Ruskin pilot dies in ultralight crash

Published April 25, 2007


A Ruskin man died when his ultralight plane crashed in woods near the Manatee Airport Monday night, said the Manatee County Sheriff's Office.

Ronald Messer, 51, took off about 8:30 p.m. from the airport near the Manatee-Hillsborough county line and crashed minutes later. Searchers found Messer's body in a swamp, surrounded and covered by dense pepper trees.

According to several flight instruction Web sites, Messer was an ultralight plane flight instructor. Sheriff's deputies are still awaiting Messer's autopsy results to confirm whether he died as a result of the crash, said sheriff's spokesman Dave Bristow.

Information from the Bradenton Herald was used in this report. Times news researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report.


Commission honors former sheriff

The Hillsborough County Commission presented former Sheriff Cal Henderson with one of its top honors Tuesday.

Henderson was given the Ellsworth G. Simmons Good Government award for his many years with the Hillsborough Sheriff's Office.

He started as a deputy in 1969, and retired as sheriff in 2004. The award is named for the man who set the bar on tenure in local office.

Simmons served 21 years on the commission after seven years on the Hillsborough County School Board.


Budget cuts could affect public safety services

Property tax relief could cut deep into public safety services and halt funding for civic and cultural offerings, according to a proposal put forward by city staff.

The dire hit list appeared Tuesday on the city's Web site.

The proposed cuts anticipate what could happen if the House's plan to roll back property taxes to 2001 levels moves forward, cutting Tarpon Springs' property tax revenue by $2.6-million, or roughly 13 percent of the city's $20-million general fund.


ROAD IMPACT FEE TO DOUBLE: Facing a budget crunch as road construction costs rise, Pasco County commissioners voted 5-0 on Tuesday to more than double the transportation impact fee to $9,500 on each new home, starting Oct. 1.

CHARTER SCHOOL TO CLOSE: The Language Academy charter school ran out of borrowed time Tuesday as the Pasco School Board decided to shut the financially troubled school once the academic year ends. The board first threatened to close the school last summer amid reports that the school was running a deficit and was not likely to pay all its bills through the year. The Language Academy can appeal to the state Board of Education.