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Planter poaching was Times' error

A newspaper employee mistakenly reclaims two oversized plant pots, causing a minor flap among the Times' new Dade City neighbors.

By CHASE SQUIRES

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 19, 2000


DADE CITY -- Never let it be said the St. Petersburg Times doesn't know how to make a big entrance.

The newspaper this week caused a flap downtown when one of its employees snatched a pair of community-owned flower planters, hauled them down the street and glued them to the sidewalk.

The move -- and the fallout -- surprised some, including the Times building manager who learned his earnest effort was a social gaffe. But with a round of apologies and a promise to be a good neighbor, the newspaper's chief Pasco officer said he hopes to make amends.

The minor controversy arose this week when building manager Bruce Calvert noticed a set of oversized planters were missing from the front of the Old City Hall building on Meridian Avenue, future home of the Times' east Pasco headquarters.

The planters -- owned by Downtown Dade City Main Street -- had been in front of the vacant building for months, but were moved by city employees to the front of the nearby Cattle Gap western wear shop, where the owner had requested them earlier this year.

The planters mark retail outlets throughout downtown.

Calvert said he thought the pots went with the property and assumed the worst. He confronted the employees at the Cattle Gap and at Kafe Kokopelli before dragging the heavy pots back to the new Times digs, then glueing them to the sidewalk.

"I just wanted to put them back," Calvert said. "I liked them. I had no idea they were the city's and that the city took care of them."

At the Cattle Gap, shopkeepers Suzanne Sasser and Kathy Champion said they never expected to be grilled about the flower pots when they appeared in front of the store, and were surprised the next day when they disappeared.

"I mean look at us? Does it look like I'm going to be able to move a flower pot that big?" Sasser asked.

Calvert said he had to use a dolly to move the heavy planters.

Main Street executive director Gail Hamilton said she got calls almost immediately.

"I was pretty surprised," she said. "I guess this is a good way to let people who might be new to town or see them as they pass by know that these are part of Main Street. The city and merchants take care of them to make downtown look nicer."

Main Street has 47 red clay pots downtown, filled with flowers and shrubs.

Hamilton said Dade City's public works department agreed to move the pots back to the Cattle Gap, as long as the Times promises not to snatch them again.

Larry Beasley, general manager for Pasco operations, said the newspaper planned to buy matching pots for its new office.

The news and advertising offices are scheduled to open June 12. The Times has maintained an office in Dade City for decades. The current office is on the second floor of the Centennial Building at 37837 Meridian Ave. But a move to the historic Old City Hall building down the street gives the paper a freestanding, visible headquarters and marks a continued commitment to east Pasco, Beasley said.

"I am looking forward to our move to a more prominent location and being more accessible to our readers and our advertising customers alike," Beasley said Thursday. "We want to be a good neighbor. If we offended anyone, it was only because one of our employees was trying to do a good job."

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