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Pasco hopes to reroute pipeline path

Pasco County commissioners decided to step on the gas line, voting formally last week to oppose plans for a natural gas pipeline to cross 46 miles of its turf.

Despite the setback, the Buccaneer pipeline, in partnership with Duke Energy, plans to move forward with its application before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

As proposed, the 36-inch transmission line would cross the Gulf of Mexico, come ashore at the Anclote River and cross 46 miles of Pasco through Holiday, New Port Richey, Odessa, Land O'Lakes, Wesley Chapel and Zephyrhills.

Pasco officials have suggested that Williams shift the route north to avoid heavily populated areas or consider making landfall farther down the Gulf coast.

Construction on the $1.5-billion pipeline is scheduled to start in January. If it is completed on time, gas would begin flowing along its 674-mile course from Mobile, Ala., to Cape Canaveral in April 2002.

On heels of scandal, YMCA

makes call for donations

ST. PETERSBURG _ Volunteers last week started calling members to raise $400,000 for a new headquarters for the St. Petersburg Family YMCA's campaign, but the timing may have been unfortunate.

The fundraising comes soon after an outreach director in the Lealman area was charged earlier in the week with sexually assaulting two girls and fondling a third.

About $7.6-million has been raised toward building the new Y in the Central Plaza area, with an $11-million goal.

"It's a concern how everybody is going to react to the YMCA," said Doug Linder, the Y's president and CEO.

"I hope they react that this can happen to any organization, that people will realize that the Y does a whole lot of good things, and hopefully let the Y deal with this and get past it. We've still got well over a hundred people who love and care for kids here," Linder said.

Appeals court restores

Pinellas Park's curfew

PINELLAS PARK _ Lights out, kids. Pinellas Park's curfew will soon be back in business.

An appeals court reinstated the city's curfew on Wednesday, saying it did not unconstitutionally interfere with parents' rights to raise their children.

The city's interest in curbing juvenile crime outweighs any right parents may have to let their children be away from home late at night, the 2nd District Court of Appeal ruled. The need to stem juvenile crime also outweighs any right children may have to be outside at night.

The decision opens the way for Pinellas Park to again enforce the curfew, which generally forbids any youth younger than 18 from being in public without an adult from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. on weekdays and from midnight to 6 a.m. on weekends and holidays.

But the legal battle will continue. The American Civil Liberties Union plans to appeal the 2-1 decision.

While Pinellas Park's curfew was quickly attacked in court, other cities with curfews like it were able to keep enforcing them. That especially irked Pinellas Park officials.

"They were never challenged and they've been imposing theirs right along," said Mayor Bill Mischler. "That seemed very strange that they never challenged theirs."

Wackenhut prison project

locked out of Hernando

BROOKSVILLE _ Hernando County Commissioner Bobbi Mills dangled a white sink stopper on a chain before her Tuesday as the commission pulled the plug on an effort to put a federal prison near the Hernando County Airport.

"I didn't think this was a plus for the community, and I still don't," said Mills, who, along with Commissioner Pat Novy, consistently opposed the low-security facility proposed by Wackenhut Corrections Corp.

Their three colleagues joined them in a unanimous withdrawal of a petition that sought a rezoning for the prison.

Commissioners said they were influenced by news reports, including 60 Minutes II, that detailed problems at Wackenhut prisons in Texas and Louisiana.

The company had argued that building the 1,500-bed, low-security prison on 74 acres at the county airport would bring high-paying jobs into the area with minimal risk.

But Wackenhut balked at the $1.8-million in water and sewer connection fees, and Hernando was offering no financial incentives to the company.

Clearwater ready to hand

downtown plan to voters

CLEARWATER _ The voters of Clearwater this summer will get their say over a sweeping downtown redevelopment plan valued at $200-million to $300-million.

And the opposing camps have already begun to form.

A group called Save the Bayfront, which has been critical of the proposed long-term leases and of commercial redevelopment of the city's downtown land, handed out glossy fliers at Thursday's City Commission meeting.

At the same packed meeting, a rival political committee, Citizens for a Better Clearwater, waved grass-green signs urging people to vote yes for the downtown plan.

The proposed downtown plan _ now to be decided in a July 11 referendum _ would create 1,200 new dwelling units, a multiplex cinema, more retail shops, more park space, new restaurants, a hotel with meeting space and at least three new downtown parking garages.

The package would require the city to lease some of its waterfront land to developers George de Guardiola and David Frisbie of West Palm Beach for $1 a year for up to 99 years.

Largo police chief laments

Explorer scandal's growth

LARGO _ Police officers will no longer be allowed to ride in their vehicles with members of the youth Explorers program who are of the opposite sex, Largo police Chief Jerry Bloechle told the City Commission last week.

The new rule was made in the wake of a report that revealed a handful of police officers had inappropriate relationships with youth Explorers for several years in the 1990s.

Bloechle has been criticized by city officials and some residents in recent weeks for his handling of the situation. The chief acknowledged he erred last year by not thoroughly investigating claims made in a suicide note from Officer John Ferraro that other officers were having relationships with Explorers.

On Tuesday, Bloechle said he decided not to conduct a full-blown investigation because many officers were distraught after Ferraro's suicide, saying the department was in "crisis." Bloechle said another factor in not further investigating was his belief that there were not enough specifics in Ferraro's suicide note.

Still, Bloechle admitted he should have investigated the matter further.

"If I had it to do over again, hindsight being 20-20, I would do it differently," he said.

Coming up this week

+ A proposed light rail or monorail system for Pinellas County clings to life. The plan calls for a rail system that would take residents and tourists from downtown Clearwater down the west side of the county and across the south end into St. Petersburg. Planners estimate it could range from $10-million to $100-million per mile. A second public hearing will be Monday at the Sunshine Center in St. Petersburg.

+ Monday is the deadline for private schools to register to participate in the state program to give tuition vouchers to children in failing schools. When the original May 1 deadline passed, only 80 private schools had registered to accept voucher students. Education Commissioner Tom Gallagher extended the deadline, and a voucher advocacy group pumped $2-million into incentive programs for private schools.

STUDENTS PROTEST CHANGE: About 40 Withlacoochee Technical Institute students on Monday showed their opposition to Citrus County school Superintendent Pete Kelly's decision not to reappoint longtime WTI director Steve Kinard. Kelly and Kinard differed over Kelly's plan to make WTI a charter school affiliated with Central Florida Community College. Students feared turning the school over to CFCC would have driven all the high school students out. After the protest, Kelly said he did not talk with the students and will not change his mind about Kinard who, as a tenured educator, is assured a teaching job.

_ Compiled by Times staff writer Sharon Kennedy Wynne