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Sun Dome to get new top

(ran NTP edition)

The air-supported Sun Dome roof, a landmark at the University of South Florida, is about to be deflated. USF officials say it needs to be replaced with one that is permanent and supported by steel, not air. They must raise half of the $8-million needed to get the job done. "We're working on it," said Mike LaPan, president of the 11,400-seat facility, which opened 17 years ago. He said USF hopes to start work next summer on the Sun Dome roof and complete it by the time students arrive for classes in the fall of 1999.

The fact that air supports the Sun Dome roof limits events that can be staged there and sometimes alters how they are staged. In 1981, lightning struck a generator, stopping the pumps that kept the roof inflated. For about 90 minutes during a rainstorm, the roof sagged and let rain collect. A fierce storm in 1988 ripped the roof's fabric and caused a collapse, and a lightning strike in 1989 also caused a collapse.

USF spent $5-million to improve the Sun Dome about five years ago. "The technology is obsolete," LaPan said.

Bare-bones schools

No carpets in elementary schools and no game fields at middle and high schools are among hundreds of recommendations proposed for Hillsborough's new schools. On Tuesday, the School Board will consider these ideas, which one official said could save and earn the district about $38.65-million on its next eight schools alone.

Jim Hamilton, assistant superintendent for operations, said that amount reflects what Hillsborough would save by driving out excess costs and also what it would gain by becoming eligible for state incentives set aside for frugal school construction.

The proposals were assembled by "user teams" and construction officials who visited old and new schools in March. These teachers, principals, custodians, lunch room managers and parents were asked to find ways to cut waste and frills.

Recommendations include high-priced items, such as scaling back auditoriums, athletic fields and multipurpose rooms, and getting rid of wrestling rooms, whirlpools and fully outfitted concession stands. Smaller items include getting rid of world globes in eighth grade and cutting back on the number of frog models, microscopes, paper cutters and tumbling mats available to all grades.

Libraries and lunchrooms should be cooled by ceiling fans, not air-conditioning, and some computers should be leased, not bought.

"They run the gamut," Hamilton said. "Some recommendations are great, some, I'm sure, are not so great. Some save a lot of money, some may save no money. And I'm sure there are important suggestions that are not even on the list. What they are is a range of options."

The suggestion to build practice facilities but not baseball, football, soccer and softball game fields presumes those games could be played at other facilities. Athletic boosters could suggest deleting the dance room, kiln room or upright piano in the practice room instead. Hamilton urged special interests to stay focused on the real goals of a school _ the delivery of a sound educational program.

Trouble in groves

State inspectors found more than 50 medflies in a Central Florida orange grove Wednesday and scrambled to eradicate the pest that could threaten Florida's $6-billion agriculture industry. The new discoveries in Lake County come as agriculture officials hoped to wind down their eradication in the Miami area with the release of millions of sterile flies. Two weeks ago, inspectors declared the Tampa area free of the pest.

Inspectors found a single, female Mediterranean fruit fly in the town of Umatilla on Monday and intensified the trapping program. They had found at least 50 more and were still counting by late Wednesday, said Liz Compton, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Agriculture.

"It is what we consider a serious infestation," she said. "We've already gotten verbal approval from the EPA to begin spraying."

Late in the week, officials were to begin spraying malathion in affected areas of Lake and southern Marion counties. They planned a quarantine, prohibiting the removal of fruit, including backyard trees. Officials don't know where the new flies came from.

Road rage in Carrollwood

A couple pulled a 19-year-old woman from her car Sunday and beat her after they said she cut them off in traffic, sheriff's deputies said. Darcy Imel was westbound on Fletcher Avenue on her way to visit parents in the Lake Magdalene area. About 6:15 p.m., she said, she noticed a Toyota Corolla following her closely. She didn't think she had cut anyone off, she said, but a woman inside the Toyota screamed at her and made an obscene gesture.

Imel tried to turn off at Lake Magdalene Boulevard, she said, but the Toyota cut her off. She continued west to Orange Grove Drive and turned right, the Toyota still following. When Imel stopped at Moran Road, the woman ran toward Imel, she said. Imel pulled away and drove around back onto westbound Fletcher.

Back at Orange Grove Drive, the light turned red and Imel stopped. She said the Toyota pulled in front of her. While she was boxed in, Imel said the woman ran toward her and yelled, "You can't drive like that, I have my children in the car," then hit Imel's car with her fists. When Imel tried to exit her car, the woman slammed the door on her leg, Imel said, and the man pulled Imel out of her open driver's window. The woman then slapped and scratched Imel and pulled her hair before the man threw her onto her car, denting the left front fender, Imel said. The woman then broke Imel's car's antenna.

Two other women driving by intervened, Imel said, and the couple fled. Imel said her scratches and bruises did not require immediate medical treatment.