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Piper Castillo, Times Staff Writer

Piper Castillo

Piper Castillo grew up in Ft. Lauderdale and received her English degree from Florida Atlantic University. As a community news reporter for the Tampa Bay Times, she covers north Pinellas County. She also writes the "Nightstand" column for the Sunday book pages and thinks the only thing better than a good read is a day in the sun with her family.

Phone: (727) 445-4163


  1. Oldsmar plans to keep tax rate steady


    OLDSMAR — City officials plan to keep the property tax rate flat, but because of increasing property values, the proposed budget of $30 million includes a redesign for Canal Park, raises for city employees as well as putting $2.1 million in reserves.

    With the rate holding steady at $4.05 per $1,000 in assessed, taxable property, the owner of a home valued at $150,000 with a $50,000 homestead exemption would pay $405 in city taxes. The city's taxable value is estimated at 5.63 percent more than this year....

  2. Clearwater Ice Arena debuts new rink on Saturday


    LARGO — In 1986, before Tampa Bay natives recognized Zamboni as more than a foreign word and lightning as more than a reason to run for cover, one of the first ice arenas in the state opened on Icot Boulevard. Its name was Sunblades, and its core customers were snowbirds and transplanted moms and dads craving to instill in the next generation a love for hockey, the sport they grew up with in places not so close to the equator....

    The Dryland Training Facility has free weights, benches and even power sleds. It’s for hockey players looking to strengthen and improve, as well as everyday use.
  3. Trader Joe's? Publix?: New construction and new market heading to Woodlands Square


    OLDSMAR — Trader Joe's? Safeway? Whole Foods Market?

    Although the name has yet to be revealed, hurdles are being cleared to give Oldsmar a new place to load up on groceries. Although the specific store has not been identified, other facts have been disclosed, including the exact location. Its home will be Woodlands Square, right next to Beall's.

    The City Council recently approved a development agreement with Woodlands Square Community Reinvestment Partners allowing for the renovation of the shopping center at 3130 Tampa Road. The center, more than 30 years old, is about a half-mile from Canal Park and is most known for AMC Woodlands 20, a popular movie theater last renovated in 2000....

  4. What's Mark Bircher reading?



    Mark Bircher

    Bircher, a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and retired Marine Corps Reserve brigadier general, was the first Republican to jump into the race in the redrawn 13th Congressional District last December. Now, as he nears the finish line for the Republican primary, he's up against incumbent David Jolly. Bircher, a commercial airline pilot, also ran for the seat in the 2014 special election after the death of C.W. "Bill" Young. He lives in Seminole with his wife, Jackie, and 12-year-old son, Bill. He attributes his decision to run for public office to his fatherhood. "Frankly, I don't think I started to appreciate government until I was a parent. It gave me a whole new perspective,'' said Bircher, 63. "There's a special part of you that you don't know you have until you have a child.''...

    Mark Bircher is a candidate for the 13th Congressional District.
  5. Oldsmar resident aims for 2020 Olympics ... as a Peruvian

    Human Interest


    Andre LaCroix has had a busy summer. He graduated from East Lake High, has a girlfriend and social life to manage, and, oh yeah, went to Peru in July and won that country's national open BMX championship.

    And if LaCroix has his way, he'll be even busier four years from now. As a citizen of both countries, he hopes to be competing for the Peruvian team in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo....

    Oldsmar resident Andre LaCroix, 18, practicing on the Oldsmar BMX track in July, recently won the Peruvian national open BMX championship. As a dual citizen — his mother is a native Peruvian — LaCroix has his eye on competing in the 2020 Summer Olympics for the Peru national team. 
  6. What's Ben Taylor reading?



    Ben Taylor

    Taylor, 54, recently performed as Ben Franklin in Eight O'Clock Theatre's production of 1776. He got bitten by the theater bug when he was in middle school. Coincidentally, it was when a tour of 1776 made a stop at the Municipal Auditorium in Orlando, not far from his hometown of Gotha. Taylor, accounts receivable manager for Auto Data Direct Inc., graduated from Florida State University as a theater major and lives in St. Petersburg. When it came to prepping for Franklin, he relied on several books, such as The Americanization of Benjamin Franklin by Gordon S. Wood. "It elaborates on how Dr. Franklin went from being a Boston-born loyalist to the British crown for 68 years, to one of the leaders of the movement to obtain and achieve independence in 1775-76 and then his diplomatic work in France. It gave great insight to so many of the lines written for Franklin in the show."...

    Ben Taylor performed as Ben Franklin in Eight O’Clock Theatre’s recent production of “1776.”
  7. What's David Jolly reading?



    David Jolly

    We recently caught up with U.S. Rep. David Jolly, 43, who is seeking a second term in Congress. Jolly, recently endorsed by former Gov. Jeb Bush, will face retired Marine Brigadier Gen. Mark Bircher of Seminole in the Republican primary in August. A former aide to longtime U.S. Rep. C.W. "Bill'' Young, Jolly received an undergraduate degree in history from Emory University and a law degree from George Mason University. He and his wife, Laura, recently moved from Indian Shores to Belleair Bluffs....

