05/23/13 Real Estate
ST. PETERSBURG — When Gary Sheffield, once one of baseball's highest-paid players, built his multimillion-dollar party mansion in Pinellas Point in 1997, he aimed for that special tier of excess few but pro athletes can afford.
The master suite's California king bed was laid on black marble near what look like the highest-end speakerphones, stereos and VCRs the late '90s had to offer. A few steps past stained-glass windows, the master bathroom was adorned with a gold-accented hot tub....
TAMPA — In tight financial times, Florida universities have been told to comb degree programs to figure out which ones work, which ones need help and which ones need to go.
The University of South Florida has taken it a step further, targeting expendable degrees before someone at the state level does it for them.
On Thursday, the school's Board of Trustees identified 17 degrees that will likely go away, 15 from the now-defunct USF Polytechnic in Lakeland. The other two were a PhD in biology to be replaced by two new programs, and a bachelor's in interdisciplinary studies from USF's Honors College....
TAMPA — In 1986, Rabbi Frank Sundheim stepped down from his full-time pastorate at Congregation Schaarai Zedek, where he had served for 20 years.
But the Rev. Sundheim hardly retired. He led a regional office for Reform Judaism, then returned to the ministry, serving as a part-time rabbi at several congregations in Hernando, Pinellas and Polk counties.
He played the violin and organ, sang cantorial solos; taught Judaism at confirmation classes and Mozart and opera to adult learners at the University of South Florida....
05/23/13 Local Government
There was a milestone at the Pasco County jail on Tuesday night. With a 1,550 inmates, the facility had its highest head count ever. That's 374 more prisoners than the number of permanent beds on the first two floors of the facility.
"Is it a crisis? Yes," said Maj. Ed Beckman, "when you have 1,550 prisoners backed in an area designed to hold 1,200, there are problems."
That's why Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco wants funding to staff the now-vacant third floor of the jail, which has another 256 beds. He has been meeting individually with Pasco County commissioners to make his case, and plans to present a budget proposal May 31 seeking the funding....
05/23/13 Public Safety
HOLIDAY – The beige stucco house was unassuming from the outside. A pink, flowered "Welcome" sign hung from one of the eaves in front, and a Rays sticker was posted in a window. In the first lot of a quiet, dead-end street, neighbors say the people they saw living there were equally subdued. Until someone got closer.
A moving truck pulled up in the driveway at 1011 Hiawatha Place on Wednesday afternoon, though neighbors said they don't know why it was there. The driver knocked on the door but no one was home. Moments later, Frankie Rodriguez got a knock on her door from the man. She said he looked worried....
BROOKSVILLE — In a last-ditch effort to keep his brother from spending the rest of his life in prison, William Glover took the stand and confessed one more time.
Glover testified Thursday that it was him, not his 21-year-old brother, Derius, who burst into a Cinco de Mayo house party in Spring Hill last year and beat a man with a bat.
"My brother did not do this," William Glover said. "I'm the one who should be sitting there, not him. They say justice is served, but how is it served when he's convicted of something he didn't do?"...
05/23/13 Local Government
BROOKSVILLE — The Hernando County Aviation Authority on Thursday unanimously declined the County Commission's request to speed up the process of leasing the site of the old Brooksville Air Center at Brooksville-Tampa Bay Regional Airport.
Earlier this month, the authority asked for detailed proposals by interested companies by June 3 so board members could read them, prepare questions and hear full presentations by their June 13 meeting....
ST. PETERSBURG — Steve Galvin is not a typical candidate for City Council. His business card reads "Wikked Steel" and features pictures of the sleek custom motorcycles he's built by hand. And he makes a living by recording the sounds and songs used by toy manufacturers.
Yet Galvin is one of five people now hoping to fill the District 8 seat now held by Jeff Danner, who is term-limited. Galvin joins Amy Foster, a program manager for a Seattle-based nonprofit, Alex Duensing, a consultant, William Hurley, an Army veteran who is currently a student, and Robert Davis in the Aug. 27 primary race....
Many Floridians know about the fight to save endangered panthers that roam the state.
So they're sure to take heart at this success story from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Biologists there have released two endangered Florida panthers this year, a brother and sister that they rescued as kittens about a year and a half earlier.
FWC biologists captured the then 5-month-old kittens after their mother was found dead in September 2011. Without that intervention, the kittens likely would have died a short time later. The kittens were taken to the White Oak Conservation Center in northeast Florida, where they were raised until they were ready for release....
Early web version
Second-round draft pick Johnthan Banks is officially onboard, with the Bucs announcing he has signed a four-year contract today.
Banks, a cornerback, was the Bucs' top pick this year, with the team's first-round choice shipped to the Jets in the Darrelle Revis trade.
The collective bargaining agreement calls for rookies drafted beyond the first round to receive four-year deals. The exact value of Banks' deal wasn't immediately known, but the limited negotiating parameters suggest it is worth slightly more than last year's No. 43rd overall selection. That player, Stephen Hill of the Jets, signed for $5 million with $2.9 million in guarantees....
05/23/13 Public Safety
WESLEY CHAPEL — The northbound lanes of Interstate 75 have been reopened, having been closed earlier this afternoon while the Florida Highway Patrol is investigates a fatal crash.
A woman traveling on foot was hit by a northbound car about 3:30 p.m. on I-75, about midway between State Road 52 and SR 54, the agency said. After hitting the woman, the car collided with another vehicle....
With hurricane season approaching and the devastating Oklahoma tornado only days past, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is considering mandatory furloughs for all employees, including weather forecasters.
The proposal has produced sharp reaction from meteorologists and an elected official.
"The severe weather events in Oklahoma this week have further convinced me that we should not take any chance that avoidable furloughs might result in a degradation of weather prediction and forecasting services," Rep. Frank R. Wolf, R-Va., wrote in a letter Wednesday to the Department of Commerce, which oversees NOAA....
The Tampa-based Sweetbay supermarket chain may be put up for sale by Belgian owner Delhaize Group as it continues to cut costs in the United States, Reuters reported.
Delhaize has hired Lazard Ltd to sell Sweetbay as well as Harveys, another of its U.S. supermarket business, Reuters said, citing unnamed sources.
Delhaize CEO Pierre-Olivier Beckers, who has announced plans to retire, told Reuters that the company was looking at options for the units, but declined to comment directly on whether advisors had been appointed to conduct the sale....
TAMPA — The federal judge in the fraud trial of four former WellCare executives gave jurors an unusual set of instructions on Thursday afternoon:
Have a nice, 10-day break.
Jurors, who have been deliberating for six days, have yet to reach verdicts in the complicated, nearly three-month-long criminal trial against the four men. Some jurors had already made vacation plans for Memorial Day week, so U.S. District Judge James S. Moody Jr. allowed them to take off Friday and all of next week....
Universal's theme parks have made a big success of Butterbeer, so next up: Duff Beer! Universal Orlando confirmed Thursday that the theme park is building a Simpsons-themed Springfield street to open this summer at Universal Studios Florida. You'll be able to walk the streets of Springfield, grab a Krusty Burger, eat doughnuts at Lard Lad, imbibe at Moe's Tavern and drink Homer's favorite, Duff Beer — brewed exclusively for Universal Orlando. The park is also adding a new attraction called Kang & Kodos' Twirl 'n' Hurl, an outdoor spinner ride that resembles Disney's Dumbo ride. Kang and Kodo are the recurring space aliens from the planet Rigel IV who appear in most of the "Treehouse of Horror" episodes. In the ride, the duo will take you "foolish humans" on an intergalactic spin designed to send you into orbit....