent in Pinellas to help fund a 24-mile light rail system between St. Petersburg and Clearwater, as well as expanded bus service. "I long for the day I can take a train to the airport. I do it in every other city."...
10/04/14 Local Government
HOLIDAY — Bunk beds.
That's really what it boils down to: whether a social services agency can put 16 bunk beds in a beige building that houses immigrant children who typically stay about two weeks before being sent to relatives across the country.
But emotions that swirl around federal immigration policy have transformed what was strictly a zoning issue into a political tempest....
10/01/14 Public Safety
WESLEY CHAPEL — The envelope that arrived at the Bright House Networks office Wednesday morning contained a one-sentence note.
"Goodbye friends," it said, a reference to the cable provider's marketing slogan, "Hello friend."
White powder fell on the worker who opened the envelope.
Though the powder turned out to be calcium carbonate, a harmless compound, the incident sent two workers to the hospital and brought out the hazmat team....
NEW PORT RICHEY — Create a "real downtown." Make better use of the waterfront. Cooperate with cities. Encourage more pedestrian traffic. Market bundles of events.
Those were a few of the recommendations from a federally funded consultant to help Pasco leaders redevelop the county's heavily populated but blighted west side.
"Pasco County has made a good start in preparing for a prosperous and sustainable future with the work that has been done," according to the report from Smart Growth America, a nonprofit agency that encourages urban, walkable communities....
WESLEY CHAPEL — When Arthur C. Hayhoe retired from an insurance career in 2003, his plan was to play golf.
Instead of a hobby, he found a cause: tightening Florida's gun laws.
"Everybody who retires ought to have something they care about," Mr. Hayhoe told the Tampa Bay Times in 2002. "My golf clubs are still in the corner. I've kind of put my retirement on hold indefinitely."...
DADE CITY — A judge said he expects to start the trial for Curtis Reeves, the man charged in the Wesley Chapel movie theater shooting, on March 2.
Circuit Judge Pat Siracusa on Wednesday urged prosecutors and defense attorneys to finish questioning witnesses so he can set a firm date for the trial, which is expected to last two weeks.
Reeves, a 72-year-old retired Tampa police captain, is charged with second-degree murder in the Jan. 13 shooting of 43-year-old Chad Oulson. The men, attending a matinee at the Grove 16 theaters with their wives, got into an argument because Oulson was texting his daughter's babysitter during previews. Reeves says Oulson attacked him, and he fired a single gunshot in self-defense....
CLEARWATER — A movie theater patron who says a man told him to "shut up" in a theater eight years ago claims that the man was Curtis Reeves Jr., the retired Tampa police captain accused in a fatal movie theater shooting in January.
According to newly released documents in the case, Edward James Thompson, 70, who lives in the Pasco community of San Antonio, told Pasco County sheriff's deputies in February that he and a woman were at a Zephyrhills movie theater in spring of 2006 "talking quietly" in the back row during the previews when a man sat down about four seats over in front of them. He said the man, whom he described as "growly," said, "Why don't you shut up?" ...
09/04/14 Economic Development
DADE CITY — The sprawling brick building doesn't make much of an impression on drivers who whiz by it on U.S. 301. But what goes on behind those walls likely wields a lot of influence over what those drivers buy.
Next time you shop at Publix, look up. You'll see what helps make the produce aisle appear so inviting.
"Their motto is 'Where Shopping Is A Pleasure,'" said Pattie Cagle, president of A&K Energy Conservation, the company that supplies and maintains the grocery giant's lighting. "They have very high standards."...
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. ...