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Child car seat checks reveal potential dangers


© St. Petersburg Times, published April 25, 1999

Even though Lt. Bill Walker of East Lake Fire & Rescue chuckles when he talks about the April 17 child safety seat checkpoint he conducted, it is easy to sense a little indignation in his tone.

After weeks of dry Saturdays, the skies opened up that day.

Ducking in and out of back seats all morning to check car seats, Walker and his crew of three car seat technicians and four installers got soaked to the skin.

"It was a miserable day," Walker said.

Miserable, maybe, but dozens of children are safe and snug now in their traveling seats because of it.

At least 27 cars were inspected during the checkpoint at the YMCA of North Pinellas. Two additional inspections took place later at the fire station. As usual, Walker found that all the seats he checked had some sort of safety problem that required them to be fixed, adjusted or replaced. "That's scary they (parents) are driving around thinking their kids are safe, but they're playing Russian roulette with a car seat," Walker said.

Car seats, Walker said, have an average life span of five years, and many now have expiration dates.

So Walker was very surprised to find one car seat that dated 1985.

"It was an antique," he said.

That seat was one of three replaced by Walker that day. A booster seat also was swapped out.

Walker conducted the first child seat checkpoint in March. The inspections take about 20 minutes. Because Walker has no car seat checkpoints planned in the immediate future, the best thing a concerned parent can do is set up an appointment for an individual inspection. Walker will be happy to work around tight schedules to help save a child's life.

Call Walker at (727) 784-8668 for information.

Library golf tournament looking for participants

If you haven't signed up for the dual Birdies & Bogies Fore Books monster golf tournament, you may be in danger of missing what Judy Nobles calls an exciting, well-planned sports event

"We really need golfers," said Friends of the East Lake Library president Judy Nobles. "We have two courses to fill."

The event will be at 1 p.m. May 7 at two of what some consider East Lake's finest golf courses: East Lake Woodlands North Course and Lansbrook Golf Club.

The format is a four-person scramble, and the contests are impressive and challenging. There is a $10,000 putting contest and hole-in-one and multihole-in-one contests.

Prizes include an all-inclusive Super Bowl package for two people for three days and two nights at Doral Golf and Resort; three days and two nights at Robert Redford's Sundance Resort; three days and two nights at Tropicana Resort in Las Vegas; a set of titanium woods; four Paradise Golf memberships; and several door prizes.

Players pay $125 at the East Lake Woodlands North Course and $85 at Lansbrook Golf Club.

If you are not a golfer but love to socialize, you can enjoy a tent party/awards dinner afterward at Scalawags Grill House in East Lake immediately following the tournament. The cost of dinner is $25 per person.

All proceeds will go to furnishing the new East Lake Community Library.

"This has the potential for putting us over the top in our fund-raising goal of $100,000," Nobles said. "We hope people will think of the library."

Saturday is the new and absolute deadline for signing up for the tournament. The library will accept your VISA, Mastercard or Discover Card registration payment by phone. Call Dan Bobel, golf tournament chairman, at (727) 789-8980.

Fire commissioners to discuss buying engine

East Lake Fire & Rescue commissioners will have a meeting at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at station 57, 3375 Tarpon Lake Blvd., to discuss purchasing a new engine with money from the Penny for Pinellas sales tax

The additional engine is required because station 56 on East Lake Road will open Saturday.

Chuck Schult, a fire commissioner, says the commission is considering an Emergency One Daytona advanced life-support engine that comes with a sticker price of about $270,000.

If approved, the truck will be built to the commissioners' specifications and will include amenities such as a refrigerated drug cabinet, forward-facing seats to help eliminate the danger of car sickness, and, best of all for a community filled with subdivisions and narrow streets, a turning radius at least one-third less than that of a regular engine.

Air packs will be attached to the seats "so (firefighters) can get out of the engine fully equipped," Schult said.

Another selling point: The truck has a life span of about 15 years and can be serviced and repaired in nearby Ocala "within two weeks," Schult said.

Although Schult is confident the new engine will fit the department's needs, the commission will look at some comparison models at the meeting.

But they must treat this purchase almost like a 911 call.

"Once we open the other station, we have to borrow an engine from Palm Harbor or Safety Harbor (for calls)," Schult said.

There is no reserve truck available for the firefighters' use.

If the commission approves the Daytona engine, it can be delivered in about 120 days.

Baseball booster club planning garage sale

Baseball season and spring cleaning coincide every year

So it seems natural that the East Lake High School baseball booster club is planning a garage tag sale from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. May 15 at the East Lake High School south side teacher's parking lot to raise funds to add some final touches to the school's new batting cage.

The boosters are asking people to clean out their closets and donate items to be used for the sale.

Collection time will be 7 p.m. May 14 at the school cafeteria. If you cannot make the trip, call John Batz at (727) 786-6106 to arrange for pickup service.

Brooker Creek to host second annual field camp

Now that the Run in the Woods is past and the bird and butterfly counts are arranged, Craig Huegel can turn his attention to the second annual Toad-ally Terrific field camp for kids

Huegel, manager of Brooker Creek Preserve, said there are very few changes to the camp format since last year. Most of the volunteer counselors are returning to teach the would-be rangers.

The two-session camp, which offers a unique outdoor experience, is open to students who complete fifth grade this spring. There are two five-day sessions, the first starting June 14 and the second June 21. The hours are 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

With only 12 slots available each session, campers will be selected based on a questionnaire intended to separate the serious budding naturalists from their couch potato cousins.

The reason? The camp is rugged.

"We drag them through the woods every day," said Huegel, laughing.

And they have a ball exploring thousands of acres of pine flatwoods, cypress swamps, forest hardwood and a sand-hill community. Along the way they are likely to spot a deer or a bobcat.

The children may humanely trap some of the smaller animals and take track castings of the larger ones they encounter.

The camp costs $25 per child. Scholarship money is available for children from low-income families.

If you would like to get an application for the camp, call the preserve at (727) 943-4000.

-- We need news for this East Lake column. If you have news about East Lake organizations, churches, schools, neighborhoods or residents, please contact Eileen Schulte at the North Pinellas Times. You may call her at (727) 445-4229, fax material to her at (727) 445-4206 or mail it to the North Pinellas Times, 34342 U.S. 19 N, Palm Harbor, FL 34684.

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