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Nonprofit pharmacy "swamped'

A Pinellas County social service agency that had opened a nonprofit pharmacy for seniors got a slow start when it opened Jan. 5.

But now that word is spreading that discount drugs are available, the place is swamped.

Scores of prospective customers have called or visited the Palm Harbor pharmacy after a story appeared about it in Saturday's St. Petersburg Times.

Now the head of the agency that created it is thinking about expanding delivery of low-cost prescription drugs, perhaps to Pasco County.

"I didn't really think there was such an outfit as this," said Bill Hoth, who is taking a drug for prostate cancer that he has been paying about $400 for at Walgreens. At Neighborly, it costs about $350, he said. "This is the most wonderful thing that has happened."

Pharmacist Gaston Bedard estimated the pharmacy received hundreds of calls.

"He is swamped," said Debra Shade, president and chief executive officer of Neighborly Care Network, the nonprofit agency that runs the pharmacy. "He can't stay off the phone. We have four lines and I can't get in."

The pharmacy is using volunteers to help seniors apply to drugmakers for free or low-priced prescription drugs sometimes made available to certain patients, Shade said, and it hopes to add more pharmacists.

School panel wants

Blume novel off shelves

BROOKSVILLE _ A committee of community members and school district employees is recommending that the Judy Blume novel Deenie be removed from elementary school shelves in Hernando County.

After 45 minutes of deliberation Thursday, the narrowly divided seven-member panel deemed the 30-year-old story about a seventh-grade girl dealing with scoliosis as more appropriate for children in higher grades.

The recommendation came more than four months after a Spring Hill Elementary School parent complained that the book contained sexually explicit passages, especially relating to masturbation.

"To me, it's not a matter of censorship. It's a matter of parental control . . . and also a matter of appropriateness," Jerri Trammel told the committee Thursday. "This was not the time I wanted to talk about masturbation (with her 10-year-old daughter). Maybe in a year or two, but not now."

Next, the School Board will have to decide whether to follow its committee's recommendation.

Westside Elementary media specialist Kathleen East, for instance, observed that the book's fourth-grade reading level does not necessarily correlate with its maturity level. The protagonist is 13, she noted, and it is quite likely that Blume intended the book for readers of that age group, who are experiencing the same concerns about growing up.

The School Board has not scheduled its debate on the issue. Until the School Board acts, policy requires that the book remain available.

Clean up your mess,

Weeki Wachee told

BROOKSVILLE _ Florida's smallest city is one big mess, according to legislators.

To ensure the Weeki Wachee mess gets no worse, however, Hernando County's representatives in Tallahassee agreed Wednesday to introduce a bill that would put a 3-mill cap on Weeki Wachee's tax rate and end the city's ability to annex or condemn property.

The legislation would also strip the city of the power to run its own elections, giving that instead to the Hernando County supervisor of elections. Under the bill, the Hernando County clerk of court would oversee the city's finances.

Hernando's four-member legislative delegation made it clear to Mayor Robyn Anderson and city attorney Joe Mason that Weeki Wachee is fortunate to be avoiding the death penalty.

In the past eight months, Weeki Wachee doubled its tax rate, generated nearly $300,000 in legal debts and launched a $53-million lawsuit seeking to condemn Florida Water utilities in Spring Hill.

Anderson _ who doubles as the general manager of the Weeki Wachee Springs tourist attraction _ vowed that Weeki Wachee's City Commission would try to put its house in order and the city would never again get involved in any sort of utility takeover bid.

Elections supervisors say

printers not needed for ballots

CLEARWATER _ Two bay area elections supervisors were quizzed on the need for a paper receipt for computerized touch screen voting machines. Their vote: It's unnecessary.

In Pinellas, supervisor Deborah Clark said in a County Commission workshop the county's system provides an electronic audit report that could be used in manual recounts.

On the same day Clark spoke, Pasco County Supervisor of Elections Kurt Browning told his County Commission the same thing: Printed receipts are expensive and unnecessary.

"I don't think our county needs to be paying additional money to upgrade our systems that are already certified and already work," Browning said.

Clark said the Sequoia company is developing a printer that would work with the voting machines Pinellas bought and approved, but it won't be ready by November. Buying enough of them would be costly, she said.

To outfit the 3,800 voting machines in Pinellas, Clark figured it would cost $2.5-million, then paper and additional poll workers would add about $50,000 to each election.

Fences make good neighbors? It depends on which side

LARGO _ As Largo city commissioners considered revising its development code a key question stalled the process: Namely, should the good side face in or out?

A couple of the commission members adamantly opposed a change that would require the finished side of fences to face neighboring properties.

Both Mayor Bob Jackson and Commissioner Pat Burke have personal stakes in the matter.

"In April, it will be 30 years that my stockade fence has been up," Jackson said. "The good side has always faced me."

And Burke couldn't see the sense of shelling out money for the fence to get a mediocre view.

"You're going to put a $10,000 fence up, and you're going to put the good side of your fence toward your neighbor? I don't think so," Burke said.

But neighbors on the other side of the fence have qualms, too, city staffers said, often getting into heated arguments.

Planning manager Peter Pensa said he has received a couple of dozen calls a year about the issue.

To avoid a ruckus, officials decided to discuss fences later.

In short . . .

+ DADE CITY _ Pasco County commissioners joined the party and rolled back alcohol sales to 11 a.m., just as a number of other bay area communities have recently done. Pasco will allow Sunday alcohol sales at country clubs, restaurants, bars and liquor stores to start at 11 a.m. instead of 1 p.m.

+ TARPON SPRINGS _ It has been more than a year since the last gambling cruise sailed out of Tarpon Springs, but last week city officials cleared the way for a new casino boat to cast off at the Sponge Docks. Pensacola lawyer Charles Liberis plans to launch a gambling boat business in March.

Coming up this week

+ Johnny Robinson, 51, is scheduled to be executed Wednesday for the kidnapping, rape and murder of a Plant City woman 19 years ago in North Florida. Beverly St. George was traveling from Plant City to Virginia in August 1985 when her car broke down on the interstate and Robinson stopped, seemingly to help.

+ An original copy of the Declaration of Independence will be on display at River Ridge Middle/High School in Pasco County on Friday from 10:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. as part of a school-based voter awareness campaign, Kids Vote Tampa Bay.

_ Compiled by Times staff writer Sharon Kennedy Wynne

CHAIN SAW ART: Winter regulars Jeff Doane, left, and Jerry Dawson, right, hold the wings while Erv Doane uses a chain saw on a wooden eagle sculpture along State Road 44 east of Crystal River on Thursday. Erv Doane and his wife, Holli, own Tree Art Chainsaw Carving and employ son Jeff and Dawson. The group spends summers in Pigeon Forge, Tenn. "It seems like each season I evolve and learn more," said Dawson, who has been carving since 1983. "I started out with a pocketknife and just whittled. I switched my pocketknife for a chain saw in 1989."

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