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Tampa officials working to keep MacDill open

By Times Staff
Published April 13, 2005

TAMPA - MacDill Air Force Base has occupied the Tampa peninsula since the outset of World War II, and city officials want to keep it there.

With talk of bases being closed, Tampa city officials are planning a show of support over the coming year that includes a careful study of land uses around the base to protect it from interference with traffic flow and flight paths.

The city also plans to spend about $700,000 in money from a grant to create a buffer zone around the base by purchasing land along its periphery. The land use study, in the works for more than a year, has become a priority for local officials now that the Pentagon has announced plans to close up to 80 of the country's 100 military bases. A recommendation on closures is due in mid-May.

City and county officials want to make it clear they won't allow urban growth to interfere with the base's operations.

The study will help determine what is built around MacDill. The aim is to keep civilians from crowding the military base, for the benefit of all involved.

"The last thing you want to do is encourage density in a potential crash zone," said City Council member John Dingfelder. In March, former U.S. Rep. Sam Gibbons told the City Council they should prepare for the possible loss of MacDill by coming up with a redevelopment plan for the 5,000 acres of waterfront property.

Bodies found on ship remain unidentified

TAMPA - Investigators still aren't sure of the nationalities of two people whose decomposing bodies were removed from the hold of a cargo ship at the Port of Tampa Monday, but U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is investigating the incident as a case of human smuggling.

Dick Bailey, office manager for the Hillsborough County Medical Examiner's Office, said the autopsies would begin Tuesday afternoon and continue through today.

The two found inside the belly of th e Ocean Belle might have been dead for as long as two weeks, according to the medical examiner's office. They were removed Monday afternoon, several hours after the freighter ship docked at the port at 3701 Causeway Blvd.

Tampa Fire Rescue spokesman Capt. Bill Wade said Ocean Belle crew members first detected the nauseating smell April 7, one day after the Panamanian ship left the Dominican Republic headed for Tampa.

[Last modified April 13, 2005, 01:29:17]

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