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Tony Marrero, Times Staff Writer

Tony Marrero

Tony Marrero, a native of Baltimore, joined the Times in 2009. He covers breaking news, crime and courts in Hernando County.

Phone: (352) 848-1431

Email: tmarrero@tampabay.com

Twitter: @TMarreroTimes

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  1. Local groups join push to close Medicaid coverage gap in Florida

    Politics

    ST. PETERSBURG — Elisa Abolafia leaned her cane against the railing in front of City Hall and gingerly stepped to the lectern.

    The 60-year-old former private investigator suffers from severe scoliosis and four ruptured discs. Looking for work and too young for Medicare, Abolafia said she recently found out she is in the so-called Medicaid coverage gap, so she pays out-of-pocket for a patchwork of medical care....

  2. Pinellas commission puts off decision on tourism tax, spending cap

    Local Government

    CLEARWATER — Facing opposition from an array of community leaders, Pinellas County commissioners on Tuesday tabled a decision on whether to cap how much tourist tax money can be spent on capital projects such as stadiums and aquariums.

    The board unanimously approved a motion by Chairwoman Karen Seel to postpone a vote on a recommendation by the county's Tourist Development Council. Anticipating a parade of people lining up to speak against the cap, Seel suggested the board schedule a joint meeting with the tourist council "so we can share our perspectives and see if there's some common ground we might be able to find."...

  3. Lease deal moves Pinellas closer to a 70-mile cycling loop

    Local Government

    CLEARWATER — A 70-mile loop of recreational trail around Pinellas County is now much closer to reality.

    The Pinellas County Commission on Tuesday approved a long-awaited deal with Duke Energy to lease roughly 20 miles of power line corridor for a paved trail connecting John Chesnut Sr. Park in East Lake to Weedon Island in northern St. Petersburg.

    Once built, the Duke Energy Trail will link with the Pinellas Trail system to form a loop extending from downtown St. Petersburg to Tarpon Springs....

  4. Woman who gave birth after being hit by tow truck leaves hospital

    Human Interest

    TARPON SPRINGS — A woman who gave birth to a healthy girl after being struck by a tow truck in St. Petersburg in October left the hospital Friday.

    Jenny Noemi Quiles walked out of Bayfront Health St. Petersburg and was home in Tarpon Springs getting to know her daughter, Emmi.

    "It feels good because we get to be together as a family and I'm not sleeping by myself at the hospital," Jenny Quiles, 36, told the Tampa Bay Times in a brief phone interview Friday evening....

  5. Former PSTA marketing director threatens whistleblower lawsuit over forced resignation

    Local Government

    ST. PETERSBURG — A former marketing director for the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority is threatening the sue the agency in a dispute involving the misuse of a federal grant.

    Janet Recca, 62, claims she was forced to resign Nov. 7 without notice or a due process hearing, three days after the Greenlight Pinellas transit referendum was rejected by 62 percent of the voters, according to a letter from Recca's attorney to PSTA legal counsel Alan Zimmet and chief executive officer Brad Miller....

  6. PSTA ponders what's next in wake of Greenlight rejection

    Local Government

    ST. PETERSBURG — With last month's resounding defeat of the Greenlight Pinellas plan receding in the rearview mirror, the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority is charting a course forward.

    "We have a lot of hard work ahead of us," said Brian Scott, a citizen member on the board comprised mainly of elected city and county officials, during the first meeting since last month's election....

  7. New Pinellas GOP chairman sets sights on winning local elections

    Local

    ST. PETERSBURG — This has been a good year for Republicans at the state and federal level, but the party lost its majority on the Pinellas County Commission for the first time in decades.

    Snatching back control is one of several items the local party's new leader, 41-year-old Nick DiCeglie, has on his to-do list.

    "Losing the Pinellas County Commission shows we've got some challenges here," DiCeglie said. "We need to be honest with ourselves to begin to identify what we need to be effective and reorganize to have a better chance of winning these county elections."...

    Nick DiCeglie, 41, said that he’s focused on reorganizing and winning county elections.
  8. Chile trip could pay off economically for Tampa Bay, officials say

    Economic Development

    TAMPA — Jay Conroy could have traveled to Chile by himself to try to connect with potential customers for his company.

    As owner and president of Hydo-Dyne Engineering, Conroy knows there is a demand in the booming South American country for the kind of water treatment equipment his Clearwater-based firm manufactures, but there would be no guarantee he would get face time with, as he put it, "the people that matter."...

