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Pizza slices community into zones

"Pizza's here" may not sound like a cry for civil rights to some, but to residents of the Ridgecrest neighborhood near Largo, that pepperoni smells like victory.

Some pizza businesses don't deliver to areas where they fear drivers will be robbed or injured. The practice, called "redlining," has long been debated across the country. It has risen to the forefront often because redlined neighborhoods are predominantly black, and some residents point to the practice as a form of racial discrimination.

But those in the pizza business say race is not the issue. They are liable for their employees' safety and rely on local crime statistics and reports from drivers to determine which areas to serve. There were no deliveries to Ridgecrest as recently as February 2000.

As soon as crime rates started dropping, the chains slowly started making deliveries in Ridgecrest. Domino's Pizza started delivering in the neighborhood in August on a temporary basis until 10 p.m., then expanded to full-time service in November. Pizza Hut started delivering about a year ago.

"It's been good," said Charles Dixon, who once went to the nearby Pizza Hut with a video camera and asked employees to explain to him why they wouldn't deliver in his neighborhood. "They come day or night. They try to treat us equally now."

Suncoast Parkway stops

short of projections

BROOKSVILLE _ In late June, the Suncoast Parkway was attracting about 40 percent fewer riders per day than the daily average the state projected for its first year.

The Turnpike District of the state Department of Transportation anticipated that an average of 13,200 cars or trucks per day would pass through the Spring Hill toll plaza in northern Pasco County, said project spokeswoman Joanne Hurley. During a one-week test period in late June, the daily average was 7,700.

The forecast figure for the Anclote plaza in southern Pasco was 17,600; actual average ridership during the test was 10,500.

Authorities with the Turnpike District said the numbers are not as bad as they look. The projections assumed the entire 42-mile first phase would be in use, but the northern 10-mile stretch in Hernando County is still under construction. Also, those were yearly projections, they said, and summer months are slow.

Light blue with mural

is favored monotube

PINELLAS PARK _ We'll take our tube blue with a pretty picture on it, Pinellas Park residents have told the state's road agency.

The ungainly pipe that holds street signs and traffic lights was erected this spring as part of intersection improvements at 66th Street and Park Boulevard and has drawn unwanted attention for Pinellas Park.

Likened to an overhead sewer pipe, it has garnered few fans.

The state Department of Transportation, which owns the sewer-brown monotube that is meant to withstand a hurricane, held a public hearing and asked for votes on its Web site.

Light blue received the most support, 495 (or about 43 percent) of the 1,162 votes cast. Of 775 votes cast about a mural on the uprights, 491 (or 63 percent) want one.

Vitale Brothers Art Works has offered to paint a scene on the pipe for free if the state or Pinellas Park supplies the paint. The company's suggestions included lush greenery and a memorial to race car driver Dale Earnhardt.

City officials have said they would agree to painting the tube blue but would not want to have to maintain a mural.

Broadcasters shrug as Pasco

considers tennis stadium

WESLEY CHAPEL _ Saddlebrook Resort owner Tom Dempsey has tried to persuade Pasco County commissioners to finance a tennis stadium with the promise of a nationally televised tournament that would spotlight the county.

The Women's Tennis Association and Saddlebrook are hammering out a contract that is bringing its headquarters to Saddlebrook next year. The WTA also will sanction an annual "special event" to take place sometime during the November-December break in the women's tour.

Although the event would be scheduled during a break and wouldn't influence players' rankings, Dempsey promises to draw top talent with the lure of big prize money and television coverage.

But broadcasters said Thursday that both the timing and nature of the event thus far proposed would hurt its chances of being televised.

"It's very unlikely for us," Fox Sports Network spokesman Seth Palansky said of televising the Pasco tournament. "You've got hockey in full swing. The NBA. We carry a lot of college football and college basketball programming."

County Commissioner Ann Hildebrand questioned whether Pasco should spend millions without assurances of TV exposure. Nevertheless, she is "cautiously optimistic" about approving the tennis stadium.

Dempsey is pushing for a stadium vote as early as August. A majority of commissioners has supported the proposal.

In short

DUNEDIN _ If you think the minor-league Dunedin Blue Jays would be better served with a name like the Sand Fleas or the Tourist Traps, then pick up a contest entry blank at Dunedin Stadium or at local businesses. But if few people vote, there may be no change at all, the team says. Entries must be submitted by July 21.

CRYSTAL RIVER _ Jilted by its third city manager candidate, Crystal River is going back to the drawing board to advertise the job again. Candidates have been skittish when they find out there have been seven managers in the past decade.

CLEARWATER _ After a year running the city, Bill Horne can finally drop the "interim" from his title. In a 4-1 vote Tuesday, the Clearwater City Commission appointed Horne, a 52-year-old retired Air Force colonel who has been a city administrator for three years, to become Clearwater's new city manager.

CRYSTAL RIVER _ After years of discussion, the federal government is preparing a formal pitch to purchase Three Sisters Springs. If approved, the 57-acre acquisition would more than double the size of Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge and protect a vital habitat for endangered manatees.

CLEARWATER _ At the request of Sheriff Everett Rice, Pinellas County staff will study how other Florida counties have restricted escort services and lingerie studios. The sheriff says at least 100 escort services and another 50 lingerie studios are operating "out of control" in Pinellas County, creating a haven for prostitution, drugs and exploitation of teenage girls.

Coming up this week

A special election Tuesday to replace state Sen. Charlie Bronson of Osceola County has elections supervisors around the state watching. Osceola will be trying out an optical-scan voting system for the first time Tuesday, and Pinellas will be watching, as will Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, Hillsborough, Pasco and 34 other counties that are leaving their punch card pasts behind. Scanners catch the "overvotes" that plagued last November's presidential election. The Pinellas elections office plans to send some staffers there to observe how the machines are set up, how voting goes and how the votes are tallied.

The first phase of a $6-million renovation of Walls Springs Park, south of Tarpon Springs, opens Friday. It will offer shade and glimpses of Florida wildlife to cyclists and in-line skaters coming off the Pinellas Trail. Future phases will include picnic shelters, shell paths through the woods and perhaps fishing piers and a 35-foot observation tower overlooking Boggy Bayou.

_ Compiled by Times staff writer Sharon Kennedy Wynne

GOING, GOING: The picturesque fountain at the center of the Clearwater Beach roundabout, shown here during a traffic jam in February, might be replaced with a simple reflecting pool or a cluster of landscaping. City commissioners decided that to combat roundabout rage, the city will have to reconfigure it and start planning to demolish the $2.1-million fountain in the oval road's center. Commissioners said the roundabout overhaul will make it more obvious how drivers are supposed to navigate the roadway, which has become one of the county's most accident-prone intersections since opening in December 1999.