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William R. Levesque, Times Staff Writer

William R. Levesque

William R. Levesque is a journalist with more than 25 years of experience who began working at the Tampa Bay Times in 1994. He covers business news, including utilities, energy and agriculture.

Phone: (813) 226-3432

Email: levesque@tampabay.com

Twitter: @Times_Levesque

  1. Problems continue for Allegiant as airline reports third emergency landing in a month at St. Pete-Clearwater


    For the third time in a month, an Allegiant Air flight has been forced to make an emergency landing at St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport.

    But this time, the airline confirmed, passengers didn't know.

    Allegiant Flight 977 left Asheville, N.C., on Friday, bound for Punta Gorda, but was forced to divert to St. Pete-Clearwater because of bad weather, the airline said.

    But before the MD-83 aircraft landed, pilots declared an emergency after an "indicator light" pointed to a possible "maintenance issue" on the aircraft, Allegiant said Saturday....

    Paige Yaroshuk-Tews said passengers were not aware of the emergency.
  2. New Haley VA director had controversial reign at Mississippi VA hospital


    TAMPA — Three years ago, Department of Veterans Affairs manager Joe D. Battle got the unenviable job of turning around the Jackson, Miss., VA hospital, a facility critics called a dysfunctional mess.

    The hospital didn't have enough doctors, and two patient deaths were blamed on inadequate staffing. A radiologist was accused of failing to properly read thousands of images. Veterans were assigned to "ghost clinics" without seeing doctors....

    Joe D. Battle is expected to take over the James A. Haley VA Medical Center in Tampa, one of the nation’s busiest veterans hospitals, within the next 40 days.
  3. Gay Pride festivities take on special meaning for revelers

    Human Interest


    They wore the colors of the rainbow in shirts and hair and body paint at an event that many recognized as so much more than just a parade and good party.

    Thousands of Tampa Bay residents and other Floridians gathered Saturday for the annual St. Pete LGBT Pride Parade and block party along Central Avenue, a day after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that gay marriage was a right guaranteed by the Constitution....

    The St. Pete Pride Night Parade heads into the Kenwood Historic neighborhood on Saturday, June 27, 2015. The parade was followed by a block party on Central Avenue between 22nd and 27th streets. The fun continues tomorrow on Central Avenue at the St. Pete Pride Festival with over 300 vendors, from 11 a.m.-6 p.m.
  4. Allegiant Air defends safety record amid emergency landings, cancellations


    At the height of its travel season, Allegiant Air finds itself with a challenging public relations problem.

    Recent headlines described two emergency landings at St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport in June; a series of flight cancellations there and at other airports that left hundreds of passengers temporarily stranded; and a labor dispute with a pilots union alleging Allegiant puts profits above safety....

    Allegiant Air is defending its safety record after a series of emergency landings and cancellations at St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport.
  5. Wasp causes Allegiant Air flight out of St.Pete-Clearwater to divert to Orlando


    A Florida wasp provided the latest challenge to Allegiant Air in a difficult month for the airline, crawling into an aircraft sensor Thursday and forcing a flight departing St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport to make an unscheduled landing.

    Allegiant spokeswoman Jessica Wheeler said Flight 894 with 159 passengers took off at 7:30 a.m. headed to Niagara Falls, N.Y., but diverted to Orlando Sanford International Airport not long after takeoff because of problems with the sensor....

    Allegiant Air flight takes off from St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport. June has been bumpy for Allegiant with two emergency landings at the Pinellas airport earlier in the month and a series of flight cancellations since.
  6. Allegiant Air cancels additional flight at St. Pete-Clearwater International


    Allegiant Air's troubles continued Tuesday when it canceled a flight out of St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport due to an unspecified "maintenance issue," the airline confirmed.

    The Las Vegas-headquartered airline has now canceled about 14 flights arriving or departing at the airport since the emergency landing of one of its aircraft on June 17 due to a pressurization problem. That was the second Allegiant emergency landing at the airport this month....

    Allegiant Airlines has drawn considerable bad publicity in recent months including a long labor dispute with its pilots and an April report by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters’ Aviation Mechanics Coalition that listed flights delayed by mechanical issues nationwide between September and March.
  7. Marco Rubio weighs in on Haley VA rat infestation


    TAMPA — With dead rats falling from the kitchen ceiling at the James A. Haley VA Medical Center, Sen. Marco Rubio Monday urged the hospital's interim director to resolve pest control issues.

    Rubio said he was "alarmed" by a recent Tampa Bay Times report that revealed how three dead rats fell through the ceiling of the hospital's kitchen last week during work to install new fire sprinklers. Internal hospital emails from the facility's infection chief also said the Department of Veterans Affairs hospital has a cockroach infestation....

