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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 with a focus on energy issues and Florida utilities.

Phone: (813) 226-3432

Email: levesque@tampabay.com

Twitter: @Times_Levesque

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  1. In Tampa, some hope Castro's demise symbolizes death of an idea

    News

    TAMPA — The phone calls and text messages began stirring Tampa's Cuban-American community after midnight and never let up. One man's phone buzzed with 49 texts.

    Word came to Raul Villamia's home in a text from his daughter, who told the 90-year-old that Fidel Castro had died.

    And so a man who saw the birth of Castro's Cuban revolution and even raised money for it witnessed the close of an era....

    Patricia and Gabriel Font of Clearwater dine at the La Teresita restaurant in Tampa on Saturday. Gabriel Font arrived to the U.S. in 1966, looking for religious and political freedom. He felt in Cuba during Castro's regime, he did not have the freedoms the U.S. has. He added, in 1959, when Fidel Castro was sworn in, people were hopeful and then government became more oppressive. He said he was surprised to hear about his death and felt optimistic for change. [CHARLIE KAIJO   |   Times]
  2. Allegiant Air changes course after Times investigation, admits too many planes failed

    Airlines

    LAS VEGAS — Allegiant Air leaders who once battled any suggestion the carrier's rate of emergency landings and other aircraft mishaps were unusually high are now taking a sharply different tack.

    They're offering something of a mea culpa.

    The airline offered no pushback late last month when presented with a Tampa Bay Times' analysis showing the carrier, in 2015, was four times as likely to suffer unscheduled landings due to mechanical problems as other major U.S. carriers....

    Allegiant Air Chief Operating Officer Jude Bricker, left, listens to Chairman and CEO Maury Gallagher, right, answer questions posed by Times reporters at the airline's Las Vegas headquarters on Oct. 26. Both admit Allegiant has had too many mechanical failures, but say the airline is improving. JAMES BORCHUCK   |   Times


  3. Allegiant Air flight attendants soundly reject new contract

    Airlines

    Allegiant Air's flight attendants have overwhelmingly rejected a new tentative agreement with the budget airline and authorized a strike, though no work stoppage is yet planned by their union.

    About 76 percent of flight attendants who voted rejected a pact that would have given them pay raises, improved sick leave and vacation, and a grievance process in results reported to membership on Sept. 28. ...

    Flight attendants at Allegiant Air, a Las Vegas-based airline that has 95 percent of the passenger traffic at St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport, voted to reject a pact that would have given them pay raises and improved sick leave. [JIM DAMASKE   |   Times]
  4. Toddler's death in hot car sets up potentially divisive court case

    Crime

    PALM HARBOR — A loving father inadvertently leaves his toddler son in a pickup truck during a typically scorching Florida summer's day. The child dies.

    His father will undoubtedly face a lifetime of questions about what some may call an incomprehensible act of inattention and carelessness. He may be judged by his family and ultimately by his own conscience.

    But should he be judged in a court of law?...

    Pinellas County Sheriff's personnel walk past a vehicle located at 1635 Castlewood Lane in Palm Harbor. The Pinellas County Sheriff'ss Office is conducting a death investigation of a toddler who was found dead inside a vehicle at the residence. [DOUGLAS CLIFFORD  |   Times]
  5. Allegiant Air breaks ground on major $24M training center near Sanford airport

    Airlines

    Allegiant Air broke ground Thursday on a $24 million facility adjacent to Orlando Sanford International Airport where it will train pilots, mechanics and flight attendants based on the East Coast.

    The 43,000-square-foot facility is expected to open during the first quarter of 2017 and is the latest sign of the airline's rapid and continuing growth, including robust operations at St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport....

    Allegiant Air broke ground Thursday on a training facility for pilots, mechanics and flight attendants near Orlando Sanford International Airport, its busiest hub on the East Coast. Allegiant also is responsible for 95 percent of the passenger traffic at St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport, where this plane was photographed earlier this year. [DOUG CLIFFORD | Times] 
  6. In a first, Allegiant Air buying 12 new Airbus aircraft

    Airlines

    Allegiant Air leaders acknowledged Friday that their aging fleet of McDonnell Douglas MD-80 aircraft is proving less reliable than they projected as the airline suffers through another tough summer of flight cancellations.

    So the airline is doing what many Americans do when their old clunker keeps breaking down.

    They're buying new.

    Allegiant Air announced it would buy 12 brand-new Airbus 320 aircraft, the first purchase of new planes in the company's 19-year history....

    An Allegiant Air flight at  St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport.
  7. FAA audit dings Allegiant Air for problems the agency considers minor

    Airlines

    A three-month audit of Allegiant Air's operations by the Federal Aviation Administration found a list of what the agency called "minor" deficiencies by the budget airline.

    Las Vegas-based Allegiant posted the FAA summary of its findings on the company's website late Thursday afternoon.

    The agency said the findings from a review that began April 5 did not warrant any enforcement action....

