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    Metro Week in Review

    By Times staff writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published October 13, 2002

    Foster parents head to court

    PORT RICHEY -- The civic association of Forest Lake Estates filed suit Monday against the Gourlay family, alleging that the parents are violating deed restrictions by receiving funding for five foster children.

    The children -- ages 3 to 14 -- live in their 1,700-square-foot house. The Gourlays have four children of their own. The state pays them $2,028 a month to cover expenses for the foster children. Steven Gourlay makes $40,000 a year as a grocery truck driver. His wife, Corinna, stays home with the children.

    "I've really never encountered anything so unbelievably selfish anywhere in the country," said Richard Wexler, executive director of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform in Alexandria, Va. "Nobody among those trying to throw (the Gourlays) out ought to ever have the gall to say a word about problems with child welfare. They are part of the problem."

    Senator shares plan to improve Gandy

    TAMPA -- State Sen. Jim Sebesta says Florida does not have the money for the Gandy Connector, a proposed link between the Lee Roy Selmon Crosstown Expressway and the Gandy Bridge. Instead, Sebesta recommends improving the existing road.

    Homeowners and business people cheered his plan because many fear a bypass would destroy neighborhoods and reduce home values.

    Pinellas County officials say the high-speed road is needed to improve access between the counties and to help evacuate people during hurricanes.

    Sebesta, R-St. Petersburg, said fallout from Sept. 11 and a weak economy will force the state to reconsider several transportation projects, including the Gandy Connector.

    Improving intersections and synchronizing lights would cost $10-million to $20-million, less than one-tenth of the proposed bypass or elevated highway. They would also ease traffic flow between Hillsborough and Pinellas counties without affecting homes and businesses, he said.

    Ken Hartmann, the Florida Department of Transportation secretary in charge of the Tampa Bay region, said Sebesta's plan seemed workable but would not solve the area's long-term traffic needs.

    "At some point we're going to have to face the reality that the traffic isn't going to go away," he said.

    In short ...

    CLEARWATER -- Kirstie Alley and Lisa Marie Presley slept there. You can, too, for $2.5-million. Presley and Alley, both Scientologists, bought the 8,200-square-foot waterfront mansion to be closer to the church's spiritual headquarters in Clearwater. The current owner, Carol A. Berc, is planning to move to California to produce movies and has put the home on the market.

    Coming up this week

    Pinellas County commissioners appear willing to take ownership of Tropicana Field to spare the city of St. Petersburg a hefty property tax bill. An official vote on the measure is scheduled Tuesday.

    A second debate between Gov. Jeb Bush and Democrat Bill McBride is scheduled for Tuesday at 11:05 a.m. in Orlando, this time on the radio. Tampa Bay listeners can catch the debate on WUSF-FM 89.7.

    On hiatus

    The Metro Review will be on hiatus for a few months. To read stories from Times regional sections outside your area or to look up past news stories, check the Web site at

    -- Compiled by Times staff writer Sharon Kennedy Wynne

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