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Week in Review

The cocktail hour will get another look

By Times Staff Writer
Published July 27, 2003

CLEARWATER - Some Clearwater officials are thirsting for a looser alcohol law, especially with Bloody Marys and mimosas popping up on Sunday brunch menus in recently relaxed St. Petersburg.

And there are rumblings in Dunedin for a similar change.

Aimed at helping beach businesses compete with their rivals to the south, the move could allow bars and restaurants to start selling alcohol before 1 p.m. Backers say the move is a matter of convenience and makes good business sense for a tourist-driven economy.

The Rev. Bill Anderson, who retired as the longtime pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, lamented any change that would allow more drinking on Sundays, saying it is "sad, but probably not preventable in this cultural context."

Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, as well as the city of Tampa, forbid the sale of alcohol before 1 p.m. on Sundays. In June, St. Petersburg rolled back its longstanding blue law to 11 a.m. with little opposition.

Clearwater Mayor Brian Aungst said the move should extend to grocery and convenience stores, all in the name of public service.

"I'd hate to have anybody miss a Buccaneers kickoff because they were standing in line for a bottle of wine or a six-pack," he said.

The city attorney was asked to bring a proposal for consideration in the next month.

Public hands to take over private water services

Officials in Hernando and Citrus counties cheered the announcement Thursday that Allete Inc. of Duluth, Minn., would sell seven of its Florida water and wastewater systems owned by subsidiary Florida Water Services Corp.

Hernando County Attorney Garth Coller beamed as he announced news of the $35.6-million purchase agreement at a county budget workshop. He and his legal staff had come close to striking a deal some 20 times before. Coller said he was "numb" Wednesday night when it was finally done.

Coller has had his eye on Florida Water since coming to the county in 2000. But other Hernando County officials have sought control of the Spring Hill utility for decades.

"I have looked forward to owning Florida Water Services ... since 1985 when I first came here," County Administrator Dick Radacky said. "It's been almost 20 years."

Mike Twomey, president of Florida Utility Watch, said Spring Hill customers should see a bit of break in their water rates. For years, Florida Water has used money from its profitable areas, such as in Spring Hill, to make up for unprofitable utilities elsewhere, Twomey said.

Allete originally wanted to sell all of its Florida holdings at once. But it wound up parting with only two-thirds of its Florida utilities. It is still trying to sell the rest.

Bulls drop the "South' and just call themselves USF

TAMPA - Tired of explaining that the University of South Florida is nowhere near Miami, USF officials are moving away from the school's full name.

The first step will be in athletics, where the university will be referred to only as USF on its uniforms, in its media guides and on ESPN. Then changes will be made to all of the fliers, billboards and other promotional materials used around the Tampa Bay area.

Sports commentators like to shorten the name to South Florida, adding to the confusion. Some professors find the name downright embarrassing, given the school's location in Central Florida.

One day, officials say, the geographically challenged school may take the final step - dropping South Florida entirely.

USF opened its doors in 1956 as Florida's fourth public university, and the only one south of Gainesville. That's a major reason state leaders chose the name.

"What can I say? People didn't think," said USF Faculty Senate president Greg Paveza.

Talks dwell on raising Lacoochee's lot in life

DADE CITY - Involved parents, paved streets, opportunities for children, respect from the Sheriff's Office.

The ideas formed part of key ingredients voiced by residents and participants of a community meeting to jump-start redevelopment in Lacoochee.

Planner Isa Blanford, who works for the Pasco County Public Housing Authority, organized the event last week in the wake of the death of sheriff's Lt. Charles "Bo" Harrison who was in the Lacoochee area when he was shot on June 1. A 19-year-old Lacoochee resident, Alfredie Steele Jr., is charged with his murder.

Blanford hopes to have another meeting in September.

Many in the group agreed on one thing: Change must come from within.

"Grass roots is more powerful than anything out there," said the Rev. Fred Hinson, pastor of New Hope Missionary Baptist Church in Hudson and moderator of Monday's meeting. "We don't want to see anyone else go to jail. We don't want to see anyone else lose their life."

Gambling ship delivers city a piece of the action

ST. PETERSBURG - After months of delays, owners of a 450-foot gambling ship paid more than $300,000 and signed a lease Tuesday to dock the Ocean Jewel of St. Petersburg at the city's port.

"We realize that we had some bumps in the beginning," Mayor Rick Baker said. "But we want the community to feel confident that we're moving forward and the city is protected."

The launch of a gambling ship from the port of St. Petersburg was announced to great fanfare in December. Baker expressed his support for the venture, saying it would erase the $150,000 annual subsidy the port costs taxpayers and attract hundreds of tourists to the city's downtown.

But the original owners quickly ran into financial difficulties and pulled out of the project in March.

A new group of investors based in Illinois then took over the operation and established an office in downtown St. Petersburg.

Robert Schenk, Titan's executive vice president, said the ship is now expected to arrive in St. Petersburg in February. The first cruise is scheduled for the following month, March 21.

In short ...

BROOKSVILLE - By next summer, the Suncoast Parkway Trail recreational trailhead in Brooksville on State Road 50 will be the only spot to offer flush toilets right on the trail. Architectural drawings are complete and permits have been pulled for a 2,550-square-foot building that would house men's and women's restrooms, as well as a room for a vendor to rent bicycles or inline skates.

A loose-knit group of Hillsborough County doctors are threatening to stop elective surgeries the first week of August to protest malpractice insurance rules at two of Tampa's leading hospitals. How many doctors will participate remains uncertain, but University Community Hospital and St. Joseph's Baptist Health Care officials say they've already seen a drop in the number of elective surgeries scheduled that week.

Coming up this week

In a hearing Monday, lawyers for the Tampa Bay Lightning will try to disqualify attorney Arnold Levine as counsel in former Lightning owner Art Williams' lawsuit because Levine was caught peeping at papers. On June 3, Levine entered an empty courtroom and began looking over documents left on a table by the Lightning legal team in a different legal matter. He was seen by a courthouse employee who brought it to the court's attention. The Lightning believe Levine may have sought an unfair - and unethical - advantage by thumbing through the documents.

Union ballots go out to Pinellas sheriff's deputies next week, to be tallied Aug. 21 by the Public Employee Relations Commission. After the state Supreme Court in January gave deputies the right to bargain collectively, Pinellas deputies began to talk shop - union shop. One ballot will be a three-way race among two different unions or no union. The other, for sergeants and lieutenants, will be between joining the Fraternal Order of Police or no union.

- Compiled by Times staff writer Sharon Kennedy Wynne.

[Last modified July 27, 2003, 01:33:08]

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