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    Metro Week in Review

    Warm, wet weather brings buzz

    By Times staff
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published March 30, 2003

    LARGO -- The air is abuzz, and not in a good way.

    Pinellas County Mosquito Control officials say unseasonably warm and wet weather this spring has the blood suckers arising for an early spring break.

    Normally it would be well into April before mosquito season swarmed, officials said, so control efforts are starting early.

    Larvae-killing granules have been dropped in marshy areas near the Gandy bridge, Lake Maggiore, Oldsmar and the well fields of northern Pinellas County.

    Businesses and homeowners are asked to step up their own efforts by emptying old tires, flower pots, bird baths or pails, which give the insects a home to breed.

    Raid on exotic dance clubs will face a legal test

    NEW PORT RICHEY -- Undercover busts at exotic dance clubs in Pasco County could end if a lawyer convinces a judge that the dancers' arrests were illegal

    One night in October, a group of sheriff's officials fanned out into five dance clubs in west Pasco. They paid for private dances, and the women performed them as they would for any customer.

    By night's end, 30 dancers faced misdemeanor lewd conduct charges.

    Tampa lawyer Luke Lirot, who specializes in adult entertainment defense, is asking a judge to throw out the charges. He argues that for an act to be considered lewd, the state Supreme Court said in a 1991 opinion, someone must be offended and that somebody cannot be a police officer. Two trial judges in similar cases have agreed.

    Lirot will argue his case at hearing April 9 in Pasco County.

    That hearing could have broad implications for future regulation of Pasco's exotic dance clubs, the sheriff's lawyer has said, because it's unlikely a customer who paid a cover charge to get into a dance club would be shocked to find exotic dancing going on.

    Investigation follows aide who died after smallpox shot

    ST. PETERSBURG -- Federal health officials are investigating a possible link between the death of a 57-year-old nurse's aide last week at Northside Hospital and the smallpox shot she received earlier this month.

    Virginia Jorgensen began feeling ill two days after she was vaccinated for smallpox March 2. She had a heart attack on March 16, then lingered in a comalike state for 10 days before she died.

    Jorgensen had health problems before she was vaccinated for smallpox. She had angina, or chest pains, and was taking heart medication, her daughter Joyce Schubert said.

    The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating Jorgensen's and similar cases nationwide.

    Anyone with heart disease is being warned not to get vaccinated for smallpox while authorities examine the connection. The warning came Tuesday after a Maryland woman died of a heart attack, and a handful of other people, including Jorgensen, had heart attacks or chest pains after being inoculated.

    The state is re-interviewing health workers before they receive smallpox vaccinations to eliminate those with serious heart problems.

    Wartime ban is keeping book donations at standstill

    NEW PORT RICHEY -- A Holiday Marine Corps League's drive to restock the media library for the USS Bataan in the Persian Gulf is so far a resounding success, with several thousand books, CDs, DVDs and board games eagerly donated by local residents

    The problem is, the books are staying put for now.

    For security and logistical reasons, the Department of Defense has banned all packages not addressed to and approved by a specific person.

    The league organized the drive in response to an e-mail from the chaplain on board the Bataan, who urged folks back home to help stock the ship's library so troops would have something to do during their down time.

    The organization shipped four packages before the ban, but the league is running out of storage space, so they are asking the generous neighbors to hold off for now.

    "There is no doubt in my mind that the support is there for our troops," said Charles Salvaggio, a member of the Holiday Marine Corps League and a Korean War veteran.

    Longtime floating eyesore is grounded by state grant

    CRYSTAL RIVER -- In April 2001, a judge gave a Leesburg man six months to remove the Bonner Lee, a derelict boat that had sat in Kings Bay since 1997. Last week, the former submarine chaser finally made land

    "As much of an eyesore as it was, you kind of got used to it," said Marty Senetra, a dive shop guide who brought boatloads of snorkelers near the Bonner Lee during the past five years.

    But Senetra isn't too sentimental. For most of its time in Crystal River, the Bonner Lee has been a source of ire for residents and city officials.

    The World War II-era submarine chaser survived several previous removal attempts, outlasted four Crystal River city managers and landed its owner in jail for neglect.

    "It's an absolute miracle to me that no one ever ran into it at night," former Crystal River Mayor Curtis Rich said. "It's been very frustrating not to get anything done with it."

    It took a state grant to finish off the Bonner Lee, which is now piled 15 feet high and 25 feet across in a mound of ruins, awaiting its demise in a dump.

    In short . . .

    CLEARWATER -- Jack Russell Memorial Stadium headed into retirement last week after its final major league game. Next year, the Philadelphia Phillies will train in their new digs, a palace of a ballpark across town. Since opening in 1955, Jack Russell Stadium has hosted a staggering amount of talent in its lifetime: Mickey Mantle, Hank Aaron, Roberto Clemente, Tug McGraw and Pete Rose have all roamed its field

    TAMPA -- In runoff elections last week, Tampa got a new mayor, Pam Iorio; its first black woman elected to citywide office, Gwen Miller; and a close race when Kevin White squeaked by his aunt Bernadine White-King to take a seat on the City Council.

    PORT RICHEY -- The City Council repealed its bingo ordinance, putting Port Richey back under the county's stricter guidelines. The backtrack was prompted by local charities who said a loophole in the law was allowing commercial bingo halls to offer richer jackpots, hurting the charities. The owners of $1-million bingo hall that opened in February have threatened to sue.

    Coming up this week

    The Tampa Bay Devil Rays take the field on opening day Monday at Tropicana Field. The team faces the Boston Red Sox at 5:15 p.m

    Gov. Jeb Bush and Lt. Gov. Toni Jennings will go on the road next week to meet with health care workers and rally support for limits on damages in medical malpractice lawsuits. On Monday, Bush plans to visit Miami and Jacksonville, while Jennings appears in Orlando, Brandon and Pensacola. Bush supports a plan passed by the Florida House that would limit noneconomic, or punitive, damages awards to $250,000. A Senate committee has rejected caps, which backers say are needed to curb rising premiums for malpractice insurance.


    -- Compiled by Times staff writer Sharon Kennedy Wynne

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