© St. Petersburg Times, published June 9, 2002
Parent seeks set of rules for coaches
INVERNESS -- While the antics of a hard-driving coach make for great movies, one Citrus County parent says it's time the School Board established a code of conduct for coaches and other participants in athletic events to prevent abusive conduct.
Rodney Wilburn, whose son Michael played varsity baseball at Citrus High School this year, cited an instance at Citrus High when baseball coach Brady Bogart punished the entire team by making them run sprints for nearly two hours.
Two students passed out and four vomited, Wilburn claims. Wilburn said his son eventually blacked out.
Bogart would not comment on the incident, saying there were "legal circumstances."
Wilburn also cited another incident in which Crystal River High coach Brent Hall allegedly conducted a Christmas morning practice and forced athletes to run until they were sick.
Hall denied that the incident occurred and said he would never run his students to the point of making them ill.
"This is absolutely not true," Hall said. "We don't do bad things to children."
Wilburn requested to speak before the School Board on Tuesday to air his concerns and discuss his proposal.
NEW PORT RICHEY -- Despite pleas from parents and students who weren't allowed to march across the graduation stage because they didn't meet state requirements, the Pasco County School Board held its ground: Only true graduates can participate in commencement ceremonies.
But as a consolation, the district will redouble its efforts to make sure seniors are well prepared to pass the state's graduation exam.
The school district used to allow all seniors to march across the graduation stage regardless of whether they had earned a diploma. The board changed that policy in 1998.
Even with the new efforts, board members said they expect to get an earful from parents next summer when they discover their children won't be graduating on schedule.
"Even with all of this, we're still going to have kids who don't pass," said board member Marge Whaley. ". . . We can't fix everybody."
DADE CITY -- Skateboarding in downtown Dade City is popular, but illegal.
Jesus Calderon, 16, knows all about that. He's gotten 11 tickets from police so far.
"And arrested once," he said. In an attempt to create a public skatepark that would be so popular, teens wouldn't be tempted to bounce off downtown's array of benches, stairs, curbs and handrails, planners met with baggy-pants skaters for design ideas last week.
Using finger-size models, a Rep Services Inc. dealer met with skateboarders to find out what they want.
"We take what they give us," Rep Services Inc. dealer Carl Sagro said. "We let them compromise, then we go back and try to combine all those ideas."
Dade City crews already have repaved a parking lot on the east side of City Hall and plan to put up a fence around it for a temporary skate park.
Eventually, the city aims to join with Pasco County to build a larger, permanent skatepark. The cost of a permanent park won't be known until the city commits to a size, but Sagro said a park he worked on in Flagler County cost about $180,000, while a park he's working on for Spring Hill is expected to cost about $250,000.
WEEKI WACHEE -- The construction drawings used last year to build twin waterslides at Weeki Wachee Springs are so flawed, a state engineering panel said, that they "pose a serious threat to the health and safety of the public."
Citing more than two dozen deficiencies in the plans, the Florida Board of Professional Engineers has charged the slides' designer, Brooksville engineer Anthony Pedonesi, with six counts of negligence.
Despite those findings, Weeki Wachee general manager Michael Jacobs said Tuesday that he would not shut down the slide.
"I've got two separate engineers' reports sitting on my desk that state that the slide is completely safe," he said. "And they've come out and inspected the slide and looked it all over."
Pedonesi called the allegations "irresponsible" and said the engineering regulators didn't see design details that were developed as construction progressed.
The two slides were created from one 50-foot-high slide purchased last year from a Texas broker and shipped to Weeki Wachee, Pedonesi said.
They were bought to boost attendance at Buccaneer Bay, which, at its peak, has attendance of about 4,000 people per day.
TAMPA -- A site that once figured in Tampa's plans to lure the new Florida A&M University law school two years ago will now house a branch of Stetson University College of Law.
The old Tampa Heights police station was demolished and would have made room for FAMU, which ultimately opted for Orlando.
Now Stetson is finalizing plans to build a three-story, 63,000-square-foot expansion campus on the site.
As many as 90 students will enroll at the Tampa campus during its first year, Stetson spokesman Frank Klim said. Stetson's law school, which was founded in 1900 and is located in Gulfport, is the state's oldest law school.
TAMPA -- Tampa Mayor Dick Greco announced Wednesday the formation of the Host Committee for Tampa-St. Petersburg's bid for the 2004 Republican National Convention, scheduled to take place Aug. 30 to Sept. 2, 2004. The committee will need $65-million to prepare for the 20,000 people expected to come. The GOP will announce finalist cities in August. A final decision will be made Feb. 1, 2003.
PALM HARBOR -- Pinellas County commissioners voted unanimously to pay $21.4-million for the largest tract of undeveloped gulf-front land in Pinellas. The 88-acre Palm Harbor property owned by the McMullen family is part salt marsh, part sand ridge and home to gopher tortoises, fox squirrels and an host of wading birds. Commissioners haven't decided how to use the land, but it will be some mix of park and environmental preserve.
TAMPA -- A federal judge allowed convicted tax evader Bernice V. Edwards to remain free on $25,000 bail Wednesday pending the outcome of a hearing on allegations that she violated her probation. Edwards, a one-time aide to the Rev. Henry Lyons and former publicist for his National Baptist Convention USA, allegedly posed as the minister of a church to buy $6,000 in furniture for an apartment she fraudulently leased in someone else's name. Authorities said she also failed to regularly pay her $120 a month in restitution for back taxes.
With residents upset over plans for affordable apartment complexes in Brooksville, planners found there were no standards to guide the design of multifamily developments. On Monday, the new designs rules will be discussed at the city's planning and zoning commission meeting.
The statue of an American Revolutionary War hero is expected to arrive next week. The likeness of Polish Brig. Gen. Thaddeus Kosciuszko will be installed at Williams Park in downtown St. Petersburg. The statue, one of the largest gifts the city has received, is being donated by the local American Institute of Polish Culture, which raised $120,000 to pay for the statue and its installation.