Education may be its own reward, but Citrus County students have a little more incentive now: a chance to win cash and a new car for near-perfect attendance.
It all started last week when Crystal Motor Car Co. announced it would offer financial incentives _ including a chance at a new vehicle _ to high school students who have perfect or near-perfect attendance this school year.
Then Linda Van Allen, owner of Van Allen-Clifford Insurance Agency, said Wednesday that her company will chip in $4,000 for the effort.
There will be four drawings for cash at each school throughout the year and a final drawing for the car or truck on May 27.
Students who miss four days or fewer the first nine weeks will be entered into a drawing where eight winners at each school will receive a $25 cash prize.
The prizes get bigger as the school year progresses. Nine weeks later, the students with the best attendance will be eligible for $50, then $75 and finally $100 and a chance to win a vehicle at the end of the school year.
Tumultuous run ends as
Hernando administrator quits
BROOKSVILLE _ In a move that stunned county government staffers, Hernando County Administrator Bonnie Dyga announced Wednesday she will resign effective Oct. 10, ending her sometimes tumultuous tenure after barely a year and a half in office.
Dyga, the county's first female administrator, has been hired as assistant city manager in Port St. Lucie, a city north of Palm Beach with a population of 83,000.
In her short time on the job, she has left an imprint on Hernando government: She reorganized the bureaucracy to improve efficiency, raised many workers' wages to bring them in line with those in comparable counties and delivered slight cuts in property tax rates two years in a row.
But she never clicked with two commissioners: chairwoman Pat Novy and Bobbi Mills. Her relations with Novy reached a low in June, when a rumor spread that Novy wanted to fire her and when Novy publicly questioned Dyga's handling of county finances.
Dyga admitted to the St. Petersburg Times in June that she had considered stepping down.
"I never felt secure in this job," she said at the time. "I think it's a very harsh environment for an administrator. There is a lot of micromanagement."
The search for Dyga's successor is expected to last several months.
Cities see traffic signs
as a bright idea
CLEARWATER _ The what-street-was-that? challenge is diminishing thanks to new, internally lit signs designed as beacons amid the gray urban landscape.
The signs, which hang from metal mast arms rather than wire, are replacing traditional metal signs in Pinellas County because traffic planners believe drivers will have an easier time finding streets, especially in poor weather or unfamiliar territory.
Clearwater, Largo and St. Petersburg are having the lights installed as part of their own projects as well as in conjunction with the state Department of Transportation.
In St. Petersburg, transportation and parking director Angelo Rao said within the next few years, the signs will be visible along most of 34th Street and parts of Tyrone Boulevard.
"They are aesthetically better, and with more of a senior community, there is a huge impact as far as visibility goes," Rao said.
Pasco moves to put
limits on nude dancing
NEW PORT RICHEY _ No nudes is good news, neighborhood activists have said in urging the Pasco County Commission to put strict limits on adult businesses.
With a court reporter paid for by a club owner typing away, the commission obliged last week and introduced an ordinance that would essentially force all the adult clubs, bookstores, lingerie modeling shops and massage parlors that dot U.S. 19 and surrounding streets in Hudson to close or relocate within one year.
Nude dancing is protected under the First Amendment but is subject to governmental regulation. For example, local governments can restrict the clubs to certain kinds of zoning, such as industrial parks, and revoke their alcohol licenses.
Pasco's proposed ordinance would require all clubs that feature nude or seminude dancing to stop serving alcohol and move to industrial parks. Immediately upon adoption of the ordinance, existing clubs would have to make a choice between alcohol or nude and seminude dancers. The clubs would then have 30 days to get a license to operate and one year to move to an area zoned highly industrial, of which there are 75 parcels in the county.
But the commission will have a fight on its hands.
"We're preparing for a challenge," said attorney Luke Lirot, who has made a name for himself representing Tampa nude-dance club king Joe Redner. With his new client, Calendar Girls owner Jim Dato, Lirot called the county's ordinance "a thinly veiled attempt" to put the adult entertainment bars along U.S. 19 in Hudson out of business _ a move he said could cost the county an untold amount of money if a business owner sues.
Fishing boat ban
wins, despite plea
BROOKSVILLE _ Anglers came up empty again last week after the Hernando County Commission voted 3-2 to uphold a ban on large commercial fishing boats from docking behind residential properties in Hernando Beach.
The issue has divided the coastal community, where fishermen complain that moneyed newcomers are forcing them out of business.
But members of the Hernando Beach Property Owners Association, which spearheaded efforts to oust commercial boats from residential areas, argued the boats devalue neighboring properties.
Supporters of the commercial fishing industry wore yellow ribbons and turned out in force, filling the seats on one side of the room and standing along the walls in the back.
But a last-ditch effort failed to grandfather in the existing boats larger than 26 feet, which will be banned from docking behind residential properties.
Those fishermen whose boats were docked behind residences before June 8 will be given a year to either move to commercial dock areas or clear out.
Coming up this week
+ The first public hearing on Tampa Bay Water's plan to build smaller desalination plants around Pinellas County will be Tuesday at the Long Center in Clearwater at 5:30 p.m. The next hearing will be Thursday at Dixie Hollins High School in St. Petersburg at 5:30 p.m. The move is an attempt rehabilitate the image of Pinellas as a water hog. The plan involves developing four desalination plants within the county's borders, little siblings of the big facility planned for southern Hillsborough. The four small plants, for which locations have not been selected, would convert brackish water to drinking water, a simpler, less-expensive process than the conversion of seawater.
+ The public will get a chance to have a say about what St. Petersburg should do with Sunken Garden when it comes under city ownership next month. A task force meeting starts at 4 p.m., with a public forum beginning at 6 p.m. in Room 100 in City Hall, 175 Fifth St. N. So far, the mayor's task force on the subject has heard proposals for a rain forest, a butterfly garden, a bonsai center, a model Seminole Indian village, a hands-on children's museum, a laboratory for digital imaging, a puppet theater, an auto museum, Science Center workshops, Save Our Seabirds, or a simple botanical garden run by the city. After hearing from the public, the task force will narrow the list of possibilities and ask the council for money for a consultant who will study market feasibility. The task force hopes to present the council with a recommendation for the gardens' future in three or four months.
CAUTION: TOUGH GUY AHEAD: Citrus County sheriff's Deputy Thomas Beagan, right, voted Florida's Toughest Cop the past three years, is interviewed Wednesday by WTVT-Ch. 13 near a sign proclaiming his achievements at the Citrus-Hernando line on County Road 491. "I don't go around saying I'm the baddest or anything. I think people respect that more," said Beagan, who also said he is somewhat embarrassed by the attention.
_ Compiled by Times staff writer Sharon Kennedy Wynne.