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2 Gaither teachers honored by PTSA

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© St. Petersburg Times, published May 11, 2001

NORTHDALE -- It was your typical October day at a big suburban high school. Early shift comes in, then late shift, then lunch. Cheerleaders in uniform, romance in the corridors, history and calculus and football practice to look forward to.

Then things got dicey at Gaither High School.

A school official tried to call a student to the office. He refused, using language that was -- well, not appropriate for school. A resource deputy was summoned to bring the lad in from the parking lot. The kid's sister got involved, breaking through a gathering crowd to jump on the deputy's back.

To the rescue: Vince Solmonte and Tony Bellanca.

According to the school's PTSA, which nominated Solmonte and Bellanca for an annual A. Percy King Award, the two teachers pulled the female student off the deputy, enabling him to call for backup.

"Had these two teachers not intervened to subdue this female student, this very serious situation could have developed into something hazardous," says the nomination submitted by Nadine Anderson of the Gaither PTSA. They were to receive the surprise award Thursday at a county PTA-PTSA luncheon in Carrollwood.

Development company gets new director

UNIVERSITY NORTH -- Julian Garcia went to work this week as executive director of the University Area Community Development Corp., succeeding Chuck Albrecht, who left several months ago.

The development corporation, among other things, oversees programs in the University Area Community Center Complex, which opened a little more than a year ago in the heart of this largely dismal area. The corporation chairman is Victor Crist, a Republican state senator.

Garcia, 51, lives in Forest Hills and comes from a background of housing, economic and community development. He's a lifelong resident of Tampa who got to know the University of South Florida area as a history student at USF. Since 1996 he has served as director of finance for the non-profit Project Return.

What does Garcia think of the neighborhoods that surround USF?

"I think a lot has been done here already, and this job is a perfect opportunity for someone who likes to work in the areas of housing and community development," something Garcia has done for both the county and the city.

Specifically, he is impressed with the sheriff's district office and $7-million community center.

As for the problem areas?

"There is a need for housing rehab and to build some infill housing where it is warranted," he said. "That will involve cooperation between the private sector and the non-profit organizations."

Garcia said he has not been in the job long enough to assess which complexes are the best candidates for rehabilitation, or how the area has been affected by sweeping changes in Tampa's public housing.

"We would like to see more homeownership," Garcia said, echoing the sentiments of longtime community leaders who tire of the area's transient nature.

Illegal watering? No, just a test

CARROLLWOOD -- Conservation-minded motorists on Carrollwood Village Run, a popular shortcut behind the Publix supermarket in Carrollwood Village, got an eyeful Tuesday morning.

At 10 a.m., in-ground sprinklers were dousing a narrow patch of sod between the rear parking lot and the curb.


It would be if it were tap water; the county forbids regular watering between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. But this was reclaimed water, and the county's only limit on reclaimed water is that "its use must not be wasteful and unnecessary."

So what could be more wasteful or unnecessary than dumping water -- any kind of water -- on such an out-of-the-way patch of sod? This wasn't the White House, but the rear end of a Publix parking lot.

The answer, from Carrollwood Village property manager Dan Ruskiewicz:

"We must have been testing the sprinklers."

Thinking it over, Ruskiewicz was quite sure this was the case. "We mow the entire Village on Monday and then we have to check the sprinklers to make sure they are working properly," he said.

Normal watering happens at night, when fewer people are walking and less water will be lost to evaporation. The Village is phasing in drought-tolerant plants to dress up those medians while cutting down on all that thirsty sod.

That's good news because, drought notwithstanding, "All of the people who live along these roads pay to have them maintained," Ruskiewicz said. "And all our boulevards are maintained to a high level."

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