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COUNCIL PASSES BUDGET, TAX RATE AFTER WEEKS OF ARGUING

KENNETH CITY

After weeks of arguing, it took less than five minutes Friday for the Kenneth City council to pass a final budget and tax rate.

The property tax rate for the 2014-15 fiscal year, which began Wednesday, will remain the same as last year's - about $4.76 per $1,000 of assessed, taxable real property. The vote was unanimous.

The budget itself - with about $2.1 million in operating expenses - passed 3-1, with Barbara Roberts dissenting. Town Council members had been deadlocked 2-2 over proposed raises for six town employees. The final budget contains a compromise of 6 percent raises for those six positions.

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CLEARWATER

Man is arrested in theft of storm grates from streets

Officers have arrested a man accused of stealing storm grates from the streets.

Last month, five storm grates, which cost the city $300 apiece and weigh about 100 pounds each, were stolen.

Johnathan Ray Lee, 31, tried selling the grates, valued at about $9 at recycling businesses for their cast iron, but could not prove he had legal ownership of them, police said.

He was arrested Thursday on charges of grand theft and dealing in stolen property.

Lee was booked into the Pinellas County jail, where he remained Friday afternoon in lieu of $12,000 bail.

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TAMPA

4 plead guilty to making, selling banned boat paint

Four Hillsborough County men have pleaded guilty to making and selling a boat paint that includes a banned chemical harmful to marine life, the U.S. Department of Justice said Friday.

The men worked for two companies that continued selling paint with the chemical after agreeing to phase out production by Dec. 1, 2005, authorities said. After the chemical was banned, Clearwater-based New Nautical Coatings Inc. continued selling the paint to Sea Hawk Refinish Line, which then lied to inspectors about when the paint was sold, officials said.

New Nautical Coatings faces a fine of up to $500,000 and five years of probation. Company president David Norrie, 46, faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Three other company members pleaded guilty to separate charges. They each face up to a year in prison and a $100,000 fine. Sea Hawk Refinish Line faces a fine of up to $200,000 and five years of probation.

Sentencing is set for Dec. 5.

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