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    Metro Week in Review

    Smoke-free park on city wish list

    By Times staff
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published April 20, 2003

    OLDSMAR -- The great outdoors may soon be smoke-free, at least at Bicentennial Park in Oldsmar.

    It's really teen smokers park officials are trying to curb. The city's Board of Parks and Recreation voted 6-1 last week to recommend that the City Council ban smoking at the park -- home to a new 4,000-square-foot skate park, tennis and basketball courts, a playground and a fitness trail. The park also has a teen recreation center.

    Some people have complained teenagers gather outside and smoke.

    Lynn Rives, director of parks and recreation, said Bicentennial was the logical choice because it is primarily used by kids. It also is one of 50 sites in the country chosen for a pilot Hearts 'N Parks program, which uses parks to spread information on better health.

    Pat Lamphear, who voted against the smoking ban, questioned how the city would enforce it. "I think it's a good idea, but children -- a lot of values they get (from parents) at home," said Lamphear, a nonsmoker. "You can't police it."

    Administrator cleared in request for autograph

    BROOKSVILLE -- It might be too easy to call it a political football, but Hernando County Administrator Dick Radacky did no wrong, county lawyers say, when he asked a prominent businessman seeking zoning variances from the county to get a football autographed by football coach Steve Spurrier.

    The county's gift policy prohibits anything of value to be solicited or accepted by employees if the recipient knows it is given to garner influence. The policy also expressly forbids gifts from those doing business with the county.

    Radacky asked SunTrust Bank/Nature Coast chairman and chief executive officer Jim Kimbrough to get Spurrier's autograph on a football owned by the administrator's son.

    The request came during the same time that Kimbrough, whose bank provides a host of financial services to the county, was seeking zoning changes for two parcels he owns.

    Assistant County Attorney Kurt Hitzemann concluded that a gift is a "personal service for which a fee is charged." In this case, the attorney said, there was no fee associated with the signature and, hence, no violation.Hillsborough calls for limits on homework.

    Tarpon spongers worry over waste-dumping plan

    TARPON SPRINGS -- Some commercial Tarpon Springs sponge fishers worry that the state's plan to dump 500-million gallons of wastewater from the Port Manatee-based Piney Point phosphate plant into the Gulf of Mexico will be another blow to an already ailing industry.

    Sponge Associates of Florida president Jeff Love is concerned that the state Department of Environmental Protection's plan to spray the treated wastewater from barges into waters as close as 50 miles from St. Pete Beach could hurt their livelihood.

    Though sponge fishers generally harvest their sponges within about 10 to 20 miles of shore, they worry that the wastewater could lead to an imbalance in the sponge's ecosystem or cause Red Tide or other algal blooms to grow and kill off nearby sponge beds.

    The DEP came up with the emergency disposal plan after it became apparent that Piney Point's reservoir of tainted water, which is stored in an earthen mound, is in danger of spilling into Tampa Bay. With little other recourse, the sponge trade group plans to appeal to local elected officials to plead with the federal and state regulators.

    Pasco is one of nation's fasting growing counties

    NEW PORT RICHEY -- As if the residents there need reminding as they sit in snarled traffic, Pasco County was confirmed by the head counters in Washington, D.C., as one of the fastest growing counties in the United States.

    Measured against the other 3,141 counties in the United States, Pasco ranked 100th in population growth last year, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures released this week.

    Pasco has stacked up the highest housing construction totals since the boom years of the late 1970s. In 2002, about 4,000 single-family homes were approved, most along the county's southern border with Pinellas and Hillsborough counties.

    In short ...

    DUNEDIN -- The Dunedin Blue Jays minor league baseball team is offering anyone who served in the military campaign in Iraq and their families complimentary admission to all home games during the 2003 regular season. The Dunedin Blue Jays play a 70-game home schedule that began April 4 and will end Aug. 31.

    St. Petersburg College dedicated its education school, the Bilirakis College of Education, on Thursday to honor the family's contributions.

    State Rep. Gus Bilirakis, son of U.S. Rep. Mike Bilirakis co-sponsored the bill that turned the junior college into a four-year institution. Mike Bilirakis supported the college's four-year ambition and helped the college acquire federal funds for its online course component. And Mike Bilirakis' wife, Evelyn, lobbied state legislators for the bill.

    -- Compiled by Times staff writer Sharon Kennedy Wynne.

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