    An FAA audit of Allegiant Air found minor problems at the airline. Douglas Clifford   |   Times
  8. Pilots: Firing of Allegiant Air pilot for St. Pete-Clearwater emergency landing endangers public

    Airlines

    Allegiant Air's termination of a pilot who ordered the evacuation of an aircraft last year at St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport endangers the public because other pilots might hesitate in an emergency for fear of being second-guessed.

    That is according to pretrial testimony of Allegiant pilots, made public late Monday, in the lawsuit against Allegiant filed by the fired pilot, Jason Kinzer, in Nevada state court. Pilots also said they would have done the same as Kinzer if presented with the same circumstances — evacuate the airplane....

    The firing over the evacuation was a warning to pilots, who were in contract talks with the airline, some Allegiant pilots say.
  9. Emera pledges strong community support in Florida

    Energy

    TAMPA — TECO Energy's days as an independent company with 115-year roots in Tampa officially ended on July 1 with the completion of its $10.4 billion sale to the Canadian conglomerate Emera Inc.

    But Emera's leader, president and chief executive officer Chris Huskilson reiterated his company's commitment Wednesday to maintain strong philanthropic and personal ties to Tampa Bay while supporting the region's economic growth....

    Rob Bennett is chief operating officer at TECO Energy.
  10. Duke Energy Florida customers will see a new charge on their bill starting in July

    Energy

    Duke Energy Florida customers will see a new charge on their monthly bill starting in July — an "asset securitization charge" of $2.87 for the average home.

    Translation: That's the charge customers must pay to cover Duke's costs for the closure of the Crystal River nuclear power plant in Citrus County.

    The state Public Service Commission on Thursday gave its final approval on a bond issuance to pay nearly $1.3 billion over the next 20 years. In March 2017, the monthly charge is expected to fall slightly to $2.73 per 1,000 kilowatt hours of electric usage, according to Duke....

    Duke Energy's Crystal River nuclear plant, shown in this 2013 photo, was decommissioned. [Times]
  11. After $6 billion in customer losses, state okays plan to reduce utility hedging

    Energy

    Floridians are poised to lose another $560 million in 2016 as the state's investor-owned electric utilities continue to lose big at the poker table by hedging their purchases of natural gas.

    That would mean nearly $6.6 billion in total losses since 2002, and $1.38 billion since the start of 2015 alone.

    The state Public Service Commission took the first tentative step Thursday to reduce the financial carnage and approved a plan by Florida's electric utilities to cut their hedging by 25 percent. They rejected a call by critics to end hedging altogether, but said they could revisit the issue later in the year....

  12. Television and Internet provider WOW targets Tampa commercial customers

    Business

    A new television and Internet provider is dipping its toes in the Hillsborough County market.

    WOW, a provider with its headquarters in Colorado, in recent weeks has begun offering commercial Internet, data and voice services in eight buildings in downtown Tampa, the company's first Hillsborough foray, the company confirmed Tuesday.

    The company already provides business and residential service in parts of Pinellas County, where it has more than 33,000 customers....

     Television and internet provider Wow! plans to expand in the Tampa Bay area. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)
  13. Allegiant Air jet makes two emergency landings in 24 hours

    Airlines

    Allegiant Air officials hoping to avoid a repeat of their self-described "bad summer" of 2015 are now welcoming June with two emergency landings of the same aircraft in less than 24 hours.

    In both incidents at St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport, pilots declared an emergency because of problems with the aircraft's hydraulic system.

    The Airbus 320 — tail number 228NV — first ran into trouble Wednesday not long before its scheduled arrival at the airport from Moline, Ill. A leak in a hydraulic line caused the pilot to declare an emergency, and the plane landed safely at 12:19 p.m....

    A live tracking screen from FlightAware shows the path taken by Allegiant Flight 844 after taking off from St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport on Thursday morning, circling the gulf and then returning for an emergency landing. [FlightAware.com]
  14. More Macy's customers say they were charged for purchases they did not make, then hounded by debt collectors

    Retail

    TAMPA — Dr. Sonia Saceda, a 79-year-old widow and 20-year Army veteran, said Macy's charged her credit card $1,596 for purchases she did not make and then started calling her as often as three times a day, seven days a week seeking payment.

    The calls continued, Saceda said, despite assurances from the retail giant's billing department that she would not have to pay. She said Macy's collections department also threatened to sic a lawyer on her....

    Customers make a purchase at a Macy’s store in San Francisco. A lawyer says customer account information can get confused in such a large company.
  15. Frontier Communications outlines 'action plan,' bill credits to address service problems

    Business

    TAMPA — Frontier Communications' expansion into Florida, which its chief has called "very successful," is getting a big Band-Aid — an "action plan" to fix lingering service problems.

    The announcement Thursday comes after prodding from Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, who met with Frontier officials Wednesday to address service outages since Frontier's takeover of Verizon's landline phone, TV and Internet service April 1....

    A Frontier flag flies outside the Frontier regional office at 610 N. Morgan Street on Friday April 1, 2016, in downtown Tampa, the Frontier took over for Verizon today, resulting in outages. 

MONICA HERNDON | Times