These days, Looper driver Jerry Byrd is seeing a lot more local board his shuttle to the Pier.
"They are coming to say their farewells," he said.
During the four years he's driven the route, Byrd guesses he's had riders from at least 10 different countries. "It's a melting pot on here," he said. "I enjoy people so it's a good job."
After the Pier closes on May 31, Byrd will continue to drive the Looper around downtown St. Petersburg, but he'll bypass the road that stretches out to the inverted pyramid....
Florida's troubled property insurance market shouldn't feel any ripple effects with higher rates because of the devastating Oklahoma tornado, insurance experts say.
"This is a tornado that occurred in Oklahoma," said Bob Hartwig, an economist and president of the Insurance Information Institute. "This doesn't have any impact on the cost of homeowners insurance in Florida… in the same way that a hurricane in Florida has no impact on the rates in Oklahoma."...
TARPON SPRINGS — A 20-foot boat caught fire Wednesday afternoon near Anclote Key, an island located west of Tarpon Springs and Holiday.
Flames and smoke shot from the boat's cabin, said Tarpon Springs Deputy Fire Chief Donald Sayre. At some point, two men and a dog were aboard.
By 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sayre said, no injuries had been reported.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation. This story will be updated....
Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial start of summer and what better time to kick off lazy days by the pool than a toast to that favorite summer cocktail, the margarita. This combination of a crusty, salted rim and a citrus-studded sweet drink creates an etiquette dilemma. When it comes with a straw are you supposed to quietly sip, when we all know that's not the best way? Each sip should combine the flavors, so that's why you lick salt from the rim of the glass and rotate your way around. Right? Who's with us? ...
Tickets for the following events go on sale this week:
• Kevin James, 8 p.m. Aug. 24 at the Mahaffey Theater, St. Petersburg, $52.50-$75.50, on sale at noon Thursday at the box office, 400 First St. S, or by calling (727) 893-7832.
• We the Kings, 6 p.m. July 6 at Jannus Live, St. Petersburg, $19, on sale at 10 a.m. Friday through Ticketmaster online at Ticketmaster.com, or by calling toll-free 1-800-745-3000....
TAMPA — Greg Dronkert said his company gets many requests from people hoping his company will start passenger ferry service in their community.
The president of HMS Ferries Inc. told a group of civic leaders in Tampa Wedneesday he is usually skeptical about such inquiries. But lawyer Ed Turanchik was persuasive in his pitch that a market exists here and, after further study, Dronkert was convinced....
05/22/13 Public Safety
WESLEY CHAPEL – For the second time in a week, a Parent Teacher Association officer at a Pasco school has been arrested on charges of taking PTA funds.
In her role as treasurer of the Weightman Middle School PTA, Jocelyn Ann Severson embezzled $5,199.25 between September 2011 and February of this year, a Pasco County Sheriff's Office report states.
She concealed her transactions, the report states, by changing the mailing address on the PTA's account, so bank statements would go to her Wesley Chapel home. There, she would delete her transactions from the statements and change the balances....
05/22/13 Human Interest
A 400 pound tiger was scheduled to undergo surgery today to remove what is thought to be a giant hairball.
The tiger, who belongs to animal trapper Vernon Yates is undergoing the surgery at BluePearl Veterinary Partners in Clearwater. Surgery is expected to take a couple of hours, according to the animal hospital.
Yates operates the Wildlife Rescue & Rehabilitation center in Seminole....
05/22/13 Public Safety
TRINITY – Four suspects were arrested this week in connection with a vandalism case at J.W. Mitchell High School.
On Friday, trees and a building on campus were doused with paint. Nails scattered in the school parking lot damaged students' and faculty members' cars. Cigarillo wrappers hung from the roof.
A school resource officer arrested the four suspected vandals on Tuesday and Wednesday. Two are students at Mitchell. One is a student at Anclote High School. The fourth is a former Mitchell High student who was removed from the school last year, she said....
05/22/13 Local Government
BROOKSVILLE — A Pasco County woman has been cited by the Hernando County Sheriff's Office on 53 counts of animal abandonment, and a warrant has been issued for her arrest on 53 counts of animal cruelty.
Sheriff's officials say Frances Terry Evans, 52, who has a Spring Hill address in Pasco, abandoned a U-Haul truck filled with 50 cats and three dogs in plastic containers behind the Publix store at Mariner Boulevard and County Line Road on Tuesday afternoon....
05/22/13 Real Estate
Home sales in Tampa Bay and across the country continued to climb last month out of recession-era lows, selling quicker and healthier than they have in years.
Nearly 3,200 local homes sold last month across Tampa Bay, a 23 percent gain over last April, My Florida Regional Multiple Listing Service data show. The typical home sold for about $149,728, 15 percent higher than last year.
American home sales also sped up last month to their quickest pace since November 2009, when the market spiked due to the $8,000 first-time homebuyer tax credit, the National Association of Realtors said Wednesday....
GULFPORT — A domestic dispute that involved yelling and thrown household items ended in violence Sunday when, police say, a woman conked a man on the head with a New Orleans Saints garden gnome.
A report by Gulfport police Officer Jennifer Crowson says that about 4:17 p.m. Sunday, Lisa D. Buckley, 47, a server at a local restaurant, arrived at her home at 5407 29th Ave. S "and began yelling at the victim." Buckley then "threw items all around the residence and then picked up a New Orleans Saints garden gnome and struck (the victim) with it."...
05/22/13 Personal Finance
Tampa-based financial adviser J. W. Cole Financial said Wednesday it has closed on the acquisition of San Diego-based Financial Advisers of America, a deal that unites about 450 independent advisers nationwide.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed. However, together the companies are projected to have about $100 million in revenues this year.
The combined firm, with about $10 billion in client assets under management, will maintain home offices in both Tampa and San Diego. Beyond its adviser network, the firm has 47 employees....
05/22/13 Local Government
The Jimmie B. Keel Regional Library in the Lake Magdalene area remained closed to patrons on Wednesday due to rain damage, a Hillsborough County spokesman said.
The library at 2902 W Bearss Ave. will be operating a "drive-up" service until 6 p.m. today. Patrons can return items, pick up materials that are on hold and pay fines, according to spokesman Travis Abercrombie.
The extent of the water damage from Tuesday's rains was still being assessed Wednesday morning. It is unclear when the facility will fully reopen, Abercrombie said....
TARPON SPRINGS — A Holiday man drowned Monday while swimming near Fred Howard Park, police said. Konstantinos Krypriotakis, 86, was pronounced dead at Florida Hospital North Pinellas, Tarpon Springs police said. A lifeguard saw the man floating 50 yards off the shore of the park at 1700 Sunset Drive and performed CPR until paramedics arrived. The cause of death is pending examination by the Pinellas County Medical Examiner's Office....