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The stories of 1996 // Authority cleaning its house

Close examination of everything from vacancies to waiting lists at the Tarpon Springs Housing Authority led to a blistering condemnation from federal officials and the resignation of the authority's executive director.

Tim Keffalas, who had been director for two years, resigned in July, four days after the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development accused him of using discriminatory practices in selection of tenants. The HUD report also blasted the authority for poor record-keeping, poor maintenance of apartments and other problems, including spending authority money on meals for housing authority commissioners.

In September, commissioners brought on board a new director, Patricia Weber, 48, who had spent 22 years in social service administration in Massachusetts. By early December, the Housing Authority had corrected nine of the deficiencies listed by HUD and had received extensions on deadlines to correct about a dozen other problems.

Archbishop has local ties

TARPON SPRINGS _ In July, residents here celebrated the selection of George Papageorgiou, a Tarpon Springs High School graduate, as archbishop of the American Greek Orthodox Church.

As the church's first American-born archbishop, he became the spiritual leader of 1.5-million members and 550 parishes. Papageorgiou, who took the name Spyridon, after the patron saint of the island of Corfu, was enthroned as archbishop in lavish ceremonies in New York in September.

Spyridon was born in Ohio but was sent by his parents to Tarpon Springs in 1960 to live with an uncle and attend high school. He sang in the glee club, kicked field goals for the football team and made many friends, who remember him as a scholar. Though he left the city after he graduated in 1962, he has stayed in touch with friends and relatives here.

When Tarpon Springs celebrates Epiphany on Jan. 6, Spyridon is expected to attend to throw the cross into Spring Bayou. He is expected to remain in Tarpon Springs for several days to visit relatives and attend Epiphany events.

Long-awaited high school opens

PALM HARBOR _ Pinellas County's most ambitious, most technologically advanced, most expensive school on its biggest campus ever opened to students in August.

Though there was a substantial amount of controversy about the creation of the attendance zone for the new school, Palm Harbor University High gave Palm Harbor a long-awaited high school.

It houses two magnets, or special courses of study for north-county students: one the academically rigorous International Baccalaureate Program, the other the Center for Wellness and Medical Professions. Both are open to any student who lives in north Pinellas.

The school also gave adults their first opportunity to take University of South Florida classes in the north end of the county.

The school opened with only ninth- and 10th-graders but is expected to eventually serve 2,000 students in four grades.

The $30-million campus opened with several of its 13 buildings not completed, and the stadium will not have lights or bleachers for a year.

Stauffer cleanup nears flash point

TARPON SPRINGS _ Controversy surrounded the former Stauffer Chemical plant north of the city limits. The property on the Anclote River is so laden with toxic wastes that it is a federal Superfund site.

Company and government officials and a community group had worked fairly quietly on cleanup plans during the year, but that all changed in September, when the company announced plans to remove elemental phosphorus that had been processed at the site but left behind when the plant closed in 1981.

Elemental phosphorus ignites if exposed to air 86 degrees or warmer. Though the company promised to monitor the removal closely, nearby residents were upset after they saw fires on the property and reported an irritating white smoke drifting through their neighborhood. Federal authorities halted the phosphorus transfer in October, but it may resume in early 1997.

Also stirring controversy was a proposal by Stauffer to clean up the site by mounding all the hazardous wastes on 25 acres of the 160-acre property and covering it with a giant cap. With the level of hostility toward the company rising, residents await the Environmental Protection Agency's final cleanup plan.

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