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    Metro review

    By SHARON KENNEDY WYNNE

    © St. Petersburg Times,
    published September 23, 2001


    Some highlights of the news from around the region for the week just ended.

    * * *

    Tarpon may tone down music plan

    TARPON SPRINGS -- A tourist attraction with a soundtrack? Tarpon Springs has long wanted to add to the ambiance of the city's main tourist attraction by installing loudspeakers at the Sponge Docks to play Greek music along Dodecanese Boulevard.

    But now the city is reconsidering the $47,000 plan.

    City staffers will instead conduct a survey of merchants along the docks to see whether they want the speakers -- and the 21 new poles needed for them.

    When the plan was first discussed a few years ago, some merchants supported it largely because it would have meant an end to the competing sounds at the docks. Announcements about boat trips and attractions would be sent out periodically through the sound system, and hawkers no longer would attract customers by talking into microphones in front of their stores and boats.

    But now it isn't clear that the loudspeakers would eliminate the microphone system, and adding that many new poles has some merchants tuning out.

    Crane-saving mission prepares for takeoff

    CHASSAHOWITZKA -- Even though one of 10 whooping cranes training for a historic human-led migration to Chassahowitzka has died, researchers say the experiment will proceed, with takeoff scheduled for sometime next month.

    "While the loss of even one of these magnificent, endangered creatures is tragic, the project will continue to move forward," said Steve Miller of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

    The migration technique was tested last year with sandhill cranes, which are more abundant. A flock successfully followed ultralight planes across seven states in 40 days.

    They arrived in Citrus County on Nov. 11, spent the winter at Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge and then returned -- on their own accord -- to the marshes of Wisconsin.

    Only 400 whoopers exist in North America, making it one of the world's rarest birds. Researchers hope to repeat the migration for at least five years.

    Online peep show will hang it up in Tarpon home

    TARPON SPRINGS -- The owner of a voyeur Web site that offers live video feeds of naked women says he will move the entire operation out of a Tarpon Springs home by Oct. 1.

    If ucanwatch.com entrepreneur Michael Schriver does not keep his promise, a judge said Wednesday he would issue a temporary injunction that would allow the city to shut down the business.

    In the past, Schriver has argued that the company does not operate in Tarpon Springs but rather in cyber space. The server for the Web site is in Tampa, and he said that what occurs in the Tarpon Springs home does not constitute a business.

    He said he did not know what would happen with the company, but it might not offer live video feeds any longer.

    Two hospital firms resort to politics

    BROOKSVILLE -- Brooksville Regional Hospital's plan to move about 31/2 miles west of its downtown Brooksville location has turned into a political, if not medical, emergency.

    While two competing hospitals are fighting over market share, residents have called, written and shown up at meetings by the hundreds, many of them affiliated with either Brooksville Regional or its chief competitor, Oak Hill Hospital.

    County commissioners had hoped the dueling hospital companies would help them configure the best health-care system for the future.

    Instead, they've gotten a disillusioning business lesson.

    For example, Oak Hill Hospital has approval to begin open-heart surgery, something Hernando County residents now have to drive to Pasco for. But that is under appeal, filed by competitor Health Management Associates, the for-profit company that runs the county-owned Brooksville Regional hospital.

    Even if the open-heart appeal is dropped, Oak Hill would still oppose Brooksville Regional's move, Oak Hill Chief Executive Officer Jaime Wesolowski said, because the money made from open-heart could not compare to the losses expected by having a new hospital open closer by.

    Commissioners are scheduled to vote on the hospital relocation proposal on Tuesday.

    Parent objects to reading 'Chocolate War' at school

    DUNEDIN -- A concerned parent is questioning whether the award-winning but controversial book The Chocolate War should be taught to eighth-graders at Dunedin Highland Middle School.

    Chuck Fonshell learned of the book when his 13-year-old daughter, Heather, brought a note home a few weeks ago asking for permission to read it.

    He was appalled when he read the words "hell," "g-- d---" and "b------" just a few pages into the book. There were other expletives, and the book contains explicit sexual situations.

    The Chocolate War details what happens to a teenager who refuses to sell chocolate bars for a fundraising event at a private Catholic school for boys. The teen is intimidated by school leaders, tormented by fellow students and even beaten up.

    Published in 1974, the book has won several awards, including being named as the New York Times Outstanding Book of the Year. But it is also among the 10 most frequently criticized books of the past decade, according to the American Library Association's Office for Intellectual Freedom.

    Fonshell's request will be evaluated by a seven-member panel at the school made up of teachers, parents and community leaders. Should he lose, he can appeal to the district's First Amendment Review Committee, the superintendent and ultimately the School Board.

    For him, it's a simple matter: "I think it is absolutely irresponsible to have so much graphic language and adolescent sexuality bantered about the classroom."

    In short . . .

    TAMPA -- While Hillsborough County Administrator Dan Kleman remains a top candidate for the same job in Pinellas County, his popularity seems to rise and fall with his own county commissioners. A day after offering to extend his contract to keep him, commissioners angrily scolded him for the manner in which the politically touchy Hillsborough History Center funding was handled.

    INVERNESS -- A dead bird in Citrus County that was found to have the West Nile virus raised an alert. County health recommended "heightened awareness" to avoid mosquito bites.

    TAMPA -- Wide-eyed shoppers took in the International Plaza, the new $200-million mall near Tampa International Airport that features dozens of upscale stores new to the market. The tone of opening day was muted, however, by the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C., and some stores were unable to open on time because limits on air travel kept merchandise in New York.

    CLEARWATER -- The Philadelphia Phillies have rejected a former landfill as the site of their new spring training stadium. The move was cheered by neighbors who argued that homes already have been affected by sinkholes in the College Hill area, and residents did not want to see large cranes dropping blocks to compact the dirt on the landfill.

    Coming up this week

    In a ceremony at the University of Tampa's Pepin Rood Stadium on Saturday, environmental activists, including actor Danny Glover and Earth Charter commissioner Steven Rockefeller, will introduce the Earth Charter, a guide to universal environmental principles that will lead to a "just, sustainable and peaceful global society." The ceremony at UT marks its U.S. arrival. The free event includes registration from 9 to 10 a.m. at the stadium, followed by the Internet uplink, seminars and finally a 5:15 p.m. summit closing with Glover, followed by a celebration in Plant Park.

    The Spanish ambassador will be in St. Petersburg Tuesday and Wednesday as part of the 20th anniversary of the city's famed Salvador Dali Museum. On Wednesday, the museum board meets and will add the ambassador to its board of directors. -- Compiled by Times staff writer Sharon Kennedy Wynne

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