12/10/13 Local Government
OLDSMAR — The city has declared an impasse in union contract negotiations with its rank-and-file firefighters.
The biggest obstacle to reaching agreement, according to the union: The city wants to force the firefighters back into the state public employees retirement system, where they would not get credit for the years they worked under the city pension plan.
The two sides still are talking — the next negotiating session is scheduled for Jan. 6 — but City Manager Bruce Haddock declared the impasse in a Dec. 5 letter to the Public Employee Relations Commission in Tallahassee....
"We borrowed each other's lines like other sisters borrowed dresses,'' writes Delia Ephron in her memoir, Sister Mother Husband Dog (etc.). The book, which was released in September, includes both heartbreaking essays, like "Losing Nora,'' which concerns the death of older sister Nora Ephron, as well as hilarious stories about dogs, good hair days and how the author accidentally converted to Christianity — twice....
12/06/13 Local Government
OZONA — Rick Bennett says his Speckled Trout Marina here must expand to survive. However, his neighbors fear his expansion plans would harm the historic waterfront community.
"The economic reality is that small marinas like this are being forced out because we are not allowed to bring in enough business to support us,'' Bennett says.
On Tuesday, the Pinellas County Commission will discuss changing the zoning and land use designation for the Speckled Trout Marina from residential to commercial recreation — changes that would allow Bennett to substantially increase his boat storage area and give him rights to one day expand a waterside bait shop to a duplex for overnight accommodations....
12/06/13 Local Government
OLDSMAR — For years the Oldsmar Little League has used the Canal Park ball fields as home base under an agreement with the city that required the league to help maintain the facility and pay certain fees.
But the city is threatening to cancel the agreement, citing unpaid bills and mismanagement by the league.
Last week, a standing-room-only crowd of 200 Little League supporters — some holding signs that said "Don't punish our kids for the parents' mistakes'' and "Let's Play Ball'' — came to the City Council meeting to ask for a second chance....
12/03/13 Human Interest
OLDSMAR — It was sunny and a balmy 74 degrees on a recent Saturday afternoon, but Craig and Christine Battlehorn's car was one of only two in the parking lot at Mobbly Beach Park.
And while Christine sat at the water's edge enjoying the view, Craig paced in the parking lot. He didn't have $10 to put in the parking meter, and he didn't want to receive a ticket.
"We are on our way to Sam's Club, and I asked my husband to keep an eye on the car so I could just enjoy this for a little while," Christine said. "We wish it was cheaper to come here, because we don't live that far away.''...
Nightstand | Linda Ronstadt
Parkinson's disease may have halted Linda Ronstadt's singing career, but there is no doubt that her classics, including You're No Good, When Will I Be Loved and Heart Like a Wheel, will grace airwaves for years to come. Ronstadt, 67, talked with us on Nov. 27 by phone from San Francisco about her approach to life with Parkinson's and her passions for music and books, as well as her memoir, Simple Dreams, which was released in September. Although the final list of inductees has not been announced, Ronstadt has been nominated for a spot in the 2014 class of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame....
Today marks the birthday of Katherine Collins, the mother of two-time U.S. poet laureate Billy Collins, and he credits her for giving him his initial love of poetry. "She'd always have a few lines of poetry ready, and she'd stitch it into her talk so even when I was a toddler, I could hear that other language in the house,'' said Collins, in a phone interview from his home in Winter Park. He divides his time between New York and Central Florida, where he is currently a distinguished fellow for the Winter Park Institute at Rollins College. Collins, 72, will hold a poetry reading and book signing for his newest release, Aimless Love, on Wednesday in the Jaeb Theater at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa. (For information, see Book Talk, Page 6L.) ...
11/26/13 Human Interest
A couple of years ago, Ozona resident Terry Fortner spoke at a luncheon meeting of the Caladesi Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution about her family's history on Caladesi, an undeveloped island off the coast of Dunedin.
Fortner's great-grandfather, Henry Scharrer, established a 156-acre homestead on the island in the 1880s. Her grandmother, Myrtle Scharrer Betz, was raised on the island and wrote a book about growing up there....
11/25/13 Human Interest
Subtle hints that winter is on its way to the Sunshine State can be found at the Florida Botanical Gardens.
There's the cool breeze ruffling the feathers of the herons wading in McKay Creek. There are the buds on the Christmas ornament tree that will bloom into countless tiny pink flowers by Christmas morning. And there are the yaupon holly plants, dotted with tiny red berries....
Rushing, a Florida native and a former lawyer who received his degree from Stetson University's College of Law, is the owner of Back in the Day Books, a bookstore in Dunedin that features a large selection of antiquarian books as well as new offerings. Rushing, 45, first opened the business in Tarpon Springs in 2009. He has been in his current location since June. He and his wife, Emily, live in Odessa with their daughter, Holly....
11/19/13 Human Interest
Roger McGuinn doesn't make his set lists in advance. He likes to plan them the day of the performance when he sits down with his wife and manager, Camilla McGuinn. It's just how he rolls.
And McGuinn, who lives near Orlando, will be rolling into Largo on Friday in his Ford van filled with an assortment of instruments to perform at the Largo Cultural Center. It's the third time in four years that the former frontman for the Byrds has played the Tonne Playhouse....
Duncan Knight loves heavy metal. He also is proud to salute his Scottish heritage. As a bagpiper in the band Celtica, Knight is able to pay tribute to both.
"We definitely keep a focus on bagpipes, which I have played since I was 10,'' Knight said in an interview. "But it's a wild stage show.''
On Saturday, Celtica will be one of three Celtic rock bands performing at the Dunedin Celtic Festival for the first time. The others include the Fighting Jamesons, whose style is reminiscent of well-known Celtic rockers like the Pogues and Flogging Molly, and the Killdares of Dallas, which features world champion fiddler Roberta Rast....
This week marks the release of My Mistake, a memoir by Menaker, a former editor and writer for the New Yorker as well as editor in chief of Random House. The book details Menaker's memories of his early years in Greenwich Village and Nyack, N.Y., and his time working with legendary editor William Maxwell as well as his battle with lung cancer. Menaker has written two collections of short stories and a novel and has received two O. Henry Awards for short fiction. When we caught up with the author by phone, we asked him about his current take on the book industry. Menaker, 72, expressed optimism. "People will always need stories and the people who write the stories will always need editors and the writers will also always need publicists to get them out to the public.''...
As president of the Pinellas County Farm Bureau, Debby Laramee often visits elementary school classrooms talking about the importance of agriculture. Her audiences are usually made up of city dwellers who rarely see a farmer milking a cow or harvesting crops.
"When I go into the classroom, I usually start by saying, 'Okay, raise your hand if you're a farmer,' and of course, I don't expect to see many hands," Laramee said. "But then I say, 'Raise your hand if your family has grown tomatoes.' Hands immediately shoot up, and I remind the children that growing vegetables is farming."...
11/08/13 Human Interest
Henry and Jane Skwirut have kept the old photos in storage for most of their 71 years together, only bringing them out when the memories of war come rushing back. Veterans Day is one of those times.
There are some that reflect the beautiful countryside of northern Germany and some that are smiling portraits, like the one of Henry and his brother, Edward, who joined the Army on the same day....