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Officer recognized for selfless actions

Published Sep. 29, 2005

(ran Beach edition)

Police Officer Chris Hollenbeck saw the flash of light from several blocks away about 2:30 a.m. June 26. He quickly drove to the 5100 block of Gulf Boulevard, where he saw what had caused the sparks:

A 1990 Nissan sedan had smashed into a concrete utility pole, downing live power wires. The car was on fire. The driver, an 18-year-old Tierra Verde resident, was strapped in the front seat, unconscious with a severe head wound.

Hollenbeck broke the passenger window of the car to unlock the doors, then pulled the driver from the burning vehicle and applied pressure to his wounds.

On Tuesday, the City Commission presented Hollenbeck with an exceptional merit award for his actions. Although the driver of the car later died, Hollenbeck was credited with acting selflessly to save a life.

Walgreens approved

despite protests

ST. PETE BEACH _ The City Commission on Tuesday approved a plan to build a Walgreens on the east side of the 4400 block of Gulf Boulevard, although residents have objected.

The preliminary review imposes several conditions on the developers, including low lighting, a buffer wall and safe intersections. Deliveries must be in the daytime. The store will close at midnight and cannot sell liquor. Landscaping will be added along Gulf Boulevard.

In their routine review of other planning board cases, Commissioner Jim Myers noted that two property owners had received waivers of city laws _ but after they had already finished projects without city approval. He encouraged people to seek proper permits.

The planning board granted one variance to Rhoda Poll to construct a home addition that encroached into a rear yard setback. Poll's application noted that there was nothing peculiar about the property to justify the waiver of regulations.

Under city ordinances, variances are to be granted only when there is a special circumstance specific to an individual property which justifies the exception to the rules.

In the second case, the board allowed a 6-foot fence constructed by Dariel Vargerman to remain, although it had been built without a permit and was 2 feet higher than the city limit.

Commissioner questions

Honor Walk site

ST. PETE BEACH _ Surprising fellow city officials, Commissioner Jim Myers suggested Tuesday that the city should consider an alternate site for Honor Walk memorial park.

Concerns about the vulnerability of the current site _ the edge of critically eroding Upham Beach _ sparked the suggestion, Myers said. So far, the city's attempts to find ways to make the beach less vulnerable to erosion have not been successful.

"I think we have to face up to it," Myers said. "I think it's possibly foolhardy to put it there."

City officials have been lobbying for several large sandbag groins to be built to keep more sand on Upham Beach. But state officials have said the proposal could cause erosion south of Upham and they will not permit the construction now.

As an alternative, the City Hall property was suggested. But Mayor Ron McKenney, who proposed the park idea, was not pleased. He suggested Myers wanted to cancel the park.

"It's your district," McKenney said to Myers. Then he asked that the matter be put on a future agenda.

The city is almost ready to seek bids for a contractor to build the long, winding walkway with a low wall, before its planned millennium dedication, City Manager Carl Schwing said. The park will honor people who have made civic contributions.

But it already has been controversial because individuals involved in past sexual harassment disputes at City Hall have been nominated.