tampabay.com

Fight over sheriff's budget still at impasse

By Times Staff Writer
Published August 28, 2007


TAMPA

The new head of the Tampa-Hillsborough Expressway Authority took the helm Monday as the agency continued talking with the state about building a mile-long connector road between Interstate 4 and the Lee Roy Selmon Crosstown Expressway.

Joe Waggoner, the authority's new executive director, said he would keep working with the Florida Department of Transportation on the I-4/Crosstown Connector, which has been discussed for about 20 years.

"The I-4 project is the top priority for us right now," he said.

Monday's meeting of the authority's board served as a changing of the guard for Waggoner and the departing interim director, Stephen L. Reich, who is widely credited with steering Hillsborough's toll road agency through turbulent times this year.

When Reich came on board in December, the agency was wracked with controversy. State auditors were criticizing how it conducted business, and state lawmakers were talking about abolishing it.

Reich left Monday to return to his job as a consultant at the University of South Florida's Center for Urban Transportation Research.

"The chapter of the old Expressway Authority closed today," he told the board. "I think the ship's been righted, the leaks hopefully repaired."

DADE CITY

Bar owner takes steps to avoid jail time

Mike Agnello, a tavern owner who ran for the City Commission last year, will try to enter a pretrial intervention program on charges he failed to pay $10,000 in state sales taxes.

Agnello, 46, owner of the Osceola Tavern, was accused of theft of state funds this month.

Agnello said he's eager to get back to the things that are important to him. His wife is expecting their fourth child.

"Business has been better since all the people (have been) coming in, giving moral support and buying a beer," he said.

What happened when Sheriff Bob White and top county officials spent 5 1/2 hours looking to cut spending in next year's budget?

Nothing. The standoff intensified Monday over White's bid for a bigger budget in a year of forced cutbacks.

White again asked for a big increase, although he wanted just $8-million more instead of the $11.2-million he originally requested.

County budget officials hammered at his logic, showing 27 departments that made cuts when the sheriff has not.

County commissioners again told White to cut back, but without any consensus as to how.

With hopes and focus dimming, the sides finally agreed on one thing: They set up another meeting, this time for Thursday.