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    Week in review

    [Times photo: Ron Thompson]
    PERFECT RECORD: Tamara Casey can't hold back tears of joy Wednesday as she sits in her new Chevrolet, donated by Crystal Motor Car Co. The new ride was part of a Citrus County program to reward school attendance.


    © St. Petersburg Times,
    published June 3, 2001

    Shutdown fails to hurt nuclear plant

    CRYSTAL RIVER -- A federal agency gave Florida Power's nuclear plant a good evaluation, despite a two-week shutdown after a fire protection system malfunctioned.

    The Crystal River plant "operated in a manner that preserved public health and safety and fully met all cornerstone objectives," according to an annual review published Thursday by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

    The solid review came amid a two-week shutdown. The facility has not produced power since May 18, after a fire protection system malfunctioned.

    As the plant was returning to full power, another problem surfaced: Water containing radioactive particles was leaking from a faulty valve at a rate of 6 gallons per minute. The water cools the nuclear reactor and helps prevent serious problems.

    The plant is expected to be back in operation this week.

    Man breaks foot in fall at Jack Russell Stadium

    CLEARWATER -- "I guess it's called taking one for the team or something," City Commissioner Hoyt Hamilton said of his broken left foot.

    Hamilton learned firsthand about the structural problems with the city's 55-year-old Jack Russell Stadium, problems that prompted the Phillies to cancel Thursday night's game and close the facility.

    Hamilton had decided to see what was beyond yellow caution tape at the stadium on Wednesday and he saw the 2-inch-wide crack in the concrete between Sections 1 and 2, near first base. But as he stepped by the tape, a 15-by 4-foot slab of concrete under him suddenly collapsed. Hamilton fell 9 feet to the ground, breaking his left foot.

    The city already is planning to build a new stadium for the Philadelphia Phillies on another site closer to U.S. 19 and Drew Street by early 2003.

    Hamilton, a booster of the new stadium and a sports agent for some minor league players, said his accident shows again why the Phillies need a new place to play.

    "It is strictly coincidental," Hamilton said. "But I'll tell you what: You can't ever tell me now that old stadium doesn't need some work. I'm fortunate I wasn't hurt worse than I was."

    Legislator takes aim at arsenic in wood

    TARPON SPRINGS -- Having failed to get a measure passed in last spring's session of the Legislature, state Rep. Larry Crow on Thursday stood next to empty playground equipment at Tarpon Springs' Discovery Playground and announced that he plans to introduce a bill for the next session that would ban the use of arsenic-treated wood and mulch containing arsenic at public playgrounds.

    The Palm Harbor Republican is filing a bill in response to tests that have found high levels of chromated copper arsenate, or CCA, in lumber used to build local playgrounds. Exposure to arsenic can cause cancer.

    Discovery Playground in Tarpon Springs was one of the first to be closed after the St. Petersburg Times reported in March that Thorton Laboratories of Tampa found that soil at the park contained an arsenic level of 5.4 parts per million. A state standard for soil in residential areas considers levels of 0.8 parts per million or lower to be safe. The state's standard for industrial sites is 3.7 parts per million.

    Playgrounds will remain closed until the state Department of Environmental Protection releases "official standards" on acceptable levels for CCA, according to Juan Cruz, director of public services for Tarpon Springs.

    The DEP is working with the state Department of Health to establish those standards, DEP spokeswoman Lucia Ross said. For now, though, there is no such standard for playgrounds or state parks.

    Activist asks to lead pagan prayer in Citrus

    INVERNESS -- With the Citrus County School Board divided over the practice of opening its meetings with a prayer, a community activist has asked that in fairness, he be allowed to lead the prayer at the next regular board meeting June 12.

    Oh, and it will be a pagan prayer, by the way.

    Charles Schrader, who was ejected from a School Board meeting last week for praying a pagan prayer over Chairwoman Patience Nave's invocation, asked that he be given the same opportunity Nave gave a minister from a Christian church at a meeting in February that was called specifically to deal with the prayer issue.

    "I'm a pagan minister, so why can't I lead the prayer?" Schrader said.

    Nave said she had not formally responded to Schrader but that her feeling was that it was the board's meeting, so they should be the ones conducting the prayers.

    The prayer issue has raged since November, when board member Carol Snyder suggested the board discontinue its policy of opening nearly every meeting with Christian prayer. Since then, she has twice tried unsuccessfully to get the board to establish a moment of silent reflection in place of a prayer.

    Nelson supports rail line to link Tampa, Orlando

    ORLANDO -- In a declaration that could boost Florida's chances of hosting the 2012 Summer Olympics, Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson said Thursday that he supports a proposed high-speed passenger rail line connecting Tampa and Orlando.

    "We've got to give relief to Interstate 4," Nelson said. "You can't just keep paving; it's not going to happen. So, we've got to look for alternatives."

    Nelson said he and Bob Graham, Florida's senior senator, will ask Congress for $10-million to be used for preliminary development and studies necessary before tracks can be laid. The two also back a bill that would make funding available for bullet trains.

    Nelson spoke to the executive committee of Florida 2012, the organization trying to bring the 30th Olympiad to the state.

    For social services, callers can dial 211

    Beginning Monday, people in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties can dial 211 when they want help from social service agencies -- whether they're looking for a baby's first bottle of formula or an aging parent's first nursing home.

    The number is also for people with time, materials or money on their hands looking for a place to donate.

    A 211 call will connect callers to someone who knows the network of agencies in Pinellas or Hillsborough counties.

    Verizon is offering the service in the wake of a Federal Communications Commission decision last year to set aside 211 for charitable agencies and 511 for road information, as long as local groups operate the services.

    Pasco and Hernando county organizers are discussing plans for 211 service in those counties. Eventually, organizers hope 211 will become standard across Florida and the nation.

    Coming up this week

    President Bush will tour the Everglades this week and on Tuesday will participate in a Habitat for Humanity event in which the president will help build a home in Tampa.

    Tired of dry lawns and dangerous wildfires, one Hernando County minister is taking it up with the boss. The Rev. Earl Harrigan is sponsoring a countywide rain prayer at 7 a.m. Monday. He is urging other churches to open their doors so congregants can bridge theological lines in joint prayer for rain.

    Brown Schools in Citrus County has assembled a citizen advisory council whose first meeting will be Friday. Ever since the treatment facility for emotionally disturbed adolescents opened in the building that once housed the Heritage Hospital adult psychiatric program, it has been the target of lawsuits and investigations.

    - Compiled by Times staff writer Sharon Kennedy Wynne

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