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    Week in review

    By Times staff writers
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published August 18, 2002


    Fireworks fight lights a few fuses

    PINELLAS PARK -- Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch has lit more than a few fuses by making the rampant use of illegal fireworks a topic of debate.

    Pinellas Park's City Council got into such verbal pyrotechnics last week that a resident called for a council member's resignation.

    Under current state law, most people can't set off any fireworks except sparklers. But the law allows vendors to sell them to people for a few specific jobs, such as mining or scaring away birds. Violators could get a year in jail or a $1,000 fine, but enforcement is rare.

    After enduring another July 4 with numerous illegal fireworks going off, Welch proposed that local officials help him lobby state legislators to tighten the law and enforce the current law.

    But when pressed by a resident in Pinellas Park, council member Rick Butler, who also sparred with the city's mayor over the issue, said he had "no interest," and that the state government that should deal with it.

    The resident, Charles Settgast, who was an elected official in Brevard County before moving to Pinellas Park, said, "You have to (have an interest) because I have, and it's public safety. If you don't have an interest, you should resign tonight."

    Butler's response: "Well, guess what? I'm not going to resign and I tell you again, I don't have an interest."

    Crystal River officials broke Sunshine Law, colleague says

    CRYSTAL RIVER -- Members of the Crystal River City Council have been accused by a colleague of discussing city business on personal time.

    Since council members Kitty Ebert, John Kendall, Bonnie Taylor and Mayor Ron Kitchen refused to consent to a city attorney investigation, fellow council member Susan Kirk, who said she witnessed the discussions, lodged a complaint with the State Attorney's Office.

    All four deny any wrongdoing.

    Kirk said the discussion ranged from party chitchat to serious discussions.

    In one instance, she said, Kendall approached her during a government seminar and said he believed Crystal River should follow other towns and give the City Council final say on certain zoning matters.

    "She never answered me, so there was never any conversation," Kendall said.

    Old addresses blamed for return of voter ID cards

    DADE CITY -- Though admittedly caught "off guard" when 20 percent of the voter ID cards sent out this year were returned as undeliverable, Pasco's supervisor of elections says the most common explanation is bad addresses.

    Kurt Browning, the supervisor of elections, was alarmed when about 50,000 voter ID cards were returned.

    While Browning sorted out the returns, Democratic congressional candidate Chuck Kalogianis made a plea for a criminal investigation.

    After a week of research by two companies that helped prepare the mass mailing, Browning said about half the cards were returned with bad addresses and another 35 percent were marked "temporarily away," meaning they were most likely winter residents.

    Browning said his office could run voter addresses through the National Change of Address database more frequently, but voters must take the initiative to keep records current.

    Deal gives Renaissance Festival one last year

    LARGO -- The Bay Area Renaissance Festival is out of the dungeon and gets to stay in Largo one more year.

    In a tentative deal reached by the festival and Largo officials, festival organizer Jim Peterson had to agree to six terms, including a requirement to publicly announce the end of the festival.

    On Wednesday, Peterson sent Stanton a letter saying he would accept the terms.

    The jousting knights and fair ladies of the Renaissance Festival have spent more than 20 years in Largo, but the city is ready to give it the heave-ho to make way for a $22-million library.

    Peterson responded by filing a breach of contract lawsuit. Since then, he has scouted new property for his show in Hernando and Pasco counties. The extra year will give him time to find a new site, he said.

    Tampa Bay Winery sues landlord over mold

    DUNEDIN -- A fledgling winery, forced to order a precautionary recall over mold concerns, is suing its landlord over the possibility that deadly mold spores were breeding in the attic and walls.

    Tampa Bay Winery recalled all wine produced and sold by owner Arnie Zweban of Palm Harbor earlier this month. The winery's technique uses imported grape concentrates to create wines in 60 to 90 days. It is unclear how many bottles were sold and how many were returned, but the lawsuit says 9,000 bottles were produced since fall 2001.

    Indoor mold issues are not regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency or the state Health Department. Health officials said it is possible, but extremely rare, for mold spores to infect open wine vats.

    The winery started selling wines in June. Now, a handwritten sign attached to the door says the winery is closed.

    The winery filed a lawsuit against Mary Ann Nezis, 52, the owner of the strip mall at 1350 Main St., seeking a minimum of $215,000 in restitution for the loss of business because of the mold infestation that led to the extensive product recall and future attorneys fees.

    In short . . .

    NEW PORT RICHEY -- Not only are classes crowded, but school buses in two fast-growing areas of Pasco County have been so packed during the opening days of school that some students have been forced to stand in the aisles -- a serious safety breach. The school district wants to add up to four new routes, but says there is no money right now. Until the problem is corrected, drivers of crowded buses are being instructed to drive slower.

    LARGO -- Rising malpractice and insurance costs for obstetricians have prompted Largo Medical Center to stop delivering babies by the end of this year. The hospital's "Baby Place" will close Dec. 1.

    Coming up this week

    The state's death penalty is under scrutiny again. The Florida Supreme Court will hear arguments on constitutionality of Florida's death penalty Wednesday in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision that Arizona's statute was unconstitutional because it allowed judges, not juries, to impose death.

    Those commuting on the Sunshine Skyway bridge next week might want to wait until later in the morning to cross or make sure to beat the nightly lane closing. On Monday, both southbound lanes of the Skyway bridge are scheduled to be closed from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. for joint replacement work. On Tuesday, the Skyway operation will shift to the northbound lanes. During the full closure, northbound and southbound traffic will alternate across the bridge.

    -- Compiled by Times staff writer Sharon Kennedy Wynne

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