03/20/15 Local Government
TAMPA — For years in Tallahassee, the list of contaminated sites that are believed to pose a "low risk" to drinking water have numbered about 5,000. But no one is quite sure they are just low risk.
Now the state Department of Environmental Protection is adopting a new strategy aimed at completing a full assessment of each site in smaller counties over the next three to five years by hiring larger counties — including Hillsborough and Pinellas — to check them out....
03/18/15 Local Government
TAMPA — A new internal audit of Hillsborough County's homeless program shows the county failed to conduct all required inspections of housing where the homeless are referred, a deficiency that occurred despite promises by county officials to fix and rebuild the troubled program.
County Administrator Mike Merrill apologized to commissioners Wednesday, saying he was "very disappointed and upset" at the audit's findings given his previous assurances to remedy program ills....
Golf courses in Colorado and Minnesota are promoting cross-country skiing on their fairways to earn cash in their offseasons. Business deals are now more common on high-end bicycles than on the greens, according to the New York Times. And a shuttered Michigan championship course will soon produce rounds of beer instead of golf — a farmer is planting the course in hops....
A "minor presence" of the bacteria that causes Legionnaires' disease was found in an ice machine at the C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center in the same building where a pneumonia patient who tested positive for the bacteria died on Feb. 20, the hospital said Thursday.
A pneumonia patient testing positive for the Legionella pneumophila bacteria is generally considered by health professionals to have Legionnaires' disease. But the VA has avoided saying the patient contracted the disease, instead saying the 64-year-old man died of "medical complications."...
TEMPLE TERRACE — The two men had dated the same woman. Both were armed with handguns when they faced each other in a parking lot Saturday. One had a permit to carry his concealed weapon. The other, police said, did not.
A man, who pulled a gun and pointed it at a vehicle occupied by a woman he formerly dated and her boyfriend, was shot and killed by the boyfriend who told police he acted in self-defense during a shoot-out at the Heritage Apartments at 506 Heritage Brooke Circle about 10:39 a.m., Temple Terrace police said....
03/07/15 Public Safety
SEMINOLE — Christina E. Tournant's family joked when she was growing up that she was wise beyond her years, a precocious kid who could figure out almost anything.
"We always said she was an old soul," said Christina's mother, Tava Wilson. "She just understood things."
With that burning intelligence, Christina became valedictorian of Osceola Fundamental High School and enrolled at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In recent weeks, she came home from MIT to recover as she fought a nervous system disorder causing pain and circulatory problems....
A pneumonia patient who died on Feb. 20 at the C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center tested positive for the strain of bacteria that causes Legionnaires' Disease. And hospital officials said they expect test results Friday to confirm whether the facility's water system was contaminated.
The Young VA did not identify the patient, 64, who died after a 10-day hospitalization.
Jason Dangel, a Department of Veterans Affairs spokesman at the hospital, said no other patient has tested positive for the bacteria, Legionella pneumophila, and no danger is posed to patients or staff....
03/04/15 Local Government
TAMPA — The Tampa Bay Lightning and owner Jeff Vinik unveiled details Wednesday on a $25 million renovation of Amalie Arena, completing what the team calls an "arena makeover" that started in 2011.
The details followed a unanimous vote by Hillsborough County commissioners to split the cost of upcoming renovations on the county-owned facility, reimbursing Vinik $12.5 million after renovations are completed during the next two summers. The county's share will be paid by a tourist tax on hotel beds....
02/19/15 Local Government
TAMPA — A federal investigation of New Beginnings of Tampa has concluded the charity did not break labor laws when it put its homeless clients to work without pay in exchange for shelter and food.
New Beginnings founder and CEO Tom Atchison was notified this week by the U.S. Department of Labor that the charity was found in compliance with the Fair Labor Standards Act.
Atchison called the decision vindication and said it removed a cloud of wrongdoing after a series of Tampa Bay Times articles called into question his use of unpaid labor, especially at area sporting events....
TAMPA — Hillsborough County commissioners moved Wednesday to put the kibosh on gossip that they no longer support high-speed ferry service.
Commissioners voted unanimously to continue for another year their agreement with two companies that want to bring high-speed ferry service to link MacDill Air Force Base with Apollo Beach. Commissioners said they wanted to make clear that their ferry enthusiasm is not wavering....
TAMPA — In the bloom of their nine-month relationship, the woman allowed her boyfriend to take sexually explicit photos and videos of her.
After the breakup and recriminations, federal prosecutors said, those images became something more than a record of a failed romance.
They became weapons.
A New Hampshire man who posted sexually explicit photos of his ex-girlfriend on the Internet and directed her friends and co-workers to the site has agreed to plead guilty in federal court next Tuesday to identity theft. Jason Michael Green, 35, faces up to five years in prison. His attorney said probation is more likely....
TAMPA — The Salvation Army in Hillsborough County, a charity better known for its charitable works and volunteers who ring bells to collect donations, is getting out of the criminal-justice business.
The charity has notified Hillsborough officials that the organization wants to end its work managing misdemeanor probation in the county after nearly 40 years providing the service.
The decision means the county will for the first time in decades solicit competitive bids for the work. County officials have not yet set a date to do so, though a bid solicitation is expected in coming weeks....
02/04/15 Local Government
TAMPA — Prostitutes in Hillsborough County have been taking the street out of streetwalker.
The Hillsborough Sheriff's Office says prostitutes are increasingly thwarting law enforcement by taking advantage of a loophole in the county's prostitution ordinance. They have figured out that they can avoid arrest by keeping the sex solicitation and hookup off the street or away from any public space, the Sheriff's Office says....
Scores of bead-crazed fanatics. Some 1,400 cops. One wedding. About 50 gallons of Bloody Mary mix. Lemonade stands. More than 1,000 portable toilets. And 100 years of saucy tradition.
Add a few intemperate revelers under temperate skies and a faux pirate ship, and the result is a party that little has been able to halt: the Gasparilla parade.
Tens of thousands of people from across the Tampa Bay region turned out for the 100th annual Gasparilla parade of pirates Saturday, an event that began modestly in 1904 and has been interrupted a handful of times, most notably by two world wars. Little, if anything, seemed to mar 2015's anniversary edition....
01/27/15 Local Government
TAMPA — One of the most notable steps Hillsborough County has taken toward its desire to woo the Tampa Bay Rays to the county was also one of the quietest: County commissioners in October agreed to hire Foley & Lardner, a law firm with extensive ties to Major League Baseball and a partner who is a former MLB president.
Under terms of the one-year contract, the firm will be paid a flat monthly fee of $4,500 and attorneys can bill an hourly rate of up to $395....