Archive for the ‘Public Records’ Category

When the Dreams Turns Into a Nightmare

October 22, 2007

By Priscilla Mader

Florida has one of the highest numbers of foreclosures in the country this year, according to Realtytrac.com, a website dedicated to listing foreclosed homes and other available properties.

On the top place of the foreclosure reality is the state of Texas. Florida Sunshine comes right after in the second place and Ohio has the third position, according to Realtytrac.com.

With 33,354 properties in some stage of foreclosure, Florida has one foreclosure for every 248 households.

This month of October, there are 13,194 homes in foreclose listings just in Hillsborough County and over 35,000 regular listings in the county.

“People are desperate. We are also desperate. I and my husband are losing our home that we bought with sacrifice. Our business went down and we don’t have enough money to pay for our mortgages, property taxes, insurances and all other bills,” said Camila Gatti, 23, from Tampa.

According to the Hillsborough County public records, 4,099 homes went in foreclosure in the year of 2006, and the number of 2007 is already higher. The county informed that by October 18, 2007, already 6,652 homes went to foreclosure.

There are many reasons cooperating for the destruction of the homeowner’s dreams:
• Interest rates on mortgage loan are rising. Remember that Federal Reserve increased the prime rate 17 times during the last two years.
• Real estate values are decreasing because there are too many houses on the market. Many real estate investors and even occasional buyer purchased real estate for the sake of making quick profit as a result of appreciation in value.
• Cost of living is on the rise due to higher gasoline prices, higher taxes, and many other factors making payment of monthly mortgage installments more difficult.
• Unemployment is also on the rise in the entire country.
• The home-owner insurance property went way up after so many hurricanes affected the state of Florida.
According to the county records, property foreclosures continue to rise in Hillsborough County and at this point there are no further information when it is going to stop. For more information about foreclosures and options to avoid it, access the website: www.realtytrac.com.

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The Newest Pyramid Scheme

October 22, 2007

Many have heard of multilevel marketing, aka, pyramid schemes. But Health 4 Wealth, a new company from Largo, is no ordinary MLM company. The distributors aren’t selling Tupperware or candles, but rather “pharmaceutical grade” diet pills called Zylene.

Christine Rutemiller, a Health 4 Wealth distributor, explains that Metabolife was 8%  of Geopharma Inc.’s market. But according to the company’s 2004 financial filings, it was more like 15.8%. Ephedra, the active ingredient in Metabolife, was banned in 2004 because of the public outcry after pitcher Steve Bechler, of the Baltimore Orioles, died of complications from ephedra.

Rutemiller explains, “Mihir Taneja, of Geopharma, another Largo based company, helped designed Zylene to replace the lost market after ephedra was banned.”

Larry Smith, Health 4 Wealth’s CEO, says that they advertise the supplement as “pharmaceutical grade” as a marketing tool. “It’s a generic term,” says Smith. The phrase simply explains the company’s own quality control checks.

“It’s like USF doing their own audit, you can’t insource your own quality control,” says Pierce Wolfinbarger, a biomedical science student at USF.

Unfortunately, the Federal Drug Administration does not regulate supplements. The government only intervenes after records prove that a product has adverse side effects.

Dr. Eric Coris, director of the Sports Medicine Institute and head medical team physician for the Department of Athletics at USF, says this biggest problem facing athletes today. “The supplement industry is a billion dollar industry. They are going to resist regulations,” says Coris.

When asked whether a supplement or drug is dangerous because of its regulations or its affects, Coris responded, “If it has the same effects (as Ephedra), it’s going to be just as dangerous.” The problem with stimulants like Zylene, xenadrine, energy drinks, Trimspa and ephedra is that they can unmask underlying problems causing heart arrhythmia, stroke or exhaustion.

“The supplement industry takes advantage of athletes,” says Coris. The athletes are looking for anything to give them that competitive edge.

Zylene’s packaging warns to avoid use if “chronically ill, taking prescriptions, over the counter medicine, antidepressants, stimulants, allergy medications, high blood pressure or cardiovascular conditions.”

