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Metro review: Pro bike race promoted as Olympic step Final dive


© St. Petersburg Times, published July 2, 2000

DADE CITY -- Talk of getting the Olympics in the Tampa Bay area has some wheels spinning in Dade City.

Organizers last week unveiled a plan to bring top-level professional bicycle racing to east Pasco. The event would showcase the area's riding conditions to top athletes.

The hilly terrain around Dade City is perfect for a 26-mile bicycle road course if Tampa and Orlando land the 2012 Summer Olympics, said E.J. Rogut, who heads the cycling division of the Florida 2012 Olympic bid. He is also president of the Florida chapter of the internationally recognized USA Cycling organization that oversees Olympic cycling.

The first event in what organizer David Hevia hopes will become a prestigious annual stop for the cycling world is scheduled for Sept. 17, with hundreds of professional sprint racers expected to swerve through a half-mile course around the historic old courthouse in Dade City at up to 40 mph.

In the meantime, Hevia is looking for more sponsors, volunteers and racers to get the event rolling.

Watering restrictions won't soon evaporate

BROOKSVILLE -- Don't touch that sprinkler timer.

Water regulators on Tuesday approved an indefinite extension of once-a-week watering restrictions.

With no guarantee that even normal summer rainfall would adequately recharge the aquifer, the tighter restrictions could remain for at least a year and perhaps permanently.

Even though the summer rains have returned, the Floridan Aquifer, on which the Tampa Bay region depends for drinking water, has been largely unaffected by recent downpours. The aquifer is, in fact, in worse condition today than when the Southwest Florida Water Management District imposed once-a-week watering restrictions in April.

"We are still in extreme drought; the drought really hasn't changed," said Tim De Foe, director of resource data. "The first five months of the year were the driest ever. We've never been here before."

Largo police chief punishes 3 in scandal

LARGO -- Police Chief Jerry Bloechle suspended two officers and reprimanded another Tuesday for their roles in the Largo Police Explorers scandal in the early 1990s.

Officer Karl Gracy and Sgt. Scott Dorflein were accused of having relationships with one member of the youth Explorer group. Sgt. Melanie Holley, a former adviser for the Explorer post, was reprimanded for not reporting facts and rumors about improper relationships between officers and Explorers.

Although no specific policies were in effect in 1992 prohibiting fraternization between officers and Explorers, Bloechle decided the two officers' misconduct with members of the youth group affected the public's confidence in the department.

The police Explorers is a Boy Scout program designed to provide on-the-job training for youths 14 to 21.

Bloechle has been criticized for not adequately investigating when allegations were made in December 1998. In June, Bloechle announced he would retire in October. He cited stress and recent health problems.

Recorded telephone calls result in wiretap charges

BROOKSVILLE -- A Hernando Beach man who secretly recorded profanity-laced telephone conversations with Hernando County Commissioner Pat Novy and then released the tapes now could face up to 10 years in jail on wiretapping charges.

Bobbie Lee Hodge, 52, could face five years in jail and a $5,000 fine, but "he's probably not looking at anything like that as a practical matter," said Bill Catto, assistant state attorney for the 5th Judicial Circuit.

Novy praised Catto for taking action against Hodge, who she said violated her trust even as she tried to help him resolve problems with the county Development Department.

"I am the victim," Novy said in an interview, adding later, "He knew what I was saying was for his ears."

In March, Hodge delivered copies of the tapes to the Hernando County Government Center, where they went into a file that every resident may review.

Listeners heard profanity-laced conversations between Hodge and Novy, during which Novy called some of her colleagues, county employees and prominent business people names and slurs.

The two also talked about political strategies to win support for Hodge among other commissioners.

Longtime medical examiner retires, citing stress

LARGO -- Pinellas-Pasco Medical Examiner Joan Wood unexpectedly announced her retirement, effective Sept. 30, after nearly 20 years as the circuit's medical examiner.

The announcement came just two days before Gov. Jeb Bush was to decide whether to reappoint her to another term.

It also came two weeks after Pinellas prosecutors dropped criminal charges against the Church of Scientology, blaming Wood's reversal in the death of Scientologist Lisa McPherson for hopelessly damaging their case.

Inevitably, prosecutors' decision and condemnation of Wood's "illogical" behavior in the case may have doomed her career.

"Frankly, the stress and physical toll have become more than I can handle," Wood told Bush in a short letter.

Gift launches drive for FAMU law school

TAMPA -- Local players in business and politics on Thursday celebrated the first big donation to lure Florida A&M's law school to Tampa, a $1-million gift from Tampa Electric Co.

The news nearly was overshadowed by fallout from County Commissioner Ronda Storms' comments a day earlier that the historically black university's new law school wouldn't necessarily increase the number of minority lawyers and judges.

"We can get them through law school, but we can't seem to get them to pass the Bar," she said.

Her comments buzzed around FAMU's Tallahassee campus Thursday and won't help Tampa compete for the law school against Orlando, Lakeland and Daytona Beach, said university spokesman Eddie Jackson.

The state closed FAMU's law school in 1968 and effectively shifted it to Florida State University.

School boosters and black legislators battled to re-establish the school for years. They prevailed this year when the Legislature approved law schools for FAMU and Florida International University in Miami-Dade County.

Coming up this week

The University of South Florida's new president, Judy Genshaft, starts work this week. She will be making the jump from second-in-command at a mid-size school, the University at Albany, State University of New York, to the top job at an institution twice as large. There were mutterings about the depth and quality of the candidate pool when searching for USF's president. But at Albany she has developed a reputation as a high-energy administrator who puts in the time and gets the job done -- attributes cited repeatedly in the interview process for the USF job.

On Friday, an administrative law judge will hold a hearing on a challenge to the water treatment plant that Tampa Bay Water wants to build in Hillsborough County. The plant is crucial for the water authority to stay on schedule to reduce pumping that has been blamed for drying up neighboring counties' lakes and damaging wetlands. The challenge by Save Our Bay and Canals would delay completion of the plant by as much as nine months beyond the scheduled startup of Dec. 31, 2002. The water authority's best hope is that the challenge will be dismissed or that a quick ruling would allow the contractor to make up that time.

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