tampabay.com

Neglect endangers pedestrian bridge

By TIMES STAFF
Published May 31, 2007


CLEARWATER

The city of Clearwater's failure to do basic maintenance on a $500, 000 pedestrian bridge on Clearwater Beach has shortened its life span by roughly a decade and will likely cost taxpayers significant funds to restore or replace.

The little-known underpass, which runs under the Mandalay Channel Bridge and connects the north and south fishing piers, is suffering from advanced corrosion and will close in six months, just eight years after it was built to divert pedestrians from the west end of the Memorial Causeway.

Built with steel and concrete, it was developed in conjunction with the roundabout that opened in December 1999. It has a 15-year warranty that protects it from defects in the materials and the workmanship, but the white paint covering the steel had just a one-year warranty. It has never been repainted.

LARGO

Minister who opposed Stanton plans to retire

An outspoken minister who built his congregation into one of Pinellas County's largest churches and lobbied for Steve Stanton's termination is retiring.

The Rev. Charlie Martin, senior pastor of the 6, 000-member First Baptist Church of Indian Rocks, will be replaced by the Rev. Jeff Parish, senior pastor of Davis Islands Baptist Church in Tampa.

Martin's last sermon will be next year on May 4 .

Church administrator Tim Ferguson said Martin, 61, has planned to make the move for three to four years. Martin became embroiled in the Stanton story almost immediately after Stanton, then Largo's city manager, disclosed that he intended to become a woman. Martin asked his parishioners to attend a City Commission meeting at which Stanton's fate was decided.

SPRING HILL

Rubio takes tax talk to Hernando residents

Antitax advocates and Hernando County Republicans drummed up a crowd of more than 100 people in less than 24 hours when they heard that House Speaker Marco Rubio was coming to town to talk taxes Wednesday.

Rubio planted himself on one side of the property tax debate.

On the one side, tax-cut advocates like Rubio say homeowners need substantial tax relief. On the other, local governments argue that deep cuts will cripple vital services provided by police officers and firefighters.

But what does it matter what government needs, Rubio asked, if the people can't afford to pay their tax bill.

NEW PORT RICHEY

Tax cut fears prompt Pasco hiring freeze

With state lawmakers threatening to cut property taxes, Pasco County began a hiring freeze this week. The ban will last at least until the Legislature completes its special session June 22.

The freeze affects the work force under County Administrator John Gallagher and the County Commission, but not employees of the sheriff, tax collector, property appraiser, supervisor of elections or clerk of courts. The county administration employs about 2, 150, although about 100 of those positions are vacant, said personnel director Barbara DeSimone.