  9. Eight years after murder, St. Petersburg police arrest suspect

    Crime

    ST. PETERSBURG — Lauren Connor heard the detective on the other end of the phone line and knew she was about to get good news.

    For eight years, Connor has waited for an arrest in her father's murder. On Friday, as she sat at her desk at a mortgage company in Largo, she figured an unsolicited call from a detective in the middle of the day could only mean one thing.

    She was right. St. Petersburg Police had arrested 35-year-old Peter Michael Neville and charged him with first-degree murder in the slaying of Lawrence Ricker, an affable retired psychologist and University of South Florida professor who was found in the charred remains of his St. Petersburg home on March 30, 2006....

    Peter Michael Neville, 35, faces a first-degree murder charge in the slaying of 83-year-old Lawrence Ricker on March 28, 2006. [TONY MARRERO | Times]
  10. Local leaders 'speed-date' residents at St. Petersburg College event

    College

    CLEARWATER — Clearwater police Chief Daniel Slaughter didn't get any warmup questions.

    Moments after he sat down at a table in a lecture hall at St. Petersburg College's Clearwater campus, Candi Jovan raised the issue of police shootings and the often tense relationship between residents and police charged with protecting them.

    "What do you think needs to be done?" asked Jovan, a semi-retired insurance agent from Palm Harbor....

    Government and business leaders from Pinellas County are introduced at the first “Speed Date Your Local Leaders” program at St. Petersburg College on Wednesday.
  11. Tampa Bay leaders descend on Chile with a mission to expand exports

    Economic Development

    In a nondescript building in Pinellas Park, a homegrown company makes equipment so rugged and reliable, the U.S. Army is a regular customer.

    Among the newer products from Custom Manufacturing and Engineering Inc., is a solar panel that produces 440 watts of electricity and folds into a case light enough to be hefted by two people.

    "Open it up, hook it up and you're up and running in about 10 minutes," said company president Nancy Crews....

  12. New $14 million building in Clearwater aims to chill water, save the county money

    Local Government

    CLEARWATER — When it first began to take shape, the box-shaped building that sprouted from a former parking lot on Chestnut Street looked like downtown Clearwater's latest convenience store.

    After workers installed three bay doors on the front, the 4,800-square-foot edifice could have passed for an auto repair shop or a small warehouse.

    It's none of the above. Behind the bay doors are three chillers, each about the size of a Peterbilt tractor truck, that will soon be cooling water to about 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Four pumps will push the water through more than 2 miles of underground pipes to existing air conditioning units in eight county government buildings downtown, including the County Courthouse across the street....

    Pumps and chillers are set inside Pinellas County’s newest water chilling plant in Clearwater. The plant is slated to be up and running by April and could make the county money.
  13. Police identify St. Petersburg couple as victims in Thanksgiving Day collision

    Crime

    ST. PETERSBURG — Doug and Christina Simpson fell in love in their native Pennsylvania, then fell in love with Florida.

    After meeting on a running track in Pittsburgh, the couple married in 1997, honeymooned in Pinellas County and moved here about five years later.

    "They lived on the beach for a while and then moved into St. Petersburg and loved it and decided that's where they were going to stay," said Doug Simpson's sister, Sally Mannas....

    Anthony Apollo Neeley, 31, of Seminole faces two counts of DUI manslaughter.
  14. Record-breaking 20th panther killed by vehicle in Collier County

    Wildlife

    Two weeks ago, when the year's 19th Florida panther was killed by a vehicle, experts warned that the all-time record would fall by New Year's Day.

    It happened Friday, when the remains of a roughly 6-month-old male panther were found on a roadside in Collier County, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission. Cause of death: vehicle collision.

    The panther was found in Golden Gate Estates, panther biologist Mark Lotz said. The Collier County Sheriff's Office responded to the scene about 1 a.m. and notified the FWC about nine hours later....

    The remains of a male Florida panther, about 6 months old, that had been hit by a vehicle were collected on Friday, Nov. 28, 2014, on Golden Gate Boulevard, near the intersection with Sixth Street NE in Golden Gate Estates in Collier County. It was the 20th Florida panther killed in a crash this year, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. [USFWS photo]
  15. Report reveals power outage causes, other problems at Pinellas 911 center

    Public Safety

    LARGO — Inadequate surge protection, faulty grounding and baby ospreys are to blame for an outage of Pinellas County's 911 system for 45 minutes this summer, according to a report released Tuesday.

    The analysis, conducted by the county and released in draft form, also details the causes of other problems at the new 911 center, including reports of busy signals and a partial power loss earlier this month....