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Tampa Bay briefs

By Times staff reports

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 20, 2001


Hillsborough's chief judge is recuperating -- quietly

TAMPA -- Chief Judge F. Dennis Alvarez underwent surgery Monday to remove a polyp in his throat.

The surgery, which had been scheduled in advance, was completed successfully at an outpatient medical center in Tampa, the judge's judicial assistant said.

Doctors ordered Alvarez, 55, to rest for about two weeks and instructed him not to speak for about 10 days, which means the chief judge won't be able to oversee the Hillsborough County Courthouse.

He appointed Circuit Judge Susan Sexton, a probate judge, to serve as acting chief judge.

Report underscores Tampa's drought woes

Even as smoke from a Polk County fire darkened the air over Tampa Bay on Monday, the Tampa Water Department offered a sobering status report on the drought.

Last week, according to the report, the city reservoir dropped 11-million gallons, while the week before, it gained 22-million gallons. City water customers used 74-million gallons a day on average, an increase of 9-million a day on average from the previous week.

While outdoor watering is only permitted one day a week, many continue to ignore the restrictions. Last week, the city handed out 386 citations for violating the restrictions, compared with 278 the week before. That makes 3,911 citations so far in the 2001 fiscal year.

The report, called the Monday Morning Monitor, is the city's weekly effort to keep the public informed of the water shortage. India Williams, consumer affairs manager of the Water Department, said reservoir levels fluctuate with weather-related factors such as evaporation.

Electrical glitch jams Corey Causeway Bridge

ST. PETE BEACH -- A span of the bridge linking the beach and South Pasadena broke down twice Monday, causing traffic delays.

The Florida Department of Transportation was at the Corey Causeway Bridge on Monday, trying to repair an electrical short in wiring on the eastbound span, which was getting stuck, police said.

The span was stuck in the up position from 1:45 p.m. to 3:05 p.m. It worked, then got stuck again from 3:20 p.m. to 3:55 p.m.

Wild chase ends when car runs out of gas

NEW PORT RICHEY -- He drove his buddy's Corvette with an open bottle of Budweiser between his legs, he hadn't had a valid license in 11 years and he knew there were two warrants for his arrest.

So when Matthew Korkes saw the blue lights in his rearview mirror Sunday morning, he quickly decided not to stop.

"Once I knew I wasn't pulling over, I said to hell with it," said Korkes, 30. "I might as well take 'em on a chase."

That chase put several lives at risk, authorities said. "He was a madman, he really was," said Lt. Robert Ferguson, a Florida Park Patrol officer who chased Korkes nearly 10 miles.

Shortly before 9 a.m. Sunday, Korkes, of 8976 Lake Drive in New Port Richey, and a friend, Christina Tofanelli, went to buy a 12-pack of Budweiser and a newspaper at a store on Ridge Road.

Korkes had borrowed his friend's white 1979 Corvette and was driving the speed limit until two Pasco County sheriff's deputies spotted him with the open beer in the Ridge Road area.

Under Florida law, it is illegal to have an open beer in a vehicle on a road, and if caught, a person can be fined up to $500.

And there was another reason deputies were interested in the car: the tag on it was expired -- and registered to another Corvette.

The female passenger was not charged. Korkes was handcuffed and charged with -- among other things -- two counts of aggravated assault with a vehicle, reckless driving and possession of cocaine. Authorities found a pipe with crack residue in the car, a report said. He is being held on a $15,376 bond at the county jail.

Korkes said, "The only reason why I stopped was because I ran out of gas."

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