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Bush vetoes bill intended to save Rodman Reservoir

Compiled from Times wires
Published July 15, 2003

TALLAHASSEE - A bill that would have made it more difficult to tear down a dam and restore the Ocklawaha River in Putnam County was vetoed Monday by Gov. Jeb Bush.

The bill would have created a state reserve around the Rodman Reservoir, which would have helped preserve the dam that created the lake.

Bush has sided with environmentalists in favoring restoration of the river in northeast Florida.

"Establishing a state reserve around Rodman Reservoir undermines efforts to restore a more natural flow of water to the Ocklawaha River - once considered one of America's most beautiful and pristine waterways," Bush said in his veto letter.

Some lawmakers, including Senate President Jim King, have favored preserving the 9,600-acre reservoir, considered one of the state's best bass fishing lakes.

The state plans to tear down the dam and restore the river by 2006. That won't happen, said King, R-Jacksonville, unless the Legislature provides the money.

639 students from newest "F' schools seek vouchers

TALLAHASSEE - Parents of 639 students who attended failing public schools last year have requested vouchers to enroll their children in private schools, the state Department of Education said Monday.

The number may grow: The parents of 599 other students notified the state by the July 1 deadline that they might request vouchers.

Under a 1999 state law, students at public schools that receive failing grades two years out of four can get tax-funded vouchers to attend private schools.

Last year, nearly 9,000 students at 10 failing schools were eligible for vouchers, and 556 transferred to private schools.

Another 13,700 students became eligible for vouchers last month when the state released school grades and the nine schools they attended earned their second failing grade.

Five of the nine failing schools are in Miami-Dade County. The other four are in Duval, Gadsden, Orange and Palm Beach counties.

Finders keepers? Teens agonize, then decide not

VALPARAISO - The envelope that two 13-year-old boys found was so thick with cash - $20 and $100 bills - that it stalled their lawn mower when they ran over it.

As they counted $2,787, Aaron Milligan and Josh Thedford, who had been mowing lawns to earn spending money, thought about what they could buy with their find: personal watercraft, video games, baseball equipment, a new lawn mower.

They headed for a nearby pawn shop Thursday, debating whether to buy fishing rods.

"It's a good thing they weren't open," Aaron said.

They began having second thoughts. "We felt sorry for the people who lost that much money," Josh said.

They told their parents.

Josh's mother drove the boys to City Hall, where they gave the cash to police and learned the money was reported missing three hours earlier by a former sheriff's deputy who was permanently disabled last year on military duty.

The man, who did not wish to be identified, uses a wheelchair to get around this Florida Panhandle city. He had gone to the bank to get the money to buy a pontoon boat for his kids and was on his way home when he lost the envelope, police said.

He gave the boys $80 each.

Latvian fugitive, reputed gangster, nabbed in state

MIAMI - The reputed Latvian leader of an international gang who escaped from a prison in the Baltic state 10 years ago is in federal custody in South Florida, officials confirmed Monday.

Vadims Liede, 36, was serving a sentence for organized crime in Latvia when he escaped with nine other inmates, the Latvian news agency LETA said.

In Poland, Liede is charged with seven murders, multiple armed robberies and with heading an international gang, LETA said.

Liede actually was arrested in July 2002 under an alias, Rustan Hodjaev. According to a federal indictment, Hodjaev was part of an identity theft ring that cheated U.S. companies out of $337,242.

The FBI confirmed through fingerprints that Hodjaev and Liede were the same person, FBI spokeswoman Judy Orihuela said.

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