    James A. Haley Veterans Hospital, 13000 Bruce B. Downs Blvd. in Tampa.
  8. Haley VA: Dead rats show pest control working


    TAMPA — The dead rats falling from the kitchen ceiling of one of the nation's busiest veterans hospitals show the facility's pest control efforts are working.

    That is what officials at the James A. Haley VA Medical Center said Monday in the wake of a Tampa Bay Times report that revealed the hospital is battling a severe infestation of rats and cockroaches.

    Haley spokeswoman Karen Collins provided some detail about the hospital's "vermin control" efforts that include rat traps placed on ceiling tiles in a kitchen that prepares food for hospitalized veterans and a canteen kitchen that serves veterans, staff and visitors....

    James A. Haley Veterans Hospital, 13000 Bruce B. Downs Blvd. in Tampa. [JAMES BORCHUCK   |   Times]
  9. Emails reveal pest control problems at Haley VA hospital


    TAMPA — It's not the sort of email the infection control director of a veterans hospital wants to find in their inbox — a message with photos of dead rats found in a hospital kitchen.

    Workers at the James A. Haley VA Medical Center reported "3 large dead rats that fell through the kitchen ceiling" at the hospital during renovation work Wednesday night, according to emails obtained by the Tampa Bay Times....

    The infection prevention coordinator, Miriam Ruisz, emailed the VA hospital’s enviro team Thursday about the pest problem.
  10. PSC approves FP&L's controversial fracking plan


    Florida regulators Thursday voted to allow Florida Power & Light to invest up to $500 million annually in the potentially risky natural gas business in what critics call a rich and precedent-setting giveaway to the utility.

    The investments would not be financed by FPL's shareholders but by its 4.77 million customers, according to the proposal.

    The unanimous decision by the Florida Public Service Commission does not directly impact Tampa Bay residents because the Palm Beach County-based utility does not have customers in the area. But it is nonetheless watched closely by other utilities, including Duke Energy, that may consider similar investments....

  11. Allegiant Air has second emergency landing this month at St. Pete-Clearwater


    CLEARWATER — An Allegiant Air flight made an emergency landing at St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport on Wednesday after pressurization problems, the second time this month an Allegiant aircraft has been forced to return to the airport.

    Flight 866 had been heading to Pittsburgh before landing in Clearwater at 5:07 p.m., just under an hour after taking off, according to the airline....

    Allegiant officials have said the airline has one of the best safety records in the industry.  The company flies about 70 aircraft.
  12. Should Bright House, Verizon customers be worried?


    What happens when two cable TV companies ranked as having superior customer service are taken over by firms whose record of keeping consumers smiling is inferior and, according to some, wretchedly so?

    If you currently get your Internet or cable from Bright House Networks or Verizon FIOS, you may soon find out.

    Charter Communications announced last month it plans a merger with Bright House and Time Warner Cable, a combination Charter's chief boasted will lead to improved service. Earlier this year, Frontier Communications said it was buying the regional Internet and cable TV assets of Verizon FIOS, including Verizon's Florida business....

    Charter and Frontier rank low with current customers, who aren't shy with complaints. [Times file]

  13. Bank of America closing numerous Tampa Bay drive-through teller lanes


    TAMPA — The smartphone, some say, may soon make the bank drive-up teller window as old fashioned as your great-grandparents' Model T.

    So starting Monday, Bank of America is closing drive-up teller windows at select branches in the Tampa Bay area and throughout Florida.

    The bank says the move is a response to customers who are doing more of their banking with their smartphones....

  14. Lawsuit: Man racks up $48,500 in gift cards via glitch in hotel rewards program


    ST. PETERSBURG — It was the glitch that kept on giving.

    That's how Choice Hotels International, one of the world's largest hotel chains, portrays a flaw in its online reservations system in a lawsuit accusing a St. Petersburg man of fraudulently redeeming gift cards worth $48,500 in a rewards program for loyal customers.

    Robert Chat, 38, discovered the Choice Hotels booking system didn't erase his rewards points when he canceled a reservation, the suit said. So Chat began making, and quickly canceling, hundreds of reservations from October to January, then redeeming gift cards earned as a "reward," Choice Hotel alleges. Chat denies wrongdoing....

    Like most other hotel chains, Choice Hotels operates a rewards program to keep customers coming back. It calls the program Choice Privileges.
  15. Sheriff: Autistic 5-year-old boy drowned in lake at Plant City farmers market

    Public Safety

    PLANT CITY — A 5-year-old severely autistic Polk County boy wandered away from his father at a farmers market Sunday and drowned in a nearby pond, authorities said.

    Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee said the boy, Michael Bolden, probably drowned shortly after arriving at the Plant City Farm & Flea Market at 708 W Sam Allen Road about 9 a.m. with his father and a family friend.

    The father searched for his son for 45 minutes to an hour before calling 911 about 10 a.m., the Sheriff's Office said. The boy's body was found about 3 p.m. by divers....

    Michael Bol?den walked away from his father at the market.