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    Metro week in review

    By Times staff writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published September 8, 2002

    Police seek logo deal to pay for new patrol cars

    DADE CITY -- Officers, start your engines.

    Under a concept more familiar to NASCAR racing than government service, Dade City police are looking for a sponsorship deal that would pay for new police cars in exchange for placing the sponsor's logo on the cars.

    Ken Allison, managing partner of Government Acquisitions LLC, says he is optimistic about the possibilities and banking on his years in marketing and arranging sponsorships on the NASCAR circuit.

    Allison said the example of Mooresville, N.C., led to the idea. The city, situated in NASCAR country, looked to Allison for ideas on whether sponsors could help the town pay for a new car.

    "We're not getting any new cars this year, so we thought this might be a way that we could bring in new vehicles," said Capt. David Duff of the Dade City department.

    Parkway poll doesn't settle debate

    INVERNESS -- The survey seemed like a way to answer the long-standing question: Do Citrus County residents want to see the Suncoast Parkway expanded into their back yard?

    But both sides in the debate seem to be drawing their own conclusions. The poll conducted by the University of South Florida's Center for Urban Transportation Research showed that nearly 60 percent favor extending the parkway from the Hernando County line to U.S. 19 near Red Level.

    Some people said their support hinged on finding the right location or minimizing the impacts to the environment. Only 13.5 percent opposed the road outright.

    "I'd say it was pretty overwhelming. There were more folks in favor of it than opposed to it," said Jack Reynolds of the Citrus County Chamber of Commerce.

    And yet, road opponents say other parts of the 36-question survey show a public that has strong environmental concerns, little awareness of the road-planning process and a mixed understanding of the Suncoast Parkway.

    Nearly 81 percent said it was important to reduce the negative impacts of the parkway and 51.5 percent admitted to having little or no knowledge about Suncoast Parkway 2, the proposed 26-mile extension under consideration.

    "It seemed to me people were saying, 'We don't know anything about building a road,' " said Teddi Bierly, a member of the Citrus County Native Plant Society. "They're trusting the parkway people to build the road -- or to make the right decision about whether to build it -- and they're saying, 'We don't want our environment ruined.' "

    Politicians stall on assembly promises

    LARGO -- They agreed to work together to make Pinellas County a better place to live. But nearly four months after local politicians made a pact at the American Assembly, nothing has been done.

    In fact, municipal and county elected officials cannot even agree on the makeup of an executive committee that will form smaller groups to address the major issues facing Pinellas.

    This leads some people to wonder: If the power brokers can't agree on the composition of a committee, how are they going to resolve real issues such as fire service, recreation and annexation?

    The American Assembly is an exercise in public administration conceived by Dwight Eisenhower more than 50 years ago. The purpose is to provide a setting and technique for bringing people together for important issues.

    Lance deHaven-Smith, a professor of public administration at Florida State University, conducted the $51,000 seminar with the Pinellas Assembly's 137 representatives.

    "This isn't common," deHaven-Smith said of Pinellas' delay. "I haven't seen these where they get tangled up like this."

    Officials may end costly recycling

    INVERNESS -- Citrus County officials are ready to cut their losses with their recycling program.

    The County Commission will consider putting a stop to collecting glass bottles, steel cans and plastic containers at the county's dropoff recycling centers. The county would also stop recycling white paper at county offices.

    Recycling has never been a moneymaker, county officials said. If anything, it has become more costly as state grants have dried up in recent years.

    Cutting back on the recycling program would save the county about $50,000.

    "This is a sort of cut-our-losses type of proposal, and we understand in our office it may be a terribly unpopular thing to do," Solid Waste Management Director Susan Metcalfe said. "A lot of people that do participate (in recycling) are very adamant about doing this and would like to see more."

    Homes to go up on site of old gardens

    LAND O'LAKES -- A smattering of bamboo, the stray trunks of magnolia and dogwood trees, a roofless limestone ticket booth: They are about all that remains of Dupree Gardens, among the Tampa Bay area's top roadside attractions in the 1940s.

    A victim of World War II gas rationing and changing American tastes more inclined to thrill rides and oddball attractions, Dupree Gardens mostly vanished among housing developments, a nudist resort and orange groves.

    A further change to the property is in store. In 2004, Beazer Land Development of Tampa plans to divide part of the original garden grounds into more than 1,000 homes.

    In the 1930s, Tampa attorney J. Williams Dupree bought 900 acres in Pasco east of what is now U.S. 41.

    Hurt in a car crash, Dupree recuperated by planting an exotic garden of flowers, fruit trees and palms on his Pasco estate. On Dec. 1, 1940, he opened it to the public.

    Dupree advertised the gardens as the "blossom center of Florida," 25 acres of flowers "set to music." He rigged palm trees on the property with speakers that played classical music.

    At its peak, Dupree drew 30,000 visitors a year. Then came the attack on Pearl Harbor. Gas and tire rationing squeezed car travel. Dupree tried to boost business through bus tours from Tampa. But in 1943, he was forced to close the gift shop and restaurant.

    In good news for old-time Pasco County residents who enjoyed the gardens in their youth, Beazer plans to save the ticket booth as part of a nature preserve on the property.

    In short . . .

    -- BROOKSVILLE -- A horse in northwest Hernando County has tested positive for West Nile virus, health officials said Tuesday. The 4-month-old filly tested positive for the virus but is doing fine, health officials said.

    -- As part of an effort to reduce teenage suicide, children's advocates kicked off a media campaign Tuesday for its 211 helpline. Instead of opening a phone book and navigating through a maze of help agencies, parents need to remember only one number: 211. The helpline has been operating in Hillsborough, Pinellas and Hernando counties for more than a year.

    Coming up this week

    -- There will be a number of community and national events on Wednesday in remembrance of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. Among them, thousands of people are expected to line Bayshore Boulevard in Tampa waving flags. Gen. Tommy Franks will speak.

    -- Tuesday is the last day of the recently revived scallop harvesting season in the North Suncoast. The state moved to lift a 1994 ban after studies showed a huge population increase in area waters.

    -- Voters head to the polls Tuesday for the state's primary elections. Candidates will be whittled down in the race for governor, attorney general, agriculture commissioner as well as seats in Congress, the state Legislature and local offices.

    -- Compiled by Times staff writer Sharon Kennedy Wynne.

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