Gina Young, a pre-med and religion studies student, says of Zylene’s product, “because of side effects, it is not worth it. “

Asked whether he foresaw a problem with word of mouth marketing of a stimulant supplement like Zylene, Coris said “ Absolutely, I see extreme danger in word of mouth marketing.” Communication studies show the word of mouth communication is one of the most trusted sources of advertising. “The distributor has vested interest in selling the product, so information will be skewed even more,” Coris explains.

By Courtney Herrig

Security Tight For This Years Guavaween

October 22, 2007

        By Natalie Gagliordi     

 

               Ghosts, ghouls and gargoyles beware—at this year’s annual Guavaween celebration, several hundred officers from the Tampa Police Department (TPD) and the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) will be on hand to guard against illegal frolicking.

                The event, which acts as a major fundraiser for the Ybor City Chamber of Commerce, is privately run by the promotions company, CC Event Productions.  The all-day festivities include a safe trick-or-treat and spooky story time for children, as well as live music and a costume contest at night for adults.

                Officer Rick Ubinas of the TPD explained the department’s involvement with security operations, and how they plan to control the nearly 80,000 expected attendees.

                “We have a template to follow for event security because we’ve been doing it for years,” Ubinas said. “Generally speaking, we set up a temporary chain link fence as a parameter around Ybor, and inside there will be officers at every corner.”

                The security is a joint effort between the TPD and the HCSO, and officers from both departments are privately employed and paid by the CC Event Productions promoters, Ubinas said. There will be plane clothed officers roving the crowds and mounted officers patrolling the parameter, he said.

                Primary planner for event security, Officer Paul Smalley, was hesitant to divulge the exact security plan, but did express his optimism for the affair.

                “Guavaween is definitely an adult event after 4 p.m.” Smalley said. “For the most part it went well last year, and I don’t foresee a lot of problems this year.”

                According to last year’s crime statistics for Guavaween, there were no arrests made for major crimes. The majority of arrests made were for illegal alcohol possession by an underage person, and illegal possession of drugs.

Of the 97 calls made to the department in the 24-hour period during Guavaween, nine were medical, and the rest encompassed such minor crimes as fist fights and fence jumping, Smalley said.

“A lot of the time we aren’t making a ton of arrests,” Smalley said. “We will typically eject people from the site, because either there isn’t enough probable cause to arrest them, or the other party involved in an incident doesn’t want to press charges.”

The command post for security operations will be located directly outside of the parameter on 5th Avenue and 14th Street, Smalley said.

According to Ubinas, it is up to the people to help make the event run as smooth and enjoyable as possible.

“We provide as much security as we possibly can,” Ubinas said. “But the kids that come to have fun need to be responsible, and not let themselves go over the edge.”

Radon causes cancer: are you safe?

October 22, 2007

By Natalie Shultz

It has no color, no smell, no taste and no movement. It is a radioactive gas and it occurs from the breakdown of soil. It seeps into the cracks or holes in foundations of homes or buildings and gets trapped inside. It is called radon—a carcinogen that leads to approximately 21,000 lung cancer deaths per year and about 2,900 of them are deaths of non-smokers, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (www.epa.gov/radon).

 

In 2004, Hillsborough County had the fifth highest lung cancer incidence rate in the state, according to the Florida Department of Health’s website.

 

Although Cigarettes are the no. 1 cause of lung cancer in smokers nationwide, radon is the origin of the disease in the non-smoking population, and is the second leading cause of lung cancer overall, according to EPA estimates.

 

The Surgeon General’s 2006-2007 Radon Warning Public Service Announcement Campaign created messages for radio, t.v., magazines and real estate. The newspaper version says, “Surgeon General’s Warning: Cigarette smoking causes lung cancer,” and below it, “Surgeon General’s Warning: Radon causes lung cancer. You should test your home.”

 

“Americans need to know about the risks of indoor radon and have the information and tools they need to take action. That’s why the EPA is actively promoting the Surgeon General’s advice urging all Americans to get their homes tested for radon. If families do find elevated levels in their homes, they can take inexpensive steps that will reduce exposure to this risk,” Jeffrey R. Holmstead, Assistant Administrator of the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, said in a 2005 Health and Human Services press release.

In Florida, one out of two homes has excessive amounts of radon, according to the Florida Department of Health.

