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APOLOGIES ASIDE, RULES ARE RULES

Here is the first part of the story.

Nine South Carolina firefighters die in a burning warehouse. A Pasco firefighter, Capt. David Garofalo, goes to Charleston on his own dime, leaves department-issued polo shirt on a makeshift memorial, gets reprimand for giving away county property, fears he'll be fired, asks Charleston fire officials to mail the shirt back. They do.

Firefighters across the nation read about the incident on a newspaper Web site. They are furious. Pasco County fire Chief Anthony Lopinto told the Times on Tuesday he plans to ask acting Assistant Chief Mike Ciccarello, the man who gave the reprimand, to call Charleston's chief and explain himself.

"We're just sorry that it happened," Lopinto said.

Garofalo's reprimand still stands, however. "There has to be some accountability," Lopinto said.

LARGO

Commission says no to deep budget cuts

The City Commission voted Tuesday night to override a state law mandating property tax cuts next year, making it one of just a handful of communities to do so.

Using a little-known provision in the law that the Legislature approved this year, a super majority of the commissioners, 5 of 7, voted to stave off the deep cuts during a special meeting, saying they think residents want services more than a tax break.

City commissioners approved a maximum property tax rate lower than the current rate, but higher than state requirements that reduce city property tax collections 9 percent.

Most commissioners said they still intend to reduce the tax rate more.

The tax rate approved Tuesday night would bring in about $1.2-million more than the state-mandated rate.

Elsewhere

RESERVOIR WOES: The sinking earth has caused costs to jump $5.6-million for a Pasco County reservoir demanded by Florida regulators. The county has to build a 20-acre reservoir southeast of U.S. 41 and Ehren Cutoff to store unused reclaimed water. But as workers began building the earthen walls for the Land O'Lakes reservoir, small holes broke open on the reservoir bottom.

PROPERTY PURCHASE? Five months after Dunedin city commissioners rejected a development plan for a piece of downtown waterfront property, city leaders are now exploring whether to buy the land. At issue is the property housing Bon Appetit restaurant and Best Western hotel. The asking price: $4.6-million, according to a city memo. That price would include, apparently, honoring the remaining 38-year lease for the restaurant and hotel.

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