    U.S. Rep. David Jolly, 43, is seeking a second term in Congress.
  8. Discussion may lead to horse trails in Oldsmar

    Local Government

    OLDSMAR — Equestrians turned out in force on Tuesday to persuade the City Council to reverse a 15-year-old ordinance disallowing trail riding in Oldsmar. By the end of a 90-minute discussion, it appeared riders received a leg up when the council agreed to ask city staff to develop "requirement documents for horseback riding trails.''

    City officials are open to considering a horse trail, however, where and whether it is truly feasible has yet to be determined, said Mayor Doug Bevis....

  9. What's Shane Kuhn reading?



    Shane Kuhn

    Kuhn, 48, is best known as the author of The Intern's Handbook and Hostile Takeover, novels featuring assassin-for-hire John Lago. His newest book, The Asset, is a standalone thriller centering on Kennedy, a private airport security contractor turned counterterrorism operative. When we caught up with the author by phone on July 12, we asked him where he came up with the idea for The Asset. "It was burning a hole in my pocket. I'm a frequent air traveler and it's a world really set up for a thriller,'' he said. "I wanted to do espionage, but I wanted an everyman. A story in the vein of Three Days of the Condor. I love stories about a normal person that is put in extraordinary circumstances."...

    Shane Kuhn, author
  10. '1776' on stage proves still timely



    It has been well over 200 years since Americans declared their independence from England, yet during these days of racial unrest, Hamilton dominating Broadway, Brexit and a divisive presidential election, perhaps a history lesson with a visit thrown in by the Second Continental Congress is in order.

    Eight O'Clock Theatre is presenting 1776, The Musical, through Sunday at the Largo Cultural Center. The show, with Sherman Edwards' music, based on Peter Stone's book, takes a look at the days in Philadelphia leading up to the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and the disagreements and (spoiler alert) compromises that led to the separation from the British monarchy. On stage are 26 characters. Two are women, Abigail Adams (Sadra Bostick) and Martha Jefferson (Amy Phillips), and, like this country's Founding Fathers, 24 are white men, in wigs and britches, including American icons John Adams (Dan Mason), Ben Franklin (Ben Taylor), Thomas Jefferson (Billy Masuck) and John Hancock (Jerry Slutzky)....

    Billy Masuck of Tampa plays Thomas Jefferson of Virginia in Eight O’Clock Theatre’s production of 1776 at the Largo Cultural Center this weekend.
  11. Oldsmar City Council to take up horse issue

    Local Government

    OLDSMAR — After horse advocates have made repeated requests in the last several months for the City Council to consider changing regulations geared toward keeping horses out of Mobbly Bayou Wilderness Preserve, the subject will be discussed when the council meets Tuesday. Vice Mayor Eric Seidel on July 5 asked that it be put on the agenda. The council heard from many residents concerned with how development in the Racetrack Road corridor has made it difficult for equestrians to find available land to exercise their horses. In June, the council received a petition from a newly formed equestrian community group with more than 300 signatures supporting public horse trails....

  12. What's Thelma Adams reading?



    Thelma Adams

    Adams realized she wanted to write a book about Josephine Marcus, recognized as wife of legendary frontiersman Wyatt Earp, when she learned Earp was buried in a Jewish cemetery. "It didn't fit. I learned it was because of Josie, who was Jewish, and I wanted to know what she was like, and that started a really long stretch of research,'' recalled Adams, 57, from her home in Hyde Park, N.Y. ...

    Thelma Adams’ “The Last Woman Standing” looks at the romance between Wyatt Earp and his wife, Josephine Marcus, as well as events like the famed gunfight at the OK Corral.
  13. Tarpon Springs performing hall unveils its upgrades with 'Annie Get Your Gun'

    Human Interest


    When Tarpon Springs residents built the high school in 1927 on Pine Street, they included an auditorium, a place for both student assemblies as well as physical education class. Little did the students know the place they learned to shoot hoops and serve volleyballs would one day double as both the city's council chamber and its performing arts center, but for almost 25 years, it has....

    Jennifer Bierchen, playing Annie, prepares to take the stage during a recent dress rehearsal for the musical Annie Get Your Gun.
  14. What's Reshonda Tate Billingsley reading?



    ReShonda Tate Billingsley

    A writer who hails from Texas, Billingsley is a winner of the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work. Her novels include Let the Church Say Amen (turned into a TV movie produced by Queen Latifah), I Know I've Been Changed and her most recent, The Perfect Mistress. She will be talking about and signing her new book in Tampa on Wednesday (see Book Talk). ...

    ReShonda Tate Billingsley’s newest release is “The Perfect Mistress.”
  15. What's Henry Rollins reading?



    Henry Rollins

    Although it has been years since Rollins, 55, performed in Black Flag and the Rollins Band, the former punk rock frontman is as busy — and as outspoken — as ever. When asked to discuss his thoughts on the June 22 congressional sit-in for gun law change, and that moment when the Democrats sang We Shall Overcome, Rollins said Americans should think less about the "we" and more about the "you." "You shall overcome. The 'we' will not. The 'we' is done,'' he said. "There are those who obviously don't care if 49 gays are gunned down. ... What is done in your name, in the 'we,' as Americans is pretty horrific."...

    Henry Rollins will bring his North American Spoken Word Tour to the Capitol Theatre in Clearwater on Oct. 7.