Lutz homeowner Deborah Favata, 55, recently purchased a radon measurement and mitigation test kit for her home after her older sister, also a non-smoker and a homeowner in Lutz, was diagnosed with lung cancer in August.

 

“There is a lot of farm land out here in Lutz, so I can see how the radon levels would be increased by soil and fertilizer, but lung cancer isn’t something you think about when you don’t smoke,” Favata said. “It is scary to think that you and your family are being exposed to it on a daily basis and you don’t even realize it until someone close to you gets cancer.”

 

Radon reduction costs can vary by size and layout of the structure and the type of radon reduction methods needed, however, prices usually range from $800 to $2,500. Favata chose to purchase a do-it-yourself kit from the EPA, however, there are state certified and licensed companies that also perform the necessary tests.

Florida also instituted a mandatory radon testing program for many public facilities, such as public and private schools, state licensed day care centers, and 24 hour care facilities such as nursing homes and hospitals.

Sections 307 and 309 of the Indoor Radon Abatement Act of 1988 (IRAA) instructed the EPA to pinpoint sections of the country with a possibility of increased indoor radon levels. The Map of Radon Zones puts each of the 3,141 counties in the U.S. into one of three zones by radon potential. Five factors used to determine radon potential are indoor radon measurements, geology, aerial radioactivity, soil permeability and foundation type, according to the EPA.

 

Much of Florida falls under zone three, which is a low potential for radon exposure, however, parts such as Hillsborough County, neighboring Polk County and others, are classified in zone two, meaning a moderate potential for exposure exists.

The EPA says approximately one in 15 homes is estimated to have radon levels at or above the recommended 4 pCi/L EPA action level. Science researchers have predicted a potential decrease of two to four percent, or nearly 5,000 deaths from lung cancer, by keeping indoor radon levels below the EPA’s action level.

Radon resistant construction elements are also advised to keep radon levels to a minimum. More than five percent of new single family homes, duplexes and buildings in Hillsborough County, as well as many other counties across the state, will have a yearly radon average level above the EPA action level of 4 picocuries per liter (pCi/L) or more, as shown in the Radon Protection Maps from the Florida Department of Community Affairs (http://www.doh.state.fl.us/environment/community/radon/).

 

On Sept. 9-12, the Conference of Radiation Control Program Directors Inc., a partnership focused on radiation protection (crcpd.org), and the American Association of Radon Scientists and Technologists (aarst.org), held the CRCPD’s 17th National Radon Conference and the AARST’s International Radon Symposium. Radon professionals from throughout the U.S. met in Jacksonville to share information and strategize ways to increase action for radon risk reduction.

 

According to “National Radon Results” from1985 to 2003 published by Brian Gregory and Philip P. Jalbert of the EPA, the approximate reduction of risks after the use of correctly installed, operated and maintained radon mitigation systems in homes through 2003, the EPA predicts that about 650 lives with be saved from lung cancer each year. The EPA anticipates the number to increase even more as radon levels are further decreased in new and present homes.

 

“Our national goal for the program is to double the number of mitigations and homes built to be radon-resistant over the next five years,” Susie Shimeck, an EPA program analyst for the Indoor Environments Division said.

 

 

The EPA named January “National Radon Action Month” in efforts to raise awareness about the radon health risks, as well as to promote radon testing, mitigation and resistant new construction.

 

“The state of Florida has one of strongest programs in the country. It works hard to promote testing and radon-resistant new construction, and it certifies radon mitigators and testers for competency,” Shimeck said. “The accessibility of information to the public also gives you a sense of frequency of testing. You can type in your zip code on the state’s radon website and all the information is right there for you to see.”

 

For more information about radon, visit www.epa.gov/radon and http://www.doh.state.fl.us/environment/community/radon/.

Pavilion Paves way for Preserving Park

October 22, 2007

By: Aaron Oberlin

Students in the school of architecture and community design at the University of South Florida presented models for a pavilion to be built at Riverfront Park. The pavilion models presented will face a bat house that should be built in the future.

 

Four groups of students presented their models to Parks and Recreation Department Director James Chambers and Dana Carver, a planner for the Parks and Recreation Department. The presentations were all unique with concepts ranging from boxy models with bamboo supports to a circular model using recycled tires.

 

According to Stanley Russell, an architectural professor at the University of South Florida, some of the techniques being used are not currently used in Florida. They can be introduced in Temple Terrace.

 

One of the mentioned techniques is rammed earth. Russell says it is a construction method commonly used in the West. It is an age-old practice that is very durable. Building materials are cheap and sometimes free.

 

Carver hopes that people throughout the state will come to see the pavilion. He says it will give the park a “centralized structure.”

 

According to Carver, the main concern for the pavilion is budget. The current budget is $23,000. It was approved last year.

 

Other concerns for the pavilion is its ease of maintenance, vulnerability to vandalism and its ease of use for the elderly. The concerns were made apparent by the questions both Chambers and Carver asked the students during their presentations.

 

According to Russell, the designs will be decided on Oct. 30. After that, the students will make construction drawings. The drawings will then be submitted to the city for a building permit. “Once we have the permit, we’re good to go.”

 

Russell says construction is set for January and should finish by the end of the semester, which is in April.

 

Chambers and Carver are certain that the pavilion project will be completed next year.

 

According to Chambers, the city chose USF students for the project because the city gets a park structure cheaper than through a contractor. Plus, the students benefit from getting to design it. “It’s the perfect partnership.”

 

Russell says normally the students present their ideas to other faculty and then receive feedback. In this case, the students actually get to present their design to the client and hear their input. This experience is “invaluable.”

 

Russell is in the process of starting a design/build program that will have the university and its students working with nearby cities on construction projects. An example of there past work is a pavilion at the Franciscan Center in Tampa, which is a center for personal and spiritual renewal.

 

With the pavilion being an apparent certainty, what is not certain is the construction of the bat tower. Fund raising is still a concern.

 

Last month, the city council approved a bat tower to be built at the park. It will be a landmark of an original tower constructed in the 20s that was vandalized and burned down in the 70s.

 

“We hope this will be a functional bat tower to help with mosquito control, and use fewer pesticides. Get back to the old form of mosquito control, and also as a landmark.” Chambers says. Currently, there are ten small, functional bat houses in the area. They are smaller than a dog house. These were constructed in an attempt to increase the population of bats.

 

According to Temple Terrace city records, the pavilion and bat house are part of the Environmental Land Acquisition and Protection Program, which acquires land for preservation. This current project is aimed at the 108-acre Riverfront Preserve which is located behind Florida College and Terrace Hill Golf Course.

ELAPP, according to the Hillsborough County website, works with organizations throughout Florida such as the City of Tampa, City of Temple Terrace, Southwest Florida Water Management District and Conservation and Recreational Lands Program.

Elections Chief, Buddy Johnson speaks on voting plans at Lutz Civic Association Meeting

October 22, 2007

By Tiffany B. Talley

 Lutz is making major improvements in its voting technology in anticipation of the upcoming January primary. 

The Lutz Civic Association held its October meeting this past Thursday at the Lutz Community Center. Supervisor of Elections, Buddy Johnson provided an update on changes in the voting machines and plans for January presidential preference primary and referendum election.  

January’s preference primary allows for each state to nominate a candidate. The nomination may or may not have influence on the election. 

“Confidence in the voting system is the oil and engine of democracy. It keeps everything running smoothly,” said Johnson in his opening statements.  Johnson reported that January’s primary and property tax amendment ballot would be carried out using the touch screen system.  

January’s primary also presents additional voting options including absentee ballot and ballot on demand. Ballot on demand allows for a voter to present a driver’s license at a precinct and vote on a printed ballot. 

 The voting system would then transition to paper ballots for the November 2008 election.  

Johnson also reported that a law has been passed effective January 1, 2008 allowing for minors to pre-register to vote. Minors would pre-register to vote at the time a driver’s license is issued. Voter registration applications may be completed without parental consent.At age of 18, voter identification cards would be mailed to the applicant. 

 “618 minors have already pre-registered to vote. It’s a great way to get the youth involved,” said Johnson. 

Lutz voting precinct information is not available. New possible locations for voting will be determined at a later date.  

The Lutz Civic Association will be hosting its “Market in the Park; Taste of Lutz” on Saturday, November 10, 2007. 8:00am-2:00pm.

Temple Terrace Tells a Tale using Oral History

October 21, 2007

TEMPLE TERRACE– The documentation of Temple Terrace’s oral history is well underway, according to Vice Mayor Ron Govin in a recent meeting with the City Council. Presented by the Temple Terrace Preservation Society in conjunction with USF’s Department of Anthropology, the project will attempt to detail the city’s lost history from the 1920s through the 1950s.

“What people say and their memories just didn’t get reported. A lot of this stuff never made it into the newspaper because the newspapers could only cover so much,” said Grant Rimbey of the Temple Terrace Preservation Society.

July 1 marked the beginning of the research process. Interviews with residents who have lived in the city since at least the 1960s are being conducted by a professor from the Department of Anthropology, Elizabeth Bird.

Questions concerning what residents remember the first time they came to the area will be the major discussion points in the interviews.

Once the interviewing process is completed, a set of DVDs will be made available at the Temple Terrace Library and on a future website of the city’s Preservation Society

A written history will also be a part of the project, which is expected to be completed in two to three years, according D’ee Griffith, of Temple Terrace’s Historical Society. A documentary is also under consideration, Griffith said.

Time is ticking fast for participants in the research project. They have already lost three people on their list of interviewees that they believed would give vital information.

“At first, the city didn’t know what it was about because it’s not very commonly done. Now that they’ve seen what is being done, they are getting more and more excited about it,” said Rimbey

The project’s request for funding by the city was approved and a grant of $1,500 will be available for production purposes.

— Courtney Allen

Potential USF student housing in Lutz sent back to county official

October 21, 2007

By: Christine Wolstenholme

    What had been expected to be a small shopping center with a handful of businesses could become 18 townhouses targeted to USF students. However, that proposal has been sent back to the county’s Zoning Hearing Master John Crislip for closer scrutiny.

The Lutz Civic Association, along with long-time Lutz resident Eleanor Cecil, oppose the site’s change to residential development.

“Two years ago that property was rezoned for businesses and we highly supported that, and that’s what we’re really pushing for again.” Cecil said.

The property, which is 2.8 acres, is located at Sinclair Hills and Livingston Avenue.  It is currently developed with a single-family dwelling and a non-residential structure.  The area within which the property is located is classified as Residential-6 by the Future of Hillsborough Land Plan.

Miles Savery, a developer from Juniper, is requesting rezoning to the planned development in order to include the 18 townhouses in the southern portion of the property, while using approximately 3,500 square-feet for a dry cleaning business on the northern portion.

The Planning and Growth Management Department and Crislip, approved the petition since it was compatible with surrounding development and is appropriate for the subject area.  But, since there are oppositions from citizens in the local community and the Lutz Civic Association, the proposal was sent back to the Hearing Master.

Citizens fear this development will create additional traffic in the area, particularly on Livingston Avenue.  They also worry that the townhouse units will be rented out to students.

“For the past two years there has been a sign on this property advertising townhomes with four bedrooms and five baths.  That can be nothing but student housing,” said Cecil.

The sign is no longer on the property but citizens are worried about the renting-out of four bedrooms for all 18 townhouses.  “That property is inappropriate for the high density that 18 townhouses would bring.  Our concern is who would buy these.”  Cecil said.

Another issue that worries Cecil is that there won’t be any management or control in these townhouses, just like many of the other student apartments in the area. 

At last week’s meeting, Steve Allison, counsel for the petitioner, said that the current owner of the property did not put up the prior sign indicating the number of bedrooms per unit.

Allison said that he does not know the amount of units that will be on the property.  “That has not been determined.  It will be determined by site constraints, the ability to provide adequate parking, things that would make it a marketable project for people that would prospectively buy it.”

“If there are students living there, and that certainly is a possibility, it would be in an ownership type of situation, and we think that does provide assurances of maintenance of the project and that it would be a project of quality.” Allison said.  Many of the local residents disagree.

The next hearing will be on Oct. 30 at 6:30 p.m. on the second floor in the Board Room located at 601 E. Kennedy Blvd.

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