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    Metro week in review

    By Times staff writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published April 7, 2002


    Scallop ban to be lifted on July 1

    CRYSTAL RIVER -- Get ready to melt some butter, scallop fans, because the ban on plucking the tasty bivalve from North Suncoast waters is about to be lifted.

    Beginning July 1, scallops are fair game from Aripeka in Pasco County north to the Mexico Beach Canal, near Gulf County in the Panhandle. The season runs through Sept. 10.

    But this is for fun only. Commercial harvesting remains banned.

    Recreational harvesters are limited to 2 gallons of scallops in the shell, or 1 pint of meat, per day. No more than 10 gallons of whole scallops, or a half-gallon of meat, may be aboard a boat at any time.

    The ban had been in place since 1995, after the population took a nosedive.

    What drove this remarkable turnaround is unclear, but some researchers attribute it to the ban or a restocking effort.

    Renaissance Festival told to ride off into sunset

    LARGO -- The Renaissance is history -- at least in Largo.

    Despite the popular festival's 23-year run in the city, commissioners voted Tuesday to terminate the remaining three years of the city's five-year contract with Bay Area Renaissance Festival owner Jim Peterson.

    Don't think of it as an end of an era, but as the beginning of construction for the proposed $22-million library that is slated for adjacent property, city officials said. The library is "incompatible" with the parking demands of the festival, City Manager Steve Stanton said.

    "So many people in the past said without the Renaissance Festival, Largo is nothing," said Stanton, who called the back-to-back decisions "symbolic."

    "The decision to go forward with the library and say the Renaissance Festival is a thing of the past showed the library would be the vision of the future."

    Ex-administrator lands new job, parting shot

    BROOKSVILLE -- Only a week after parting ways with the County Commission, Hernando County's former administrator, Paul McIntosh, landed another job offer and got off a parting shot.

    McIntosh was unanimously selected Tuesday to become the new chief administrative officer for Butte County, Calif.

    Contract terms have not been set, but if he ends up in the job in northern California, Hernando County will not have to pay for McIntosh's insurance benefits for the next six months, which would save about $13,000.

    In a farewell memo to county employees last week, McIntosh announced his "resignation," which came just days after he won a six-month severance package in exchange for his promise not to sue the county for any reason.

    In his letter, McIntosh attacked his predecessor, Bonnie Dyga, as having left behind a staff that was intimidated and afraid to make decisions. McIntosh also blamed newspapers for his increasingly bad reputation.

    "To maintain my integrity to my family and myself, I chose not to play this game," he wrote.

    Commissioners decided to part ways with the administrator after four months of controversy and inquiry over purchasing, personnel management and gift-taking issues. Inquiries found McIntosh legally in the right, but he had become a political liability.

    Risque business on public access channel gets attention

    TAMPA -- A Hillsborough County commissioner wants to pull the plug on a public access television station that aired closeups of a showering woman's genitals and other women exposing themselves in a parade.

    County Commissioner Ronda Storms says The Happy Show crosses the line from simple nudity to obscenity, a case she made to prosecutors.

    She also wants her colleagues on the commission to consider cutting off the station's funding.

    Speak Up Tampa Bay, a nonprofit group, runs the public access station with the help of $355,000 annually from the county that comes in part from a tax on cable television bills. It also gets money from Tampa, but would be forced to close or scale back its operation without the county money.

    Gregory Koss, the executive director for Speak Up Tampa Bay, said the station runs an advisory on the hour after 10 p.m. about adult material. Most explicit shows run after 11 p.m., which is when The Happy Show aired.

    Koss said he risks being accused of prior restraint if he screens shows before they air.

    Support for tennis stadium starting to ebb

    ZEPHYRHILLS -- The dream of a $6-million public tennis stadium coming to Pasco County appears to be getting caught in a net of questions about financing.

    The Women's Tennis Association had seriously considered putting its international headquarters at Wesley Chapel's Saddlebrook Resort, where owners were pushing for a top-flight tennis stadium built with tourist tax money.

    With momentum building for a stadium, county officials were caught off guard when the WTA announced recently it would rather place its executives in a city such as Los Angeles or Atlanta, where they can tap potential corporate sponsors for women's tennis.

    "The environment for this thing to flourish looks less and less likely," county Commissioner Steve Simon said Monday.

    But some, such as Commissioner Pete Altman, had a positive take on the WTA's announcement, saying Pasco will lose WTA executives, but will flourish as a training ground for tennis stars, keeping the stadium plans viable.

    In short . . .

    Organizers of Cease Fire Tampa Bay will focus on free locks, public relations and safety classes now that interest has waned in the group's gun buyback program. Almost 7,000 guns were turned in over four years in Pinellas, Pasco, Polk, Manatee and Sarasota counties. But only 1,110 guns were collected from six counties during the Sept. 15 buyback last year.

    BROOKSVILLE -- Hundreds of friends and statewide dignitaries paid their respects at the funeral of Alfred McKethan, a small-town banker who wielded considerable power from the 1940s through the mid '60s, when the most powerful men in the state came from towns similar to Brooksville. Rural lawmakers -- the so-called "Pork Chop Gang" -- controlled the state by controlling the legislative districts. And many of these lawmakers were McKethan's close friends.

    ST. PETERSBURG -- A veterinarian has urged the city to investigate after he treated about eight dogs for giardiasis, an intestinal disease caused by parasitic protozoa that can infect both dogs and people. Only one thing has surfaced so far to connect them: All of the canines spend time at the dog park at Crescent Lake. The veterinarian, Dr. Mark Scribano, cautioned dog owners not to be overly concerned. He said many dogs come into contact with giardia, or even host the parasite, without being affected.

    Coming up this week

    Unless Gov. Jeb Bush's temper cools, lawmakers may be hauled back to Tallahassee for another special session next week. State lawmakers ended their special session Friday without doing the one thing the governor called them back to the Capitol to do: rewrite the Florida school code. A fight over religion in schools erupted in the Senate, which refused for the second time in two weeks to pass the mammoth school code rewrite.

    The Festival of States festivities wind through St. Petersburg next week. On Tuesday, the illuminated night parade makes its way down Bayshore Drive at 8 p.m., with fireworks at 9:15. Then on Saturday, the big Festival of States parade takes place from 10 a.m. to noon featuring 68 units, including the Indianapolis Police Motorcycle Drill Team and the U.S. Naval Academy Drum and Bugle Corps.

    -- Compiled by Times staff writer Sharon Kennedy